There are over 15 million root canal procedures performed every year in the United States.
In fact, roughly 20% of adults have some form of untreated tooth decay. This decay can develop and spread to other parts of the body if left alone for too long.
But how do you know if you are one of those people?
Here are some quick signs you need a root canal.
What is a Root Canal?
The root canal is actually part of your tooth. It is made up of passages inside the tooth that stretch between the pulp and the tooth roots. They are the parts of the tooth that hold nerves and blood vessels.
There is also a dental procedure called a root canal. If the root canal passages inside your tooth become damaged, you need a root canal procedure to clear out infect material, including all the nerves and blood vessels.
This is what removes the pain from your tooth.
But, for this article, the term root canal will refer to the root canal dental procedure.
A root canal doesn’t save an infected or decaying tooth. Rather, it preserves an already dead tooth.
Because a root canal removes all the nerves and blood vessels from a tooth, it becomes a “dead” tooth. A root canal simply allows you to continue using that dead tooth to chew and speak like normal.
Even though it is technically dead, you won’t even notice the difference.
Why Do I Need a Root Canal?
Different kinds of damages on your teeth are signs you need a root canal.
For example, a root canal is a common treatment for things like tooth decay and chipped or cracked teeth. These conditions can cause a great deal of pain and swelling, and a root canal can relieve the symptoms.
Sometimes a tooth that is damaged in these ways can become infected. If the infection is not treated, it can spread to other parts of the body and cause serious damage.
A root canal removes the infection so it doesn’t continue to spread. If you experience any symptoms you think may require a root canal, it is important to see your dentist immediately.
5 Signs You Need a Root Canal
There are several different root canal symptoms. You can experience them all together or only have one. It is important to remember that not all these symptoms mean you need a root canal, but if you have any of these symptoms, you should get them check with your dentist immediately.
1. Sensitivity and Pain
A tooth that needs a root canal will experience a lot of pain. It will hurt to chew things on that tooth and will hurt when you touch it.
Often, it will hurt without being stimulated. It will give off a throbbing pain that may lessen or increase depending on if you’re sitting, standing, or laying.
The pain you feel can either be weak or strong, sometimes strong enough to wake you up when you’re sleeping.
Another sign you need a root canal is referred pain. This is pain that spreads to other areas or your mouth or head. If you need a root canal on one of a molar, you could feel pain in your jaw or even your ear.
2. Lingering Pain
One of the biggest signs you need a root canal is if you experience lingering pain.
For example, a tooth that needs a root canal will be oversensitive to hot and cold foods or drinks. If the tooth comes in contact with hot coffee, the pain will typically linger after you have finished drinking. This can be for as little as 30 seconds or as long as several hours.
3. Lumps Near Your Tooth
When your tooth needs a root canal, a little white, yellow, or red lump will form on the gums above the tooth. This bump is called a fistula and looks similar to a pimple.
The fistula is filled with pus, and it can sometimes start to drain, leaving a bad taste in your mouth.
When a dentist sees a fistula, they will know there is an infection in one of your teeth. However, though it usually appears above the infected tooth, that is not always the case.
4. Swelling in the Gums
Swelling and gum tenderness are two other signs you need a root canal.
The gums around the infected tooth can swell up, making the tooth seem pushed out or longer than the other teeth around it. Your gums can also be very sensitive to touch or contact with food.
5. Darkened Tooth
A tooth that gets discolored and becomes darker than other teeth around it indicated there is a problem with the nerve growth inside the tooth.
This usually happens if the tooth has experienced some kind of trauma, like being hit, chipped, or cracked, and it may not take effect until years after the initial event.
What Happens During a Root Canal?
Root canals can last several hours and have many steps involved. A lot of dentists will actually break a root canal up into several visits because it can take several hours.
Here is a quick rundown of what a root canal involves.
When you first arrive at the dentist office, you’ll receive an x-ray. This will help the dentist pinpoint the specific tooth having a problem.
You will then be numbed (to keep you from feeling any pain), and the dentist will drill a small access hole in your tooth. After that, they will remove the damaged nerves and pulp tissue.
They will then seal the tooth by placing a rubber compound into the root canals that were emptied. To finish the process, your dentist will fill the access hole and fit your tooth with a crown.
Where Can I Get a Root Canal?
You can get a root canal from your general dentist. If you want, you can also get a root canal from an endodontist, but a general dentist is just as qualified for the procedure and is often less expensive.
Always Check with Your Dentist
This article contains signs you need a root canal, but you don’t always need a root canal if you experience any of these symptoms. If you are every unsure about tooth pain or swelling, always check with your dentist. They will be able to properly diagnose you and give you the right treatment.
Experiencing these symptoms and not sure where to go? Contact us and we’ll make sure you get the help you need.