A dental root canal is needed when either decay or an injury causes an infection of the pulp. The pulp is the network of blood vessels and nerves inside a tooth. In the earliest stages of infection, you may not feel any pain at all. But when it progresses, you can have a toothache and swelling, or a dental abscess might form. A dental abscess can look like a bump on your gums and pus may come out. For an infected tooth, root canal treatment allows you to keep your natural tooth and avoid extracting it.
During a root canal, the dentist will open your tooth to remove the infected pulp to prevent it from spreading to other teeth or your body. Then, the inside of the tooth is cleaned with endodontic files and filled with a permanent material called gutta percha. After a root canal, the opening of the tooth is sealed with a filling. Sometimes, a post is added to help retain a dental crown. A dental crown is usually recommended to protect your tooth.
A pulp cap is an alternative to a root canal that is used when the infection has not yet penetrated the entire pulp; this procedure can also be done if a large dental filling is close to the nerve of a tooth.