In severe cases, the plaque that causes tooth decay eats its way through the enamel that forms the outer layer of the tooth. It attacks the soft core of tissue inside the tooth known as the pulp or nerve tissue. Symptoms include sensitivity to hot and cold, pain while eating, or sore gums around the effected area. If left untreated, the patient can begin to experience extreme pain, swelling and in some case infection. If any of these symptoms occur, a root canal may be needed to save the tooth.
During the root canal procedure, the doctor proceeds to remove the infected pulp tissue. After the infected pulp is removed, the nerve chamber is cleaned, shaped and sealed. Contrary to popular rumors, root canal therapy is quite comfortable and painless through the use of modern technology.