Most people think of root canal treatment as a source of discomfort. In reality, this therapy is done to relieve, not create, pain.
Located in the centre core (or canal) of each tooth is living tissue (pulp tissue) consisting of nerves, blood vessels and cellular components. (If a tooth were a carrot, the pulp would occupy the central core of the vegetable.) This pulp tissue is what provides the tooth with the ability to feel sensations such as temperature.
In response to trauma (e.g. large cavity, broken tooth, hard knock, etc.), sometimes the pulp tissue can be irreversibly damaged, become infected, and in some cases, die. As the pulp tissue goes through these changes, it can start to swell. This can lead to a variety of symptoms such as sensitivity to pressure or temperature, pain, development of a bump (or pimple) on the gum, and in the more advanced stages, actual swelling of the cheek or jaw. To relieve the pain/swelling and save the tooth, a root canal is done.
The main goal of root canal therapy is to remove the diseased pulp tissue, which will in turn reduce and eliminate existing discomfort. To gain access into the inner pulp chamber a small hole created in the chewing surface of the tooth. The pulp tissue is removed and the tooth’s entire inner core, all the way down to the end of the root, is cleaned and disinfected. The empty canal is filled with a material that seals the tooth from bacteria and a restoration (filling or crown) is completed.