A root canal is a procedure that extracts decayed pulp from the central part of the tooth, reshapes the canal and replaces it with strengthening filler.
A cavity is the result of superficial decay of the enamel of the tooth. Left long enough, this decay can burrow into the deeper reaches of the tooth, causing extensive damage to tooth structure. When the damage goes beyond what can be treated with a filling, dentists can perform a root canal (or endodontics), preserving the tooth and retaining its original integrity; thereby, saving a tooth that in the past would have to have been pulled.
Also known as a root-end resection, an apicoectomy literally means the removal of the apex of the root of the tooth. This procedure, done following a root canal, treats the bony area surrounding the end of your tooth, which has become inflamed or infected. By folding back the gum near the tooth, the doctor can access the underlying bone and extract the inflamed tissue. At the same time, the very tip of the root is removed and usually replaced with a small plug or filling. At this time, the doctor may treat the area with antibiotics and will then close the area with a small suture. Eventually, the jaw surrounding the tooth will fill in with bone, supporting the tooth as before. This procedure helps ensure the lasting result of your endodontic treatment.