A root canal is needed when the nerve of a tooth is affected by decay, infection or injury. The goal of a root canal is to save a tooth that would otherwise have to be removed. While extraction (pulling a tooth) may seem to be an easier solution at first, it can ultimately be more costly and cause significant problems with shifting adjacent and opposing teeth.
In order save the affected tooth, the pulp (living tissue inside the tooth), nerves, bacteria and decay are removed and that space is then filled with special medicated, dental materials that restore the tooth to its full function. The extent of the root canal and success of the procedure depends on the level of damage to the tooth, but most root canals require at least two office visits.
Often a dreaded procedure, root canals are relatively simple and can eliminate tooth pain quickly. Root canal treatment today is highly successful and may last a lifetime, although occasionally a tooth may have to be retreated due to new infection.