Also called endodontic therapy, a root canal is an effective dental procedure that removes infections from the root of a damaged or decayed tooth; after which the remaining soft tissue within is sterilized and then sealed in the tooth with a dental crown. This is all in an effort to avoid the need for teeth extraction and prevent further deterioration. While it seems drastic, in many cases it is considered routine and preventative in nature; as untreated tooth decay leads to future oral infections that can be problematic when combined with other health issues.
Seeking a Dentist’s Diagnosis
If one or more of your teeth have been problematic recently, you may be asking yourself: “Do I need a root canal?” This is why going to a dentist regularly is essential. Only a trained professional can diagnose you properly; especially because in some instances symptoms don’t even arise until an infection is already at an advanced stage. However, if your tooth starts bothering you in between dental appointments, it’s a good idea to note and remember how you feel so you can give your dentist better idea of what the issue is.
Signs and Symptoms
If more than one of these sound familiar, it could be a good idea to move up that next dentist appointment to an earlier date.
#1 Large Cavities, Cracked Teeth or a Failed Filling
Visible symptoms are the easiest to spot. You may find out that your have a cracked tooth, or that a filling has fallen out and a small cavity has gotten larger, even before subsequent symptoms. However, the solution is not always a root canal. Sometimes a dentist can prescribe a simple dental crown or a new filling, although a root canal in the future is still a possibility.
#2 Constant and Severe Pain
There are many different kinds of tooth pain–aching, burning, constant, dull, severe, shooting, stabbing, throbbing, or any combination thereof–which is why it’s difficult to come to any definite diagnosis with just this one sign. It’s important to note that not all people who end up getting root canals experience pain as a symptom, and vice versa.
Tooth pain that consistently affects daily activities like eating or drinking is a huge red flag. Feeling pain when you bite or chew is alarming; and can be a sign of unseen cracking or decay–if not a sign that you are grinding or clenching your teeth habitually. If you’re suffering from constant, severe and throbbing pain–the kind that’s strong enough to wake you up in the middle of the night–go see your dentist right away. While you may not necessarily need a root canal, you will still benefit from a checkup.
#3 Sensitivity to Pressure and Extreme Temperatures
If you eat or drink something hot or cold and experience a dull, lingering ache–not a painful pang that goes away in seconds, which is normal–observe if the pain starts to last longer or gets more intense as the weeks pass. If so, you may be looking at a root canal. Worth noting, though, that this kind of pain may be as a natural result of a recent dental procedure–such as a tooth filling or a dental crown.
#4 Tender and Swollen Gums
Swelling gums are typically a sign of infection; though in some cases it doesn’t have anything to do with needing endodontic therapy. It can be a sign of gum disease or the result of physical trauma. If it instead turns out it is due to an infected or abscessed tooth–and the swollen gums come in conjunction to tooth sensitivity or pain, or both–you will likely need a root canal for it to heal completely.
#5 Other Signs of Infection: Abscesses, Bumps, Pus and Discoloration
Tooth discoloration–when not connected to external factors, like smoking or drinking coffee–can be a sign of long standing internal tooth infections that necessitate severe treatment. Gum abscesses and bumps are often filled with blood and pus, which can not only literally leave a bad taste in your mouth when they eventually burst and drain, but also swiftly spread the infection–sometimes beyond the realm of dental care.
These last ones are all lumped together because if you have any of these symptoms, it’s usually in conjunction with or noticed past the initial identification of one or more of the previously discussed ones–which means that a dentist appointment is long overdue. Go to your dentist before the situation gets worse.