The aim of root canal treatment (also called “endodontic” treatment) is to save a tooth that has been badly damaged due to decay, disease or injury.
Infection or inflammation of the pulp can be caused by:
Symptoms may include pain, sensitivity to heat or cold, tooth discolouration, and swelling or soreness in the gums surrounding the tooth. To save the tooth, root canal treatment is needed when the pulp becomes severely inflamed or infected.
To improve the chances of success, root canal treatment should be started as soon as possible. All root canals in the affected tooth must be treated. The front teeth(incisors) have one or two root canals. Premolars (bicuspids) typically have one or two root canals. Molars usually have three or four root canals.
If the pulp of the tooth is not treated quickly, severe pain and abscesses (infections at the ends of the roots) can occur. If an abscess is left untreated, infection can damage the bond surrounding the root. If the tooth does not have endodontic treatment, it will have to be removed.
*(excerpt from ADA Root Canal Treatment pamphlet)