Just hearing the words “root canal” can send shivers down the spine. You have no idea what this means, and wonder if it will be painful. So how do you know you need a root canal?
There are several indications that you might need a root canal. They include:
Severe Tooth Pain
If your teeth cause you pain when you are chewing, or you are experiencing sensitivity to hot and cold foods or drinks, especially a lingering sensitivity once the cause has been removed, this can indicate that there is a problem with the nerve within the tooth.
A normal headache will abate after a short while, but one associated with an infected tooth can linger, or recur often.
Cracked or Broken Tooth
If a tooth has become severely injured—cracked or broken—it may become necessary to perform root canal therapy to salvage the tooth.
If you notice swelling or ongoing sensitivity in the gums surrounding a tooth, it may indicate an infection below the gum surface or a diseased tooth. Your dentist will most likely be able to identify whether the tooth requires a root canal or not.
Dark or Discolored Tooth
If a tooth has darkened, this normally indicates the death of the nerve attached to that tooth.
Deep Cavity or Extensive Dental Work
For a deep cavity or a tooth that has already undergone extensive dental work, a root canal may be recommended.
What is a Root Canal?
A root canal, or root canal therapy, is a technique dentists use to help save a natural tooth. It is a relatively simple procedure, and generally no more painful than a normal filling, contrary to what you might have heard.
According to an explanation by the American Association of Endodontists, “Inside your tooth, beneath the white enamel and a hard layer called dentin, is a soft tissue called pulp that contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue which help grow the root of your tooth during its development. A fully-developed tooth can survive without the pulp because the tooth continues to be nourished by the tissues surrounding it.”
During a root canal procedure, your dentist will extract the infected pulp from within the tooth’s chamber or root canal, and clean out any remaining tissue, nerve or infection. After disinfection, the tooth will be filled and sealed with a rubbery material known as gutta-percha. The tooth is then covered with either a filling or a crown, as necessary.
Contact Advanced Family Dentistry
The best way to know you need a root canal is to consult with your family dentist—like Advanced Family Dentistry in Reston, Virginia. If you are experiencing any of the above-listed symptoms, don’t wait. They will only get worse. Contact us today.
Dr. Sonny Kim is a Diplomat of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists (ICOI), the highest education level for general dentists in this field.