The idea of needing a root canal may not sound very pleasant. But the fact is that dentists and endodontists (root canal specialists) have been performing these procedures for many years. And thanks to modern dental technology, having a root canal is usually no more complicated than any other dental procedure. Better still, advancements in anaesthesia and dental sedation means that most patients feel absolutely no pain or discomfort at all while undergoing the procedure. We’ve compiled the following information about what symptoms indicate the need for a root canal for dental patients in and around the Austin, Texas area.
What Is Involved in a Root Canal
Tooth decay that hasn’t advanced too far can usually be resolved with either a dental filling or a crown. But if you experience decay that has been left untreated, or decay that has formed inside a tooth due to bacteria entering through a crack in the tooth, decay and infection can develop in the core of the tooth. That core consists of pulp, nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue. This is why the root canal procedure was developed to begin with. And it’s often the only way to save a tooth that might otherwise be lost due to decay that exists in the core of the tooth.
Your dentist or endodontist will begin by administering anaesthetic to the affected tooth and surrounding gum tissue to numb the area where the root canal will take place. If you’re nervous about the procedure, your dentist might also recommend some form of dental sedation. There are several sedation methods available, each of which will allow you to remain awake during the process but will help you to remain calm and at ease. The procedure involves the dentist or endodontist using a small tool – something that works like a tiny Roto-Rooter – to remove decay from the core of a tooth. Once that is completed, the dentist will seal off the tooth and may affix a crown to the top for an added measure of protection.
Symptoms that Indicate the Need for a Root Canal
Only your dentist can tell you for sure whether or not you need a root canal. But there are several symptoms that might indicate you do. These include the following:
- A toothache that doesn’t go away – It’s not uncommon to have a toothache for any number of reasons. But if you experience persistent pain in a particular tooth, it could mean that you need a root canal. People with this type of toothache might notice the pain subsiding for periods of time, only to return again and again. The pain might feel as though it goes deep into your jaw and can even extend to that general area of your face and/or other teeth. This is because decay (and usually infection) is present in the core of the tooth, and that affects the root and the bone supporting the tooth. Remember that having a bad toothache doesn’t always mean you need a root canal. But if you experience persistent pain, you should always contact your dentist.
- Sensitivity to hot and cold food and drinks – If you notice that you are suddenly sensitive to hot and cold foods and drinks, particularly if that sensitivity is centered on a certain tooth or in a specific area of your mouth, it might mean that you need a root canal. You might also notice pain or sensitivity when you bite down on a certain tooth. In patients who need root canals, this occurs because the nerves of the tooth have been damaged due to decay and/or infection inside the tooth. Once again, having sensitive teeth doesn’t always mean that you need a root canal, but if you notice sudden onset of sensitivity, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist.
- A tooth becomes discolored – Another indicator that a root canal may be needed is when a particular tooth turns gray or even black in color. This can happen when the pulp of the tooth dies due to decay or infection. Unlike other stains on teeth, which are usually yellowish or brownish in hue, teeth that need root canals are distinctly gray or black.
- Your gums become swollen and/or sore – If you notice that your gums are tender and/or swollen around a certain tooth, you may need a root canal. This swelling occurs when acidic waste is expelled from dead pulp tissue and deposited into the surrounding gum tissue. You might also notice a small pimple on your gums next to a particular tooth, which is an indication that an abscess has formed.
- You have a cracked tooth – One of the most common ways that the core of a tooth becomes decayed is when bacteria enters through a crack. If you notice that one of your teeth is chipped or cracked, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need a root canal, but you should have it checked by your dentist.
- You have a loose tooth – If the pulp of a tooth has died due to infection, it may make a tooth feel like it’s loose in the socket. This may require a root canal.
Remember that experiencing one or more of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean that you need a root canal. In fact, only your dentist can tell you for sure whether or not you need this procedure. But these symptoms are common in patients who need a root canal. On the other hand, it’s also possible that you will need a root canal without experiencing any symptoms whatsoever.
One of the best ways to avoid needing this procedure is to practice a good oral hygiene routine on a daily basis. Brush at least twice a day and floss at least once a day. And be sure to visit your dentist at least twice a year for oral exams and professional cleanings. The symptoms that indicate the need for a root canal may vary, but you can rest assured that the procedure itself is virtually pain-free. To find out more about root canals, and to learn if you need this procedure yourself, contact your Austin, Texas dentist today and schedule an appointment.