Root canal treatment (also referred to as root canal therapy or endodontic therapy) is necessary when a cavity is allowed, through neglect, to reach all the way to this pulp. (Regular cleanings and checkups prevent and detect problems early.) Deep restorations or trauma to a tooth may cause the nerve to be damaged to the point it needs root canal therapy. Once a pulp becomes infected the infection can extend through the root and into the bone causing an abscess. When a dental pulp is infected it cannot heal on its own and must be treated. Untreated, a dental abscess can affect the entire immune system. Symptoms that the pulp has become infected may include sensitivity to hot/cold or sweets, pain, swelling, pain to biting or pressure, and a bad taste in the mouth. Rarely, an abscessed tooth causes no symptoms. Routine examinations and complete radiographs can diagnose an asyptomatic abscess.
Root canal treatment cleans out the infected pulp tissue and disinfects the canals. Once the infection is resolved, the canal(s) are filled in to prevent any further infection. A core build-up and crown is recommended for restoring a tooth that has had root canal therapy.