A root canal is a treatment used to try and repair and save a tooth that is badly decayed or becomes infected, as an alternative to having the tooth removed. To understand a root canal procedure, it helps to know about the anatomy of the tooth. Inside the tooth, under the white enamel and a hard layer called the dentin, is a soft tissue called the pulp. The pulp contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue, and helps to grow the root of your tooth during development. In a fully developed tooth, the tooth can survive without the pulp because the tooth continues to be nourished by the tissues (bone) surrounding it. When the pulp of the tooth becomes irreversibly inflamed or infected, a root canal is often the only option for maintaining the tooth.

During a root canal procedure, any remaining infected nerve and blood vessels are removed and the inside of the tooth is cleaned and sealed with a rubber material called gutta percha. Without this therapy, the tissue and bone surrounding the tooth will become infected and abscesses may form and spread.

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