A root canal or endodontic procedure is done when tooth decay reaches the nerve in a tooth, or trauma to the tooth causes the nerve to die. Once the nerve is infected or necrotic, the nerve will not heal on its own. The options at this point are to have the tooth extracted or have the nerve removed. The tooth becomes very painful to hot /cold, starts to hurt on its own, hurts worse at night, may cause swelling, and feels like your heart beat in the tooth.
Some people have no symptoms, and the necrotic tooth is diagnosed from an x-ray during an examination. These teeth are like a time bomb and can become symptomatic very rapidly.
The procedure for a root canal is to clean out the infected nerve tissue and disinfect the inside of the tooth. The tooth is then filled with a material called gutta-percha that is inert to the body. Usually a crown is recommended to restore the tooth after the root canal is complete.