Endodontics is the area of dentistry dealing with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disorders of the dental pulp.
Endodontic therapy (root canal) is a treatment modality that will save diseased or injured teeth. The alternative to endodontics is extraction. Typically, a severely decayed tooth or a tooth with a large filling will begin to ache. The pain might be intermittent at first and over time progress to a constant dull throbbing pain or a severe ache that might be felt on all the teeth on the affected side. Sometimes there is no pain and an abscess might be discovered on a routine x-ray.
The pulp is the soft tissue that is located inside the tooth structure. It contains nerves, arteries, veins, and lymph tissue. It is contained in the canals located in thin tube-like spaces in the roots and in the pulp chamber located within the crown of the tooth.
When the pulp is diseased or injured and unable to repair itself, it becomes infected. Left untreated, the pulp will die and become necrotic. Pus can build up at the root tip, forming an abscess that can destroy the bone surrounding the tooth. Endodontic treatment is the removal of the diseased pulp tissue, which will enable the body's defense system to repair the damage caused by the infection.
Following completion the tooth will need to be restored. Due to the large amount of tooth structure usually lost from decay and old fillings the preferred restoration is a crown. A post may be placed into the root to give additional structural support.