Symptoms of Needing a root canal

Many people have a real fear of needing a root canal. Based on old procedures and poor pain control patients often suffered for days before they found relief after the dental process was completed. But today root canal procedures have better testing support and better imaging during the procedure, which helps to decrease the complications. And, there are better pain control methods that decreases, and in some cases totally eliminates, the need for narcotic analgesics. Patients do feel some tenderness in the area of the mouth and a small amount of discomfort but the days of ice packs and narcotics for pain relief are generally gone.

So, what are the symptoms of needing a root canal? First, you should know that only a dentist can accurately determine whether or not a root canal treatment is necessary or appropriate solution for your problems. Your dentist will also evaluate the overall condition of the actual tooth in question and weigh the ability to maintain the tooth against the cost and time involved in saving it.

Symptoms of needing a root canal can include a tooth that is currently causing you pain or has a history of being painful or you have noticed the presence of tenderness or swelling in your gums near a tooth.

At other times you may have a tooth that would benefit from a root canal but you would have not had symptoms of needing a root canal prior to the dental exam. These problem teeth can degenerate quietly and die. It doesn’t have to be a painful experience when a tooth dies. Dentists can discover a tooth that has a low grade infection during routine x-ray evaluations.

Another symptoms of needing a root canal can be a persistent or recurring pimple on your gums. Sometimes when the nerve on a tooth has died it will produce a lesion on the gums that looks like a pimple. These can come and go and because they are literally draining pus from an infected tooth the person may experience a discharge or a bad taste in their mouth from the infection.

An unfortunate response to an exposed tooth nerve root is the necessity of a root canal to prevent a tooth abscess. Sometimes in the process of performing other dental work the dentist will expose the nerve of the tooth. You maybe totally unaware of the event. Your dentist may determine that doing a root canal at that time is best to avoid possible complications later.

Teeth that have been traumatized in an accident will also show symptoms of needing a root canal. The nerve tissue that may have been traumatized in an accident such as being bumped can deteriorate and leave the tooth in need of root canal treatment. Immediately after the accident the outlook for the nerve will be difficult to predict – sometimes teeth that have been traumatized can do well, even for years.

But the most common reasons for symptoms of needing root canal treatment are infection or irreversible damage to the pulp of the tooth. An untreated cavity can result in a pulp infection. Infections inside the tooth don’t respond to antibiotics and the inflammation restricts the blood supply – this limits antibiotic use and the ability of the pulp to heal itself.

Pulp in the tooth can also be damaged from extensive restorative work, fillings, or a fracture. In many cases if the pulp is inflamed but not infected it will heal and return to normal. A tooth that hurts significantly when you bite down, touch it or push on it; sensitivity to cold or heat; swelling near the tooth; a discolored tooth without pain or a broken tooth are all signs and symptoms of needing root canal treatment.

The final determination of whether or not you need root canal will be made by your dentist.


American Association of Endodontists: Tooth Pain
American Association of Endodontists: Root Canals

Colgate: Root Canal Treatment
NHS: Root Canal Treatment
Mercola: Why You Should Avoid Root Canals Like the pLague
Best Health: Root Canal Treatment
Grandview Dental Care: 5 Symptoms you may need a root canal

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