A root canal is a treatment used to repair and save a tooth that is badly decayed or becomes infected. During a root canal, the nerve and pulp are removed and the inside of the tooth is cleaned and sealed. Without treatment, the tissue surrounding the tooth will become infected and an abscess may form. An abscess is a pus-filled pocket that forms at the end of the roots of the tooth. An abscess occurs when the infection spreads all the way past the ends of the roots of the tooth. The infection in the root canal of a tooth can cause swelling that may spread to other areas of the face, neck, or head and create bone loss around the tip of the root.

A tooth’s nerve is not vitally important to a tooth’s health and function after the tooth has emerged through the gums. Its only function is sensory,  to provide the sensation of hot or cold. The presence or absence of a nerve will not affect the day-to-day functioning of the tooth.However, a root canaled tooth must be covered with a crown to prevent a fracture or breakage. A fractured tooth can not be saved and therefore will need to be pulled.