How to Know If You Need a Root Canal: 5 Common Signs

Root canals are a common dental procedure—over 15 million are performed annually. They help save teeth that would otherwise have to be extracted and replaced with a dental implant or bridge. But how do you know if you need a root canal versus a routine filling?

A persistent toothache is a telltale sign, but it’s not the only one. Here’s how to know if you need a root canal as indicated by five symptoms that usually mean a tooth is in trouble.

1. Pain

Toothache pain is the most common sign that you need root canal therapy, especially if it isn’t going away. It usually indicates the presence of deep decay that has reached the tooth’s pulp where the blood supply and nerves reside. A root canal involves removing the decayed portion of the tooth as well as the infected pulp and tissue to stop the infection and pain and restore the tooth.

Although that may sound scary, many patients don’t find the root canal itself painful—it’s the already existing tooth pain that gives the procedure a bad rap. Your dentist will give you a local anesthetic so you feel comfortable during the procedure. You’ll also want to follow these root canal recovery tips so your mouth heals faster following the procedure.

2. Sensitivity

Even if you don’t have a steady toothache, you may still need a root canal if your tooth is very sensitive to cold and hot foods and drinks. Sensitivity could indicate a chip or crack in the tooth or an old filling that has pulled away from the sides of the tooth. Or you may have a cavity that is close to the pulp and your dentist needs to perform a root canal to ensure you don’t get pain from it in your future.

Your dentist can check your tooth for lingering sensitivity to cold or hot stimulus and determine whether you need a root canal to stop the discomfort.

3. Swelling

An infected tooth will develop an abscess which is a pus-filled pocket in the gums next to the affected tooth. The side of your mouth where the problem tooth is may also feel swollen in general. A root canal is needed to clean out the infection.

4. Discoloration

A damaged tooth can turn dark or gray in which case a root canal is needed to save it. An injury to the mouth can cause nerve damage to a tooth and its blood supply, making it become noticeably discolored. You may not feel any pain from the tooth, but a root canal can save and strengthen it.

5. None

In rare cases, a tooth may have no symptoms yet still need a root canal. This is usually because it has a large filling that may need to be replaced but your dentist is concerned that the old filling is too close to the pulp and that repeated dental work may irritate the nerve and lead to pain. In this case, a root canal may be needed to ensure the tooth doesn’t cause you problems in the future.

How to Know If You Need a Root Canal For Certain? Visit Us

These five symptoms reveal how to know if you need a root canal, but only a dentist can make the diagnosis for certain.

If you’re experiencing discomfort in any of your teeth or are looking for a caring dental team, contact us for an appointment.

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