A root canal becomes necessary when infection has found its way into the pulp--commonly referred to as the nerve--of a tooth. In a healthy tooth, the outer enamel and dentin layers protect the pulp from infection, but a deep cavity, a crack or a break, or hard impact on the tooth (such as a sports injury) can lead to an infection within the pulp layer of the tooth.

This layer is the center of the tooth and contains blood vessels, nerves, and lymph tissue. The root canals travel from the tip of the tooth’s root into the pulp chamber and when the pulp becomes infected, it can die off and become abscessed. Abscesses do not heal on their own and can become dangerous if left untreated. At this point, root canal therapy becomes necessary in order to preserve the tooth.

Root canal therapy may be performed by your general dentist, or he may refer you to a dentist who specializes in root canals (endodontist). For the procedure, the tooth and its surrounding tissue will be numbed and the dentist will place what is called a rubber dam over the tooth to protect your mouth and clean out the pulp area of the tooth. Once the canal is cleaned and free from infection, it will be filled with gutta percha (a rubber like material from a tree in Malaysia--also used in golf ball cores believe it or not!). This procedure should relieve the tooth of pain and infection, though it can remain slightly tender for several days. In order to restore the tooth to full function and strength, you will return to your general dentist to have a crown placed on the tooth. With successful endodontic treatment, an otherwise nonviable tooth can be saved and keep your mouth functioning exactly as it was designed for years to come!

If you have been experiencing tooth pain and are unsure if you may be in need of a root canal or filling, don’t hesitate to call one of our Singing River Dentistry locations. We specialize in ensuring that all patients can enjoy “Healthy Smiles for a Lifetime."


Florence • 256-764-9955

Muscle Shoals • 256-383-1112

Tuscumbia • 256-383-0377

Russellville • 256-332-6888

Tuscumbia • 256-320-5778