In very basic language root canal therapy means treating the root canals. Actually it is a procedure of treating a root canal which has got infected when the normal health and well being of the patient cannot be restored without removing the infection.
Root Canal Treatment means cleaning the infected nerve tissue (dental pulp) out of the tooth completely. When we inform the patient that he/she needs root canal therapy we actually refer to a procedure rather than the morphological anatomy. We really mean that the nerve is unhealthy and must be removed completely and entirely from the tooth and the space created where pulp used to exist is disinfected and sterilized which is then ultimately sealed with gutta percha, a type of rubber or many new materials made especially for this purpose these days. The technical term for the procedure is called as Endodontic Treatment.
The procedure is relatively painless when done properly.
Procedure for Root Canal Therapy
Sometimes the dentist performs the preliminary treatment of the teeth by removing all the infected pulp tissue of the tooth and applying a dressing and temporary filling to the tooth. This is called pulpectomy. The dentist may just remove the portion of the tooth lying in the crown portion of the tooth which contains 90% of the pulp tissue of the tooth and leave the nerve tissue of the root canals. This procedure is called a pulpotomy and it tends to eliminate all the pain. A pulpotomy is usually a common and a definitive procedure for the milk teeth of children. The pulpotomy and pulpectomy procedures eliminate most of the pain until the consecutive upcoming visits to follow after the root canal therapy. But if the pain persists it means:
The patient is biting into the tooth.
There is still a significant amount of nerve material left in the tooth.
There is still more pus building up inside and around the infected tooth.
Also to mention is that when there is pulpal involvement of the permanent teeth with incompletely formed roots, as seen with the help of a radiograph (in newly erupted teeth in the oral cavity the roots take 2-3 years to fully develop so the roots are having open incomplete root tip when they initially come out of jaw) the induction of apical closure should be completed before root canal therapy is began. Apexification is the procedure of inducing a calcified barrier at the apex of a non-vital (having dead pulp tissue) tooth with incomplete root formation. Apexogenesis is a vital or living pulp therapy procedure performed to induce natural development and formation of the root.