A root canal is a procedure that removes infected or damaged nerve tissue from inside a tooth and replaces it with a filling material called gutta percha. A root canal may be required if tooth decay reaches the nerve of a tooth or if a tooth sustains trauma. Often this damage to the nerve is associated with pain but not always.
The dentist can diagnose a suspected tooth with an x-ray and other tests. The process of a root canal may take a few appointments depending on its complexity. During a root canal, the doctor removes the nerve and cleans the inside of the tooth. Often, medicine will be placed inside the tooth and allowed to work for a couple weeks. To complete the root canal, the doctor will fill the canal permanently with a natural material called gutta percha. They will then place a temporary filling in the tooth and wait to make sure the root canal was successful. Once healing is confirmed, they will either fill the tooth permanently or begin a crown. Most back teeth and some front teeth require a crown to prevent breaking of the tooth. The doctor will discuss with the patient if a crown in necessary depending on how much of the tooth structure is left after the procedure.