Notable Signs of When a Root Canal Is Needed

You have an idea of what many dental procedures are from their name. For example, a filling is a procedure where the dentist fills a small hole (cavity) in the teeth. But what is a root canal? What does it do? This isn’t so obvious.

Before discussing the signs of when you may need a root canal, it’s important to know what a root canal is. While the outer layers of teeth are hard, the core is a soft tissue with blood vessels and nerves. This soft tissue is called pulp. It’s when bacteria infects the pulp that root canals are necessary. Without the root canal, the infection can spread. 

Your dentist may perform the root canal. But in the most severe cases, they may refer you to an endodontist for the root canal treatment. Endodontists are dentists specializing in issues affecting the pulp of your teeth. 

The American Association of Endodontists (AAE) lists the following six signs you may need a root canal:

  • Sharp pain while chewing
  • Pimple on the gum
  • Cracked tooth
  • Ongoing teeth sensitivity to hot or cold 
  • Swollen gums
  • Darkened gums

Here, we’ll discuss these symptoms and why they may mean you need a root canal. These can be symptoms of other oral issues, so you’ll need your dentist’s expert diagnosis to know if a root canal is the correct treatment.

Ongoing Pain — Especially While Chewing

The pulp of your teeth contains nerves. An infection inflames this soft tissue, causing painful sensations to radiate out from the affected tooth.

Pimple on the Gum

Infection of the pulp can lead to a puss-filled pocket on the root of the tooth. This can expand into a pimple on the gum.

Cracked or Chipped Tooth

Cracks, chips, or untreated cavities may allow an entry point for bacteria to reach the pulp. When pulp becomes infected, you’ll need a root canal to remove the infection and prevent its spread.

Sensitivity to Hot or Cold Temperatures

Dull pain within a tooth while consuming hot or cold foods and drinks is a sign of nerve damage within the pulp. This is especially true if the sensation remains for a while after you’ve finished consuming the food or beverage. 

Swollen Gums or Darkened Gums

Similar to the way a tooth infection can lead to a pimple on the gums, your immune system’s inflammatory response to the infection can cause gum swelling. Changes in the coloration of the gums may show the infection is spreading into the gums.

If you notice any of these issues, it’s a good idea to contact your dentist today. Waiting will only allow infection to spread. That means more treatments will be necessary.

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