A tooth is made up of a hard white layer of enamel, a thicker dentine and an inner most layer of pulp. This dental pulp contains blood vessels and nerves and extends from the crown to the tip of the root.
Root canal treatment involves the removal of the pulp tissues from the tooth, in the event that it gets infected or inflamed. This can happen either due to deep decay or an extensive restoration that involves the pulp – or a cracked or fractured tooth due to trauma, excessive wear of enamel and dentine, exposing the pulp - and sometimes as a result of severe gum disease.
Signs of pulp damage may include pain, prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, discolouration of the tooth, swelling, tenderness of the overlying gums or a bad taste in the mouth. On the other hand, there may be no symptoms at all.
If pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can eventually cause pain, swelling and loss of the supporting bone Root canal treatment saves teeth that would otherwise have been extracted.
After root canal treatment, the tooth is pulp-less i.e. it has no vital tissues within. However, there are vital tissues surrounding the root e.g. the gum, periodontal membrane and supporting bone. A root canal treated tooth can function normally and can be maintained with routine dental care and oral hygiene measures.