3 Signs You May Need a Root Canal Treatment

Dental Hygienist Cleaning Patient's Teeth

It’s important to understand common indicators of a root canal infection so you can treat it in time. But first, what is a root canal? A root canal is a dental surgery procedure which has to be performed in a situation where tooth pulp or the nerve of the tooth has become infected and/or inflamed as a consequence of tooth decay. It’s also possible that the inflammation or infection has occurred as a result of a broken or cracked tooth, although these are less likely causes.

In a root canal procedure, the dentist will use a drill to remove both pulp and nerve before completely sealing it up so that no further damage to the tooth and the area around it occurs. Also known as endodontic therapy, a root canal treatment must be diagnosed by an endodontist, although you as a patient may recognize the symptoms pointing toward a root canal treatment yourself! Look for these three signs that you may need a root canal procedure might be necessary.

Tooth pain

According to the American Association of Endodontists, the single most revealing characteristic of a possible root canal is an intense tooth pain which can be anywhere from mild to severe. The tooth pain may not always be present often fooling patients into thinking that there is no significant problem.

However, pay attention if the pain happens frequently enough that even when the pain is intermittent or sporadic, it returns in full force when you bite down on something and feel a shooting pain immediately. When pressure is applied to the infected area, that pressure in turn is directly applied to the nerve, triggering a sudden, extremely intense tooth pain.

Gum sensitivity

Another telltale sign of a tooth infection which might require endodontic therapy is a pronounced sensitivity in the gums, often around the immediate area of an infection. You may notice the pain when you’re brushing your teeth or if you happen to touch your gums. This will often trigger an immediate sensation of discomfort and possibly pain in the gum when there is no other apparent cause for this kind of reaction. Swelling in the gums is another possible indication that an infection is present in one of the teeth, and the swelling will generally be accompanied by tenderness and discomfort.

Sensitivity to heat or cold

When you suddenly notice that you have developed a sensitivity to cold liquids or solids such as beverages, ice cream, or yogurt fresh out of the refrigerator, this may be a sign that something nasty is brewing. At other times, you may notice sensitivity to warm food or drink. The pulp of an infected tooth goes through several stages of deterioration, causing alternating periods of sensitive teeth to heat and cold. In the later stages of pulp decay, you’ll probably notice more sensitivity to cold than to heat, because the pulp itself is dying. When the pulp has died, an abscess will usually form, and that will trigger pain whenever you’re biting with or touching the affected area.

Regular dental checkups can avoid root canals

If you have regular dental checkups, your dentist may be able to spot an infection in progress before you actually feel the symptoms from it. The use of an x-ray for instance, will often turn up signs of decay in the area of the pulp before it progresses to the nerve. By the time you actually start feeling the symptoms described above, it’s very likely that the only treatment options available to you will be a root canal procedure or extraction of the infected tooth. If you do opt for extraction, cosmetic dentistry can be used as an option to replace the missing tooth, for example with a dental bridge or a dental implant.

Schedule an appointment today at HollowBrook Dental to promote good oral health.

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