Endodontics is the area of dentistry that deals with the nerves and blood vessels inside the teeth, which are contained within canals in the root of the tooth. A root canal treatment is the most common endodontic procedure and is performed when the tissue within the root canal has become infected.
Decay, fractures, or trauma to the tooth can lead to the root canal tissue dying off and becoming infected. The infection can spread to the bone around the tooth, creating intense pressure and an abscess in the bone, or the infection can erode the bone and drain into the soft tissue causing swelling. An infection inside the tooth cannot be resolved with antibiotics because the blood vessels that are needed to transmit the antibiotics to kill the bacteria are no longer functioning and unable to deliver the medicine. The only way to resolve an infection inside the tooth is to remove the infected tissue, either by an extraction of the tooth or a root canal treatment. It is always preferable to preserve your natural tooth if possible, and if a tooth can be restored, a root canal treatment would be the preferable course of action.
A root canal treatment is performed by numbing the tooth and then removing the tissue from inside the canal through the biting surface of the tooth. The canal is cleaned with a bactericidal solution and then sealed with a natural material called gutta percha. In most instances, the tooth would then require a crown to seal the root canal and provide strength to the tooth to prevent fracture.