Teeth have nerves that run down the middle of the tooth roots through individual canals. After a tooth is erupted, it is not vitally important to the health and function of the tooth; it only exists to feel temperature. Nerves of teeth are sometimes affected if tooth decay is extensive or due to tooth trauma. Left unattended, this can lead to terrible pain or swelling.
The dentist may identify a tooth needing root canal treatment to prevent or alleviate infection and to maintain a tooth that would otherwise need to be extracted. The procedure is performed with local anesthesia (numbing) and the tooth isolated with a rubber sheet. A small hole is made to access the root canal system and the nerve is removed with the interior of the tooth cleaned and sealed. Afterwards the access hole is filled with a white filling material. The dentist may recommend a crown to prevent the tooth from breaking. Properly restored, a root canal treated tooth has the ability to last a lifetime.