When Is a Root Canal Needed?

Root canal treatment is a common and painless procedure that can save your tooth. Several symptoms indicate that you have a problem with a tooth.  Many times, you can have a serious infection and not have any outward symptoms.  This is one of the things that make these infections so dangerous.  So, when is a root canal needed?

An endodontist is an expert in diagnosing and managing pain and infection in your tooth.  Here are some signs and symptoms that will let you know when you should make an appointment with an endodontist for a thorough evaluation of your tooth.  There are different treatment options, including root canal treatment, to manage your problem. Your endodontist can help you determine what is right for you and when is a root canal needed. 

When Is a Root Canal Needed? Signs to Watch for:

There are several signs that indicate a problem that needs further evaluation by a dental professional before determining if you need a root canal treatment. So, when is a root canal needed? If you experience any of the following, make an appointment with an endodontist for a diagnosis.

Temperature Sensitivity

Temperature sensitivity can be a common problem with teeth.  Not all sensitive teeth require root canal treatment.  If your temperature sensitivity is extreme, or if the pain lingers after the temperature is removed, then something more serious can be happening. 

Tooth Pain

Never take tooth pain lightly, especially if the tooth pain persists. Pain could remain constant or ebb and flow. Sometimes, it completely resolves only to resurface in the future.  Some people describe a deep pain in their jaw bone while others have referred to pain in nearby teeth or their face.

Swelling Around Gums

Swelling inside the mouth usually indicates an infection.  It can mean that the infection has spread from the tooth to the jaw bone.  This can have serious consequences.  Just like with pain, the swelling may come and go. The swollen spot may feel tender or lack any pain.

Pimple on the Gums

A pimple on the gums is usually a sign of an infection draining pus.  It occurs when the tooth infection has spread to the jaw and has done more serious damage.  The pimple may grow and shrink in size over time.  They can also disappear completely for a time.  When this type of pimple forms, there is usually no pain involved.  This happens because the pus is draining as it forms.  This prevents pain from pressure and swelling.  The pimple inside of your mouth will taste bad from the pus, and it could affect your breath.  If you develop a pimple on your gums, make an evaluation appointment with your endodontist for a thorough evaluation.  Root canal treatment can by highly predictable in resolving your infection and getting your jaw bone to regenerate. 

Abscess on an X-ray

Sometimes, you may feel no symptoms at all, but your dentist may notice an abscess on an x-ray during routine exams. An abscess is an area of infection that can occur if your tooth infection spreads to the jaw.  If a dentist notices this sign of infection, you may get a referral to an endodontist for evaluation.  Advanced 3D imaging can be done to determine the extent of the damage and to determine your best treatment alternatives. 

Bite Sensitivity

Biting should not hurt. However, if you have problems with the interior of your tooth, you may feel pain when you bite down. Over time, you might even try to compensate by chewing on one side of your mouth. Bite sensitivity, though, is another sign that something is wrong.  Oftentimes, a conservative bite adjustment might be all that is needed.  Sometimes, bite tenderness can mean that an infection is forming.  In those cases, careful root canal treatment can predictably resolve your pain. 

Why Do Endodontists Perform Root Canal Treatments?

Endodontists perform root canal treatments to prevent or resolve an infection.  The purpose of root canal treatment is to save your tooth and preserve your jaw bone.  Inside each tooth is soft tissue known as pulp. This pulp supplies the tooth with nerves, blood supply, and immune functions. However, if the pulp gets diseased, it can cause inflammation or infection.

Root canal treatment is a procedure that an endodontist performs to remove the diseased pulp from the tooth. This removes the source of the pain and infection that sent you to the dentist or endodontist in the first place.  By removing the source of infection, the endodontist allows you to keep your natural tooth and can get your jaw to heal naturally.  Getting out the infected matter also removes bacteria that could spread throughout your body if left unchecked.

What Happens During a Root Canal Treatment?

When you visit the endodontist for a root canal treatment, you will have the area numbed and prepared for the procedure.  Endodontists are experts in making sure that your treatment will be painless.  The endodontist will make a small opening in the tooth and remove the pulp from the tiny canals in your roots.  After removing the infected, dead, or inflamed pulp, the canals are thoroughly disinfected.  The canals and the inside of the tooth are then sealed to prevent bacteria from entering. 

After the treatment, discomfort is minimal.  Many patients only require some Advil or Tylenol.  Sometimes, an antibiotic will be prescribed. 

If there is already a crown on the tooth, it can often be patched and preserved for many years.  If the tooth does not have a crown yet, one might be required to protect the tooth from breaking. 

Is Root Canal Treatment Painful?

In the hands of a skillful endodontist, you shouldn’t feel any pain during a root canal treatment. Plus, there should only be mild levels of discomfort, if any, afterward.  Endodontists are experts in preventing pain and ensuring that any discomfort you feel after the procedure is minimal. This pain management knowledge sets them apart from dentists who may not receive this additional training.

Are There Alternatives to Root Canal Therapy?

Some endodontists or dentists recommend root canal treatments too often. Dental pain does not always indicate a need for root canal therapy. It could be referred pain from another part of the mouth.  Often, root canal-type pain could have many different causes that require alternative treatments to root canal therapy.  Some types of pain can be very easily managed.

A thorough and accurate diagnosis is essential to planning the appropriate care.  If you have been told that you need an extraction or you have had a root canal treatment that is failing, a second option from a skilled endodontist might be a good next step.  Depending on the specifics of your case, you may have simpler, less expensive options available.

Contact Lowry Endodontics for an Accurate Diagnosis to See Whether You Need Root Canal Treatment

If you’re in Colorado and have signs of possibly needing a root canal, contact us at Lowry Endodontics for an appointment. Dr. Karmali has the experience, training, tools, and technology to make an accurate diagnosis and provide you with painless care. He knows exactly when a patient needs a root canal and when other treatment might provide a greater benefit.  He is known in the community for saving teeth that might otherwise require extraction. 

See the difference that his professional expertise and compassionate care make in your endodontic experience.