What is a root canal and how does it treat an abscessed tooth?

A “root canal” is the procedure used to treat and save an abscessed tooth. Previously, it was almost certain that abscessed tooth would need to be removed. Today, however, a dentist can better evaluate if an infected tooth is able to be treated and saved.

If the diagnosis looks promising, your dentist will first administer antibiotics to kill the bacteria that started the abscessed tooth. The source of the infection must still be removed, so your dentist will drill into the infected tooth or gum and drain the infectious pus.

Your dentist will then evaluate what damage has been in tooth’s interior pulp. The pulp is the soft tissue that holds the blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue that extends from the tooth’s crown down to the root within the jaw bone. The exam may show that pulp can be treated and restored to good health thereby saving your tooth.

However, if the initial exam reveals that the abscessed tooth is beyond repair, the dentist will skip a root canal to instead remove, or extract, the tooth.