woman with toothache

“Do I need a root canal?” It’s a common question we get from patients. A lot of people think that having a root canal is a scary, painful process, but the truth is that it’s actually quite painless — and often the best way to save a compromised tooth from possible extraction. 

In this post, we’ll discuss what a root canal is and how to tell if you need one to keep your smile healthy

What is a root canal?

The center of a tooth is known as the pulp, and it contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. A root canal is a procedure to remove this tissue whenever it becomes severely infected.

This infection can cause pain, swelling, and other uncomfortable symptoms. If not treated, an abscess may develop, and the infection can spread to other areas of the body through your bloodstream, causing further problems.

Root canals are often needed as a result of a deep cavity, an unattended chip or crack, or severe bruxism (which may result in damage to the soft tissues within the tooth). This procedure can save your natural tooth from falling out or needing an extraction.

Contrary to popular belief, root canals are not generally painful — it is the infection itself that causes pain. The procedure is done under local anesthesia so the patient feels comfortable the entire time.

Do you have a root canal infection? Watch for these symptoms

symptoms for root canals timberhill dental

1. Swollen gums

Swollen gums can be an indication of a serious infection in your mouth. Infection can also cause an abscess, which looks like a pimple on the tooth that becomes infected.

If you notice a pimple or swelling near your tooth, schedule an appointment with us at Timberhill Dental as soon as possible. Your dentist will diagnose the problem and advise you on the next steps!

2. Persistent pain

The pain may be constant or it may come and go. It may be felt as a toothache or a sharp, throbbing, dull ache that can range from mild to severe. You might feel pain when you eat or drink, touch or apply pressure to the tooth, chew food, or bite down on something hard.

If the pain is intense enough to keep you from eating and drinking comfortably, don’t wait any longer. See a dentist right away!

3. Sensitivity to hot or cold

One of the most common signs of pulp damage is tooth sensitivity. If you start feeling pain in your tooth while eating ice cream or drinking a hot beverage, this could be a sign of infection.

If you notice that you are suddenly becoming sensitive to hot or cold foods, and if the pain lingers after you stop eating, schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.

4. Tooth discoloration

Does one of your teeth look different from the others? If you notice discoloration on your tooth, it could be a sign that you need a root canal. Infection of the internal tissue can damage the roots and give the tooth a grayish-black appearance. This could also happen as a result of an injury. Whatever the cause, it’s important to get it promptly diagnosed and treated.

5. Discoloration of the gums

Infection at the roots of your tooth can show up as gum discoloration. Discoloration can occur when there’s restricted blood flow or infiltrated plaque at the pulp of the tooth, causing further damage if left untreated.

6. Chips or cracks

When a tooth gets cracked or chipped, it can expose the nerves in the center of the tooth and lead to infection. Having the pulp chamber exposed after a tooth has been cracked is a recipe for infection.

If the crack or chip is small, it may not be noticeable at first. You might not realize it’s there until you bite down on something hard and feel a sharp pain.

7. Loose tooth

If you have a loose tooth, it’s important to talk to your dentist. You may not need a root canal but other treatment — loose teeth can be caused by many things, including trauma and gum disease. But if the cause is nerve damage, then you will almost certainly require a root canal treatment.

Are you concerned about your dental health?

If you notice any unusual symptoms in your mouth, it’s best to get it checked sooner than later. Besides infection, there are many potential problems that can negatively impact your oral health, including cavities and gum disease. If left untreated, these can progress to more serious issues and even lead to tooth loss.

Before deciding whether or not you need a root canal, your dentist will rule out any other conditions. If you do have a pulp infection, your dentist will explain everything you need to know and answer all of your questions before the procedure.

Do you have symptoms of a tooth infection? Our dentists at Timberhill Dental can help you diagnose your problem and advise you on the next steps. Schedule a consultation with one of our dentists in Corvallis by calling (541) 754-0144, or click here to request an appointment online.