Root canal therapy (endodontic therapy) is a technique used to treat a diseased nerve of a tooth and in turn save a damaged tooth. The alternative to a root canal would be an extraction or removal of the tooth. Treatment requires that the nerve inside the tooth be removed and replaced with a solid filling material that is resistant to infection.
A dark-colored tooth in an adult usually indicates that the nerve of the tooth has become infected and the normal flow of blood in and out of the tooth has stopped.
In most cases, the tooth will need a root canal. Sometimes the tooth will "die," yet not need a root canal. To restore the tooth to its natural color, you might consider bonding, veneers, a crown, or single-tooth whitening, a procedure in which a whitening agent is placed inside the tooth after root canal treatment.
Since you're numb when a root canal is performed, you probably won't feel anything during the procedure. Most people (about 75 percent) experience no discomfort after this procedure. The discomfort experienced by the remaining 25 percent is usually caused by the infection that made the root canal necessary, not by the root canal. You should receive medication to stop the infection and relieve any associated discomfort.
It depends on the location of the tooth, the number of root canals in the tooth, and how much infection is present. Root canal therapy generally takes between one and three appointments to complete. Since most root canals require the placement of a crown, you may need one or two more additional visits to have the crown fitted.
Once the pulp of a tooth has become infected, your choices are limited. You could choose to delay treatment, you could choose to have the tooth extracted, or you could choose to save your tooth with root canal treatment.
The problem with delaying treatment is that an infected tooth will never heal on its own, and this can lead to some very serious problems. As the infection spreads down the tooth and into your jawbone, the pain may become excruciating. It could even put you in the hospital and threaten your life.
An extraction is only a short-term solution. While it does remove the source of infection, it sets off a chain reaction of shifting teeth and other dental problems.
The only way to save your tooth and keep it in your mouth is to remove the infection with root canal treatment.