Inside each tooth there is a mass of nerves and tissue known as the "pulp". If a cavity is left untreated or a tooth becomes broken, this pulp may become exposed which can cause pain, discomfort and may lead to infection. Untreated pulp exposure may lead to the loss of the entire tooth.
A root canal allows the dentist access to this pulp by drilling into the tooth. After numbing the tooth and drilling through the crown, the dentist uses special tools to clear debris the root of the tooth. Unhealthy and infected pulp is removed this way, and the space is filled with a special substance that will prevent further infection from occurring. Afterward, the tooth is sealed with a temporary filling material. Usually, a crown is fitted over the tooth once the area has healed. In some cases, a implant or post may be inserted into the root to provide additional support.