5 Signs You May Need a Root Canal

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5 Signs You May Need a Root Canal

Your tooth doesn’t feel right, and it looks a bit off, too. Is it a simple cavity that needs a filling, or is it a more serious problem that might call for a root canal? Find out here.

With good at-home oral hygiene practices and regular visits to the dentist, you give yourself the best possible chance of avoiding major dental problems — but they can happen anyway. 

Sometimes, bacteria sneak past your gums and into tooth crevices, where they set up shop and infect your tooth from the inside out. If the infection is too deep for a simple filling, you may need a root canal.

If that makes you cringe, we understand. From stand-up comedy acts to sitcoms and feature films, root canals are a go-to punching bag within entertainment media. Even beloved family flick Finding Nemo took a shot at root canals by portraying them as an intensely painful experience, giving kids the wrong impression.

Root canals are actually routine dental procedures, and when performed by an experienced professional who uses the latest technology, like Dr. Ben Peterson at High Desert Dental in Ontario, Oregon, they are pain-free and simple. 

Here, Dr. Peterson takes a closer look at root canals and the five most common signs you may need one.

Root canals aren’t scary

If the idea of a root canal makes you nervous, you’re not alone. According to a 2019 survey, the American Association of Endodontics found that people would rather do just about anything else rather than undergo a root canal:

  • 41% would rather swim with sharks
  • 53% would rather have a snake sit in their lap
  • 54% would rather sing in public
  • 57% would rather be in a room with spiders for an hour

In all fairness, this fear of root canals isn’t completely baseless. Before we had today’s advanced technology and experience, root canals were fairly painful. But thanks to much-improved instrumentation, Dr. Peterson can clean out the inside of your tooth and repair the top with little to no discomfort at all. In fact, you can get back to your busy day immediately following the procedure. Ever gotten a filling? Well, a modern root canal feels about the same.

When is a root canal necessary?

The only way to know for sure if you need a root canal is to come in for a complete examination. Dr. Peterson takes X-rays to determine the extent of the infection and decay. If the problem is relatively minor, he may be able to remove the decayed material and fill the cavity.

But if the decay has reached the inner pulp, which includes your nerves and blood vessels, a root canal is the best way to clear away the decayed tissues. 

Many of our patients ask if extracting the tooth would be easier, but it’s always better to save your natural teeth whenever possible. A root canal allows you to keep your original tooth and fortify it so it’s stronger than ever. 

Here are five signs you may need a root canal:

1. Pain and swelling

Persistent tooth pain is a clear sign something’s wrong. It may come and go, or stay with you all the time. It may even radiate to your jaw or your other teeth.

You may also notice swelling in your gums near the affected tooth. Sometimes, small pimple-like sores appear on the gums, such as an abscess or boil, which may lead to bad breath and a foul taste in your mouth.

2. Temperature sensitivity

Infected teeth are usually hypersensitive to extreme temperatures, so hot coffee or cold ice cream can make the pain worse. Discomfort may linger even after you’ve stopped eating or drinking.

3. Looseness

When the pulp inside your tooth decays and dies, the gums become loose and spongy and can’t hold onto your tooth tightly. The tooth may become loose or wiggly. 

4. Discoloration of teeth and/or gums

A change of color is always a sign that something’s not right. Your gums should be light pink, and your teeth should be white (although there’s a wide range of white shades that are perfectly healthy). If your gums darken or become bright red, or if your tooth becomes discolored — internal tissue damage turns your tooth grayish-black — it may mean you’re in line for a root canal. 

5. Tooth damage

A blow to the face can easily damage your teeth. Cracks and chips make it easy for bacteria to enter and wreak havoc with the inner pulp. But even if you don’t see external damage, the trauma can still affect the nerves inside your tooth and lead to pain and decay.

To find out whether your symptoms point to a root canal, schedule an appointment with Dr. Peterson by calling our friendly staff or booking online today.