Foolishly I ignored a cavity which now is giving me a great deal of pain. My dentist says I need a root canal. I never needed that procedure before; why now? And what exactly is a root canal?
You have an abscess in your tooth. What has happened is the bacteria in the decay now has entered the portion of the tooth which has blood vessels and nerves. This is the living portion of your tooth.
The growth of bacteria is irritating your blood vessels and causing pressure on the nerve. That can be very, very painful. This neurovascular situation takes place in the pulp and canals which are in the root portion of your tooth. The bacterium keeps growing and the swollen blood vessels have nowhere to expand inside your tooth.
Usually an endodontist will resolve your problems in one visit relieving your pain immediately. The tooth will be numbed and access to the pulp and root canals will be treated. The endodontist will remove the nerve, the blood vessels and the infection that is present. The pulp and canals in the root or roots will then be filled and sealed off to prevent any more bacteria from reentering. Your dentist will construct a crown to prevent the tooth from fracturing later.