A tooth is like an onion, it has multiple layers. The outer layer is enamel, the hard outer shell! Below that is the dentin, which is softer and porous. The deepest layer of a tooth after you pass through the dentin is actually not a layer at all but rather a hallow space called the ‘pulp’ which is filled with blood vessels and nerve tissue.
A healthy tooth will sense hot and cold changes, and at small doses usually doesn’t cause any pain, however an unhealthy tooth is either overly sensitive to any temperature changes, or it isn’t sensitive at all, in which case the tooth has ‘died’, or rather the pulp tissue is no longer vital.
A tooth needs a root canal when the pulp tissue (nerves and blood vessels) becomes affected by bacterial insult or when the blood vessels are damaged beyond repair. Things that cause the need for a root canal are: Extensive decay, cracks in teeth, severe tooth wear (usually from grinding), and or dental trauma.
Patients often ask, “What is a root canal?” To simplify the process, the inner layer or pulp tissue is completely removed and disinfected, followed by sealing up and filling in the pulp chamber to prevent a re-infection of bacteria. It has come a long way over the years and we have great success with modern root canal therapy.