Q: I recently had a terrible toothache, and my dentist said I needed a root canal. What is a root canal anyway?
A: Toothaches are generally caused by bacteria that have found their way into the nerve of a tooth or by dental trauma which causes excessive inflammation inside the injured tooth. Very often, the best way to treat such toothaches is by performing root canal therapy, otherwise known as a “root canal.” During root canal therapy, a small hole is made in the biting surface of the tooth to gain access to the nerve space within. Small instruments are used to gently remove nerve tissue and blood vessels from inside the root’s nerve canals. Medication is used to disinfect the inside of the tooth and the now-empty space inside the tooth is filled to seal out bacteria and prevent future infection. Of course all of this is done under profound local anesthesia, so the patient should be comfortable throughout the procedure. The only alternative to root canal therapy is extraction, so root canals are a great way to save an ailing tooth.