3 Signs You Need a Root Canal

3 Signs You Need a Root Canal


A root canal is a routine, pain-relieving procedure that treats teeth with inflamed or infected pulp. While dentists sometimes see evidence that a root canal is needed during routine X-rays, patients commonly report painful and troubling symptoms.

Here are the three most common signs that you need to see your dentist immediately for an evaluation:

1. Extreme Sensitivity to Heat and Cold

You may need a root canal if you cringe when you eat or drink food and beverages that are not at room temperature. Root canals cause sensitivity when the tooth becomes infected.

2. Severe Toothache

Often, teeth needing root canals cause pain that keeps patients from eating, sleeping, and relaxing. The pain may be worse when biting or chewing on the tooth. The pain may go away as the pulp dies but will significantly worsen when it returns. You may develop a dental abscess.

3. Swelling or Pimple On the Gum Line

You likely have an abscess if your gums are swollen or have pimple-like swellings. An abscess is a severe medical condition that can lead to systemic infection if not treated promptly.

Additional Symptoms That Could Indicate the Need for a Root Canal

  • Pus from the infected tooth
  • Swollen jaw or cheek
  • The tooth develops gray or black discoloration
  • Loose tooth

The Root Canal Procedure

Some patients feel concerned that a root canal will be uncomfortable or cause further complications. Today, root canals cause no more discomfort than getting a large filling. Modern techniques and technology gently remove pulp from the roots and crown.

To perform a root canal, the dentist carefully drills a small opening in the tooth's crown. Using small tools and files, the dentist removes all traces of pulp from the crown and root canals. They smooth the tooth's interior to help prevent future infection.

When the tooth is clean and disinfected, the dentist refills it with a biocompatible plastic called gutta-percha. This substance seals out plaque and food.

Finally, the dentist places a temporary crown to wear until the permanent version arrives from the lab. Your tooth may feel sensitive a few days to a week after the procedure as the area heals.

Frequently Asked Questions About Root Canals

Can a root canal cause health problems?

Root canals do not cause health complications. This persistent myth is over a century old. However, not getting a timely root canal can cause illness and tooth loss.

How soon can I return to my daily activities after a root canal?

You should be able to return to school or work the same day, as a typical root canal requires no downtime.

Call Total Dental Care

Don't wait to call us if you have any of the above symptoms. The longer you wait, the more likely your tooth will progress past the point where we can save the tooth, and you may need an extraction.

Please call our Germantown, MD, office at 240-813-9111 for a prompt appointment and more information about the root canal procedure.