3 Signs You May Need a Root Canal

3 Signs You May Need a Root Canal

Over the years, root canals have been given a bad reputation. Although root canals performed in the past may have been more uncomfortable, modern dental technology has made it so that root canals are as comfortable as having a filling placed. Additionally, root canals are essential procedures that can preserve severely decayed teeth and prevent tooth loss. Often times, root canals are performed as a last resort to save a tooth and prevent the need for a tooth extraction. 

In most cases, root canals are performed when the dental pulp has been infected by decay-causing bacteria. This can happen when tooth decay is able to penetrate through the enamel and dentin layers into the pulp layer. This can also happen as a result of severe damage to the tooth that allows bacteria into its innermost layer. 

While nobody wants to see their dentist for a root canal, the sooner you receive root canal treatment, the better. In order to know when it’s time to visit your local dental office, here are three signs you may need a root canal: 

Woman eating ice cream and holding her tooth painfully
Digit 1

Your Tooth Hurts

Out of all three signs, tooth pain is definitely the most noticeable and is often the reason why patients finally seek dental treatment. Although your tooth can hurt for more than one reason, certain types of tooth pain can indicate a possible pulp infection. Tooth pain caused by a pulp infection can be felt in the jaw bones, come on suddenly, progresses, and gets worse when pressure is applied. Tooth pain caused by a pulp infection can also take the form of prolonged sensitivity. Prolonged sensitivity is tooth sensitivity that lasts even after the hot or cold stimuli is no longer in contact with the tooth. 

Digit 2

Your Tooth Changed Color

While tooth enamel can stain when exposed to certain substances, a sudden change in the color of a single tooth is cause for alarm. If you have a tooth that no longer matches adjacent teeth and looks yellow, light brown, grey, or black, call your dentist immediately for an appointment. Discolored teeth are usually the result of decaying and dead pulp tissue, which is a sign you may need a root canal. 

Digit 3

Your Gums are Affected

In addition to causing tooth pain and discoloration, pulp infections can also cause changes in the gums as well. For example, they can appear red, swollen, or have pimples. They will also likely be tender and can even have discharge where they meet the tooth. These changes in the gums are all a result of inflammation caused by a pulp infection. 

Overall, if your tooth hurts, has changed color, or has affected your gums, these are three main signs that you may need a root canal and should visit your local dentist. Even one symptom alone can indicate a possible early pulp infection, so you should schedule an appointment to prevent things from getting worse. Ultimately, the sooner you receive treatment, the better the treatment outcomes. 

Dr. John Batlle attended the UF College of Dentistry where he received his Doctor of Dental Medicine degree in 1983. After graduating, he worked for the State of Florida and received his commission in the Navy Reserve Dental Corps. He was deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in 2002 where he served as the dentist for Detainee Operations and Navy Hospital GTMO. He recently retired from the  U.S. Navy Reserve after 26 years of service.      

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