A root canal, also called endodontic therapy, treats teeth that have become severely damaged, allowing the nerves and soft inner pulp of the tooth to become infected. Your dentist may also recommend a root canal if a tooth has become so damaged or decayed that future infection appears inevitable. Root canals have a reputation for being painful, but modern endodontic techniques and anesthetics make the procedure no more uncomfortable than having a tooth filled. After completing the root canal, the tooth will also need a crown or filling to complete the restoration.
Because it spares at least part of the natural tooth, root canals are often the preferred way of handling significant damage. An extraction followed by bridgework or an implant is an alternative, but any replacement of a tooth may need maintenance after a number of years. A root canal procedure can ensure that the affected tooth lasts a lifetime.