Common Signs You May Need a Root Canal

root canalRoot canals have a pretty bad rep in the dentistry world…

The thought of confinement to the dentist’s chair for a long period of time is stomach-churning for many.

But is it possible to detect an impacted root canal early on? What are the most common signs you need a root canal, anyway?

Before we begin, let’s first explore root canals and demystify this procedure!

What Are Root Canals?

The root canal is an anatomical cavity within the center of a tooth. Every tooth has one, and everyone has them.

Within this cavity lies a soft area composed of blood vessels and nerves known as the pulp. Each tooth has its own nerve within its individual canal.

The Procedure

A root canal procedure preserves an infected or rotting tooth by removing its pulp and nerve. By using a small drill, dentists create a tiny opening into the tooth.

But, of course, dentists first numb the area with an anesthetic!

Then, once the area is numb, dentists file away at the affected pulp and remove it entirely from the tooth. They may also wash this area down with water or apply a solution to kill off bacteria.

After removing the pulp and nerve, dentists clean out the insides of the tooth. This clears away any remaining infection. They then seal the cavity and give it a temporary filling.

About 2 weeks after the procedure, patients receive their dental crowns. These are like caps which close off the tooth

Depending on whether a dentist uses CEREC technology, some patients can receive their dental crowns the same day as their root canal.

Why Are Root Canal Procedures Necessary?

Poor hygiene, infections, and injuries often impact the pulp and nerve. When this happens, a person can experience a number of adverse symptoms.

Untreated root canal infections and injuries can lead to painful complications. In particular, they can lead to further decay, disease, inflammation, and severe injury.

Those who hate the dentist and those impartial to the dentist equally dread root canals. Yet, this procedure is necessary when infection and injury wreck havoc on your teeth.

The sooner you detect the signs you need a root canal, the less pain you’ll have to endure. Here are the most common symptoms:

Tooth Pain

Everyone at some point in their lives has experienced some degree of pain on their teeth or gums.

But no matter if you have a dull ache or a throbbing twinge, tooth pain is one of the most obvious signs you need a root canal.

Some patients experience pain only once in a while. Others experience pain for hours, and even days.

Root canal pain can also grow more severe when a patient chews food or drinks liquids. Hot and cold sensitivity is indicative of an issue involving the root canal. Many times this pain lasts long after eating or drinking.

Swollen Gums

Often times tooth pain extends into the surrounding gums. This is also one of the most indicative signs you need a root canal.

Gums can feel tender or swollen for a few reasons. Sometimes gingivitis causes swollen games, as well as food debris.

But when tooth pain accompanies swollen gums, it may due to an infection or injury within the root canal cavity.

Healthy gums look pink and feel painless and firm. But both red and white gums are not normal and can point to inflammation, which may be due to an impacted root canal.

Sometimes a pimple-like bump develops on gums. This can also point out a problem with the root canal(s), especially when accompanied by pain.

Tooth Discoloration

Does a tooth look darker than your other teeth? Does it almost look like your tooth has a gray, blue or bruised looking coat?

If so, these can be signs you need a root canal.

Sometimes certain foods and beverages, like wine, soda, and berries, cause tooth discoloration. Certain antibiotics, like tetracycline, for example, can also cause tooth darkening.

If you’ve recently received an amalgam restoration treatment, you may have discoloration. This discoloration is often not related to the root canal in the case of previous treatments.

But if suddenly your teeth look darker, in addition to tooth pain and gum swelling, you may need a root canal.

Signs that You Don’t Need a Root Canal

Of course, some of the signs you need a root canal can mimic other things.

For example, pain that arises after eating something sugary, then subsides, may indicate that you have a cavity. In this case, you would need a filling instead of a root canal.

Some pain may even feel like electric jolts. This may be due to metal fillings.

Other times, you may experience pain when active or when moving your head a certain way. In these cases, you may have an issue in your sinuses.

People who grind their teeth at night will often wake up in the morning with pain in their teeth and throughout their face.

Sometimes pain may be due to a cracked tooth. Though this pain may not be due to an impacted root canal cavity, you may still require a dental crown.

How Can You Prevent Impacted Root Canals?

None of this sounds pleasant. Unfortunately, infected or injured root canals happen even to the most hygienic patients.

In fact, about 15.1 million people undergo root canal treatments every year!

The number may seem like there’s no way to prevent impacted root canals. But luckily, there are some precautions you can take to do your best – and succeed – in avoiding root canal treatment.

  • Brush your teeth 2x per day
  • Flossing 1x per day
  • Cut down on sugar intake
  • Avoid acidic foods and drinks
  • Seeing a dentist every 6 months
  • Calling a dentist about tooth pain, gum swelling, & discoloration

Know the Signs You Need a Root Canal

The only way to know for certain if you need a root canal is to get checked out by your local dentist.

But the longer you wait to make an appointment, the more painful your symptoms may become.

Don’t wait until you can no longer bear the pain. Familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms, and contact Doug Lewis Dentistry today. We’re here to help you!