Root canal therapy becomes necessary when the dental pulp becomes irreversibly inflamed or infected. Inflammation can occur as a consequence of tooth decay, trauma from dental procedures, parafunctional habits or accidents. Infection of the dental pulp represents a natural progression of untreated inflammation. By the time the pulp is infected, it must be treated, and cannot heal on its own. It can even weaken the entire immune system. This is dangerous to your overall health, not to mention very painful. Symptoms that the pulp has become infected may include sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweets, swelling, pain to biting or pressure and a bad taste in the mouth. Sometimes, however, no symptoms are apparent and the person is unaware of any problem until a checkup.
A root canal cleans out the infected tooth pulp and disinfects the canals of the tooth. Once the infection is resolved, the canal(s) are filled in to prevent any further infection. Usually a core build-up filling and crown is recommended after root canal therapy to protect the tooth. An alternative to root canal therapy is tooth extraction to remove the infected tooth pulp.