Why Would You Need a Root Canal?
Root canals are intended to save teeth with decay that has spread to the core of the tooth. Every tooth is comprised of an enamel layer on the outside. Directly underneath the enamel is a layer of dentin, and directly underneath the dentin is the core. That core consists of pulp, nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue. In most cases, tooth decay is removed by a dentist before it ever reaches the core of a tooth. That’s when a filling or a crown will do the job nicely. But if decay reaches the core of the tooth, either a dentist or an endodontist (a root canal specialist) will need to perform a root canal to save the tooth.
What Is Involved in a Root Canal Procedure?
Symptoms that May Indicate You Need a Root Canal
We should begin by saying that only your dentist can tell you for sure whether or not you need a root canal. While there are several symptoms that are typically associated with needing this procedure, these same symptoms might indicate other issues that might require something outside of a root canal. What follows is a list of symptoms usually associated with needing a root canal:
- A persistent toothache – Almost all of us have experienced a toothache from time to time. But if you have persistent pain in a tooth, especially if the pain is worse when you bite down, you should make an appointment with your dentist right away. This kind of pain is often an indication that there is something wrong with the root and/or nerves of the tooth, and that can mean that a root canal is called for.
- Sensitivity – If you feel sensitivity to hot and cold food and drinks – especially if that sensitivity seems to center on a particular tooth – it might be a sign that you need a root canal. This sensitivity can be due to damaged blood vessels and nerve endings because of an infection inside the core of a tooth. Keep in mind that you may also feel sensitivity for other reasons, such as gum disease or receding gums. But if the sensitivity comes on suddenly, and seems to be in one specific area of your mouth and/or connected to a certain tooth, you might need a root canal.
- A discolored tooth – Although it’s easy to stain teeth as a result of the types of foods and drinks you consume, or because of poor oral hygiene habits, a tooth that is discolored because of infection looks different. Stains that occur because of food and drinks or hygiene normally turn yellowish or brownish in color. But a tooth that needs a root canal turns gray or even blackish in hue.
- Swollen gums – If you notice one area of your gums that is swollen and/or tender, it might indicate that an infection is present in a tooth. A raised bump on the gum tissue may also appear. Swollen gums that are due to an infected tooth typically only occur in the area directly around the affected tooth.
- A cracked or chipped tooth – One of the easiest ways for bacteria and decay to form in the core of a tooth is when that tooth is damaged in some way. So if you have a cracked or chipped tooth, it’s best to contact your dentist right away, whether to tooth hurts or not. If decay has already formed inside the tooth, you’ll need a root canal to prevent the infection from spreading. And if the tooth is not yet infected, your dentist can take steps to repair the tooth to prevent that from developing.
How to Avoid Needing a Root Canal
There are some simple steps you can take to avoid ever needing a root canal. First and foremost: practice good oral hygiene each and every day, and visit your dentist at least twice a year for regular oral exams and professional cleanings. If you do experience tooth decay, have it resolved right away by your dentist (typically with either a filling or a crown), before that decay has a chance to spread into the core of a tooth. And if you see a cracked or chipped tooth, visit your dentist as soon as you can.
Needing a root canal may not be the news that most Austin, Texas dental patients want to hear. But the fact is that dentists and endodontists have been performing root canals for many, many years. That means that the technique has been perfected over time. Thanks to modern dental technology, dental patients rarely if ever feel any discomfort or pain whatsoever during the procedure. And because a tooth doesn’t require either nerves or pulp to function normally, a tooth that has undergone a root canal can last for many years and function just the same as any other natural tooth. To find out more about this remarkable dental procedure, and to find out more about who needs root canals, contact your Austin, Texas dentist today and schedule an appointment.