How to Know If You Need a Root Canal

older woman sitting in dentists chair waiting for treatment

How to Know If You Need a Root Canal

If you’ve never had a root canal before, it’s normal to have some concerns. But while root canal procedures have a reputation for being painful, that’s just a myth. Thanks to local anesthesia that numbs the tooth, you won’t feel a thing. Oftentimes, a root canal is the only way to save a severely decayed tooth, so you should never ignore the warning signs. In this post, we explain how a root canal can save a dying tooth, and how to know when you might need one.

Why Are Root Canals Necessary?

Root canals are often necessary to save an infected tooth. Untreated decay (a cavity) gets bigger and will allow bacteria to infect and inflame the sensitive pulp deep inside the tooth. This causes severe pain, and if left untreated, the infection can form a pocket of pus called an abscess. The bacteria inside an infected tooth can also spread to other parts of the body—even the brain—so it’s crucial that you seek treatment as soon as possible. All of these consequences can typically be avoided by treating a tooth infection early on with a root canal. 

Six Signs You Might Need a Root Canal to Save Your Tooth

1: Severe Tooth Pain

Toothaches of any kind are always a cause for concern. If you experience pain when biting or chewing, it could be due to an infected tooth. Whether it’s a sharp, sudden pain or persistent throbbing, tooth pain should be evaluated immediately by your dentist. 

2: Dark Tooth Discoloration

When the pulp inside a tooth is infected, it can make the tooth look gray or black. This is a sign that the pulp is dying, and you will need immediate intervention to save the tooth. Dying pulp makes the tooth weak and brittle, and it can easily become cracked or damaged. If the infection is allowed to continue, the tooth will die and need to be extracted. 

3: A Pimple on the Gums

A dental abscess can look like a small bump or pimple on the gums. A root canal can help prevent the infection from spreading to the other teeth and to other parts of your body. Other signs of a tooth abscess include a swollen face or jaw, tooth sensitivity, difficulty opening your mouth, and fever. 

4: Lingering Tooth Sensitivity

Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures can be a symptom of a cavity that may only require a filling or a crown. However, lingering tooth sensitivity can be a sign of infection as well. If you experience any type of tooth sensitivity, don’t ignore it. Make an appointment and tell your dentist about it. 

5: Swollen or Tender Gums

Healthy gums are pink and firm. Tender, puffy, red gums can be a sign of gum disease or a root canal infection. Like a tooth infection, gum disease requires immediate treatment to prevent tooth loss. If you notice any changes in your gums, contact your dentist right away. 

6: Chipped or Cracked Teeth

Even if you don’t notice any of the other warning signs, you may still need a root canal if your tooth is chipped or cracked. Deep cracks and large chips can allow bacteria to reach the pulp inside the tooth and infect the root canal. Treating a chipped or cracked tooth immediately reduces the risk of infection and lowers the chances that you’ll need a root canal. 

Don’t Put Off a Trip to the Dentist

All of the above symptoms are clear signs that there’s something wrong with your dental health. Even if you’re only experiencing a toothache or just have mild symptoms, you should never ignore your discomfort. The entire team at Dr. Saba and Associates is dedicated to providing you with excellent, personalized care and to making your visits as comfortable and pleasant as possible. Give us a call at 480-895-2111 today to make an appointment. 



Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (1/23/2024). Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels