Root canals are dental procedures d e s i g n e d to treat infections and damage within the pulp of a tooth. The pulp, located at the center of the tooth, contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissues. When this area becomes infected or damaged due to decay or injury, a root canal becomes necessary to save the tooth and alleviate pain. The need for a root canal typically arises when bacteria infiltrate the tooth’s pulp, causing an infection. This can happen when a cavity goes untreated, allowing bacteria to penetrate deep into the tooth. Additionally, trauma or injury to a tooth can also lead to damage within the pulp. Symptoms of pulp infection include severe toothache, sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures, swelling, and even the formation of an abscess. The root canal procedure involves removing the infected or damaged pulp from the tooth. The dentist begins by administering local anesthesia to numb the affected tooth and the surrounding area. Once the tooth is numb, the dentist creates an opening in the crown of the tooth to access the pulp chamber. Specialized instruments are then used to carefully remove the pulp, clean the root canals, and shape them for the filling material. After the cleaning process, the dentist fills the empty space within the tooth with a biocompatible material, often a rubber-like substance called gutta-percha. This material seals the canals to prevent bacteria from re-entering and causing further infection. The access opening is then sealed with a temporary or permanent filling. In some cases, a dental crown may be recommended to provide additional strength and protection to the treated tooth. While root canals have earned a reputation for being painful, advances in dental techniques and anesthesia have made the procedure more comfortable for patients. In fact, the primary goal of a root canal is to relieve pain rather than cause it. The procedure effectively eliminates the source of the toothache, allowing patients to return to their normal activities with significantly reduced discomfort. Root canals are crucial for preserving natural teeth and preventing the need for extraction. Losing a tooth can lead to various complications, including misalignment of surrounding teeth, difficulty chewing, and changes in facial appearance. By saving the natural tooth through a root canal, patients can maintain proper dental function and aesthetics. It’s essential for individuals to recognize the signs that may indicate the need for a root canal. Persistent toothache, especially when accompanied by swelling or pus drainage, should not be ignored. Timely intervention can prevent the spread of infection and increase the likelihood of successful root canal treatment. Maintaining good oral hygiene practices, such as regular brushing, flossing, and routine dental checkups, can significantly reduce the risk of developing conditions that may necessitate a root canal. Prevention remains a cornerstone of dental care, emphasizing the importance of early detection and treatment to avoid more invasive procedures. In conclusion, root canals are vital dental procedures designed to save infected or damaged teeth by removing the infected pulp. Despite common misconceptions, modern root canal treatments are relatively comfortable and highly effective in relieving pain. Recognizing symptoms, seeking prompt dental care, and practicing preventive oral hygiene can contribute to maintaining a healthy smile and avoiding the need for extensive dental interventions. Dr. Michael Dolynchuk is a General Dentist practicing in Caroline and Red Deer.