Endodontics is the study of “saving teeth”—in other words, treatment and prevention of disorders involving the dental pulp, or soft tissues. One of the most frequently occurring tasks of a dentist is treatment of the root canal, a procedure that involves removing damaged pulp from within the root canal of a tooth. Such treatment is necessitated when the pulp becomes inflamed or infected.

Inflammation and infection can occur because of tooth decay, tooth cracks, or recurring dental work on the same tooth. Sensitivity to heat, cold, or touch, or in the lymph nodes or surrounding bone or gingivital tissues can all signal a need for endodontic treatment. The dentist will remove the inflamed tissue and clean up your root canal. Your dentist will cover the treated tooth with a crown for protection. After a few days of discomfort, your tooth should begin to feel normal again.

In addition to root canals, endodontics also deals with salvaging teeth that have been knocked out (avulsion). In some cases, calcium deposits may narrow a root canal, making treatment impossible. In such cases, endodontic surgery is required instead of a root canal. Surgery may also be required to remedy earlier treatments that failed to heal. In some cases, surgery can be used as a diagnostic tool; opening the tooth can allow the to locate the cause of a patients’ unexplained discomfort.