“Endo” is the Greek word for “inside” and “odont” is Greek for “tooth.” Endodontic treatment treats the inside of the tooth. Endodontic treatment that is non-surgical is widely referred to as root canal therapy.
Root canal therapy is performed to save a tooth when its pulp — the tissue within the root of the tooth containing the tooth's nerves and blood supply — is diseased or damaged. This occurs when bacteria enters into the hollow, innermost part of the tooth (the root canal system), because of trauma to the tooth, or due to irreversible inflammation from deep decay. Although the entire procedure may require several office visits, it can often be accomplished in one visit.
Once local anesthetic takes effect, a rubber dam (a small protective sheet) is placed over the tooth, isolating it from contaminants and saliva. A small opening is created in the tooth's crown to access the root or roots that are receiving therapy. The internal part of the root, the canal, is cleaned, disinfected and shaped with small hand files and with state-of-the-art motorized instruments. Medication is placed within the tooth and the opening is temporarily sealed. An antibiotic may be prescribed to help combat infection.
Upon determining the tooth to be free of infection, a biocompatible material is placed into the canal with an adhesive cement to fill and seal it. By filling the canal in a three-dimensional manner, this material prevents bacteria from passing through it. The opening in the tooth is then closed through placement of a temporary filling.
Finally, you will go back to your general dentist for completion of the restoration of your tooth, usually by the placement of a crown. In many cases, root canal therapy enables a patient to maintain their own natural tooth permanently.