A root canal, known as endontic therapy, is a treatment to save a diseased or broken tooth before removal is required.
The pulp is soft tissue inside the tooth that contains blood vessels and nerves. When the pulp is diseased or injured and unable to repair itself, it dies. The most common causes of pulp death are a cracked tooth, a deep cavity, problems with large fillings, or serious injury to the tooth. All of these can allow bacteria to enter into the pulp.
If the problem pulp is not removed, the tissues around the root of the tooth can become infected, often resulting in pain and swelling. Even if there is no pain, bacteria can damage the bone that anchors the tooth in the jaw. Without treatment, the tooth may have to be pulled.
A root canal removes the infected pulp of the tooth, allowing the area to heal the damage. Often this process ends with the addition of a crown to fully restore the tooth.