The root canal is a treatment to repair and save a badly damaged or infected tooth instead of removing it. The term "root canal" comes from cleaning the canals inside a tooth's root. Decades ago, root canal treatments often were painful. With dental advances and local anesthetics, most people have slight pain during a root canal. It's probably more painful living with a decayed tooth. Root canal alternatives include extracting the damaged tooth, no further treatment, or replacing the tooth with a dental implant, bridge, or removable partial denture.