The root canal system is the hollow space in the center of the tooth that, in health, is occupied by the mass of nerves and blood vessels that make up the dental pulp. These nerves conduct sensations of temperature or pain to the brain. The small blood vessels supply the tooth and dental pulp with oxygen and nutrients.
When the soft tissues of the dental pulp deteriorate, whether due to trauma, bacterial invasion or other causes, the tooth is said to be abscessed. In order to preserve an abscessed tooth and eliminate the infection, and frequently pain, that spreads to the supporting bone from the diseased pulp, root canal treatment is performed. This intricate procedure involves finding the root canal or canals in the tooth, accessing them completely to the end of the root deep in the bone, removing all of the tissue from the canals and shaping them to receive a special filling material that seals the canal from end to end.
After the infection is under control and the root canal filling is placed, it is very important that the tooth is properly restored. All too often, a tooth is lost after root canal treatment, not because the treatment was unsuccessful in causing healing of the infection, but because the tooth fractured due to not being properly reinforced with a restoration that prevents breakage. This might be a crown, onlay or other restoration that contributes strength to the tooth.