Your teeth are made up of several different layers. The outermost layer, called enamel, is the hard white portion that you see every day. Beneath that is a slightly softer yellow layer called dentin. And, lastly at the center of your tooth is the innermost layer called the pulp where the nerve lies, the nerve extends from the center all the way to ends of the roots of each tooth.
When you need root canal therapy, that normally means that the nerve has been damaged and needs to be treated. Damage can be caused by a very large cavity, a large fracture or a trauma to the tooth.
Once it has been determined that you need root canal therapy your dentist will anesthetize the tooth and place a protective barrier around the tooth in order to keep it clean. Then your dentist will clean out the nerve tissue with specially shaped instruments and may place a medicament as well. Once the root canal is thoroughly cleaned and shaped a sealing material will be placed in the canal and a temporary filling material placed in the tooth until then next visit where you will begin the final restoration of the tooth.
Many people have asked what the alternative to root canal therapy is. Once the nerve has been irreparably damaged the only alternative to root canal therapy is extraction of the tooth. Leaving an untreated tooth with a damaged nerve will lead to infection and in most instances discomfort. It is not recommended to leave teeth in this state untreated. If you have any questions about root canal therapy please ask us at your next visit.