Endodontics is the dental specialty that deals with the nerves of the teeth. Root canals are probably the most notorious procedure in dentistry and the most common procedure relating to endodontics. When a tooth becomes infected it is usually related to the nerves in the root of the tooth. The infected nerves need to be removed. If left untreated an infection can turn into an abscess, which is a much more serious problem that includes bone loss in the jaw.
The area around the tooth is numbed with a local anesthetic to start the procedure. The dentist will then drill down into the tooth to create an opening into the canal. He will then be able to remove infected tissue and clean the canal. After the infection has been removed, the space is filled with a sealant called gutta percha. In most cases, it is highly recommended that a tooth that has undergone a root canal treatment is restored with a crown, since the root canal process makes the tooth more brittle and thus more likely to crack or fracture. This will improve the appearance of the tooth, and will also make it much more likely that the root canal therapy is successful.