The prospect of undergoing a root canal procedure is enough to strike fear into the heart of many people. During this endodontic treatment, your dentist or a root canal specialist removes the tooth’s pulp and nerves. Then, they carefully disinfect everything before filling and sealing the space left behind. This tooth-saving procedure has a reputation for being painful, but it’s not that different from getting a deep filling. In fact, just 17% of patients who have had a root canal consider it their “most painful dental experience.”

For many patients, a root canal offers a welcome solution to various dental pains. However, we hear this question often. “How do you know when you need a root canal?” Here are a few signs and symptoms to keep an eye on and talk to your dentist.

Persistent Tooth Pain
When tooth pain persists, it may be a sign that a root canal treatment is necessary. The pain may be constant or intermittent. You may feel it in your tooth; or, it may be a referred pain that you feel in your face, ear or jaw when you bite down. A root canal isn’t the only possible response to persistent tooth pain, so be sure to talk to your dentist to discover the best treatment for your situation.

Pain When You Chew
If it hurts when you chew or touch your tooth, you may have significant decay or nerve damage. A root canal may be the best way to address the pain and restore function to the tooth.

Dental Discoloration
If a tooth is changing colors, you need to see your dentist. It could mean that the pulp inside the tooth is infected or damaged. The only way to tell is to have your dentist do an x-ray of the infected tooth. Make sure x-rays are part of your regular dental cleanings.

Swollen Gums
Swollen gums around a tender tooth are another red flag. When pulp tissues die, they release acidic waste products that cause this telltale swelling. The swelling may be tender, and it may be constant or intermittent. There may even be a small pimple, which would be called a gum boil or abscess. If you see anything like this, make an appointment with your dentist.

Temperature Sensitivity
Does eating or drinking hot foods or beverages makes your teeth hurt? Does consuming cold foods or drinks make your teeth ache? Are you careful to keep your mouth closed when you exercise on winter mornings because breathing in the cold air makes your teeth sting? Teeth that are sensitive to temperature can be a sign of infection or nerve damage.

Chipped or Cracked Tooth
A tooth that is chipped, cracked or injured can allow bacteria to seep inside. This puts the nerves at risk. Teeth that have suffered trauma can also be troubled by inflammation and injury. A root canal may be the best way to calm the situation. If you have a broken tooth, there are alternative treatments before a root canal is necessary.

Loose Tooth
When the tissues inside a tooth are dying, they release acidic waste products. These soften the bone beneath the tooth. As a result, the tooth may feel loose. Performing a root canal may save the tooth.

With so many horror stories floating around, thinking that you need a root canal can be a bit unsettling. The reality is that this procedure can ease pain, restore function and save your tooth. Do you have questions about root canals? Are you concerned about a troublesome tooth? At Wekiva Dental, our friendly, knowledgeable team works hard to create a comfortable atmosphere where our patients receive top-quality care. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.