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Root canal

The root canal is the hollow area at the center of a tooth. In dentistry, a pulpectomy is an endodontic treatment to cure an infection of the root canal; informally a root canal.

At the center of a tooth is a hollow area that houses soft tissue, known as pulp. This hollow area comprises of a relatively wide space towards the chewing surface of the tooth called the pulp chamber. This pulp chamber is connected to the tip of the root of the tooth via thin hollow pipe-like canals - hence, the term "root canal". These canals run through the centre of the roots like pencil lead runs through the length of a pencil. The tooth receives nutrition through the blood vessels and nerves traversing these canals. Occasionally, a cavity on the outside of the tooth may allow this soft tissue to become infected. If left untreated a serious jaw infection can result. The infection and inflammation is very painful in most cases. Ideally treatment should take place before this happens.

To cure the infection and save the tooth, it is necessary for the dentist to cut into the pulp chamber, and remove the infected pulp by scraping it out of the root canals. Once that is done, the dentist fills the cavity with an inert material and seals up the opening. This procedure is known as root canal therapy. If enough of the tooth is damaged by the disease or removed as a result of the treatment, a crown may be required.

Contrary to popular belief, root canal treatment is usually painless due to effective pain control techniques used by the dentist while the treatment is being performed and the (optional) use of pain control medication after treatment.