Do You Need a Root Canal? Here’s How to Tell

Do You Need a Root Canal? Here’s How to Tell

How often do you deal with serious tooth pain? If you can’t make it through the morning without a few doses of ibuprofen to ease your discomfort, then chronic tooth pain is slowly but surely turning your quality of life upside down.

For nearly 15 million people a year, root canal therapy is the best solution to chronic tooth pain. Could it be the answer for you as well? Despite its reputation for being painful, today’s advanced dental technology makes the root canal therapy procedure surprisingly easy and pain-free! 

Read on to learn more about root canal therapy and identify if it’s the answer to liberating yourself from chronic tooth pain. 

What Is a Root Canal?

The root canal is the hollow section of each tooth that contains blood vessels, nerves, and other live pulp tissues. Each serves an important purpose:

  • Nerve tissues are responsible for creating hot and cold sensations
  • Blood vessels transport oxygen and nutrients
  • Pulp cells nourish and moisturize the interior of the tooth

When soft pulp tissue becomes inflamed or infected as a result of decay or trauma, it can threaten the integrity of the entire tooth. Root canal therapy is designed to remove the infected pulp in order to stop the spread of infection. This gives the damaged tooth a higher chance of survival. 

Most people assume a root canal is painful since it must dig into the deepest areas of the damaged tooth. But in reality, a root canal is one of the most effective ways to relieve chronic tooth pain! Since a root canal generally costs less than a tooth extraction or replacement, it’s one of the first strategies dentists use to save a traumatized or decaying tooth. 

What is the Root Canal Procedure?

When you undergo a root canal, your dentist performs three steps to save your tooth from additional damage.

1. Clean the Root Canal Space

After your dentist takes x-rays of your tooth and administered a local anesthetic to numb the pain, he isolates the tooth in need of a root canal. This keeps it clean and protects it from saliva. You won’t feel anything as your dentist makes a small opening in the crown of your tooth to clean and remove the dead or diseased pulp tissue inside. 

Growing teeth rely on the pulp tissue, but fully developed teeth can survive without any pulp; they’re nourished by other surrounding tissues instead.

2. Fill the Root Canal With Gutta Percha

Once all signs of infected pulp are gone, your dentist replaces the pulp tissue with a biocompatible material like gutta percha. This rubber-like material safely fills the empty space in the root canal area. 

3. Strengthen the Tooth With a Crown or Filling

Adhesive cement firmly seals the root canal closed after the gutta percha is situated. At this point, your tooth is actually dead. The infection has been removed, any painful nerve tissue has been eliminated, and your tooth can no longer sense pain. 

Since a dead tooth doesn’t have pulp to provide nourishment and moisture, it relies on surrounding tissues and ligaments instead. This system isn’t as effective as the original pulp itself, which is why any tooth that undergoes a root canal becomes more brittle over time. Your dentist may use a filling or crown to bolster the strength of the tooth and prevent future damage.
 

4 Signs You Need a Root Canal

Now you know all about a root canal, but how can you determine if it’s the best procedure to address your dental issues? If you experience any of the following four signs, you probably need a root canal!

1. Excessive Sensitivity to Hot or Cold Temperatures

It’s not unusual to feel a tinge of discomfort when you bite into an ice cream cone, but excessive sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures may indicate a more serious problem. If you experience those painful “zings” of sensitivity on a regular basis, and some last more than 30 seconds, it’s likely that your tooth has nerve damage. If other minor treatments can’t effectively reduce your sensitivity, a root canal may become necessary. 

2. Significant Discoloration of the Tooth

Healthy teeth are protected by white enamel. If your white tooth starts showing significant discoloration compared to surrounding teeth, it may be entering the final stages of decay. A grey or black tooth has to be saved quickly using a root canal to preserve what remains and prevent full extraction. 

3. Severe Tooth and Jaw Pain, Especially When Chewing

A damaged tooth doesn’t just impact your smile. It also triggers serious pain when you apply pressure to your jaw and gums. If you are suffering from ongoing headaches, ear pain, jaw discomfort, and tooth pain, a severe dental issue like an infection is most likely the root cause. A root canal is the only procedure that can fully remove the infected tissue to eliminate the source of pain and prevent future tooth death. 

 4. Swelling and Tenderness in Surrounding Gums

Inflammation is one of the most common indicators of dental problems, including an infection within the tooth that may require a root canal. You can identify inflammation of the gums by common symptoms like pain, swelling, and a raised bump in the painful area.

Root Canal FAQs

You may have other questions about the root canal procedure. The answers to these frequently asked questions will help you understand exactly what to expect. 

Will My Root Canal Hurt?

Thanks to local anesthesia, you won’t feel any pain at all during your root canal! In fact, it won’t feel any different than getting a basic filling. Though you may feel some soreness or discomfort after the procedure, your dentist will recommend a simple over-the-counter pain reliever to help you feel better. More than anything, you’ll notice how much better you feel without the intense pain caused by your damaged tooth!

How Long Does Root Canal Recovery Take?

The local numbness created by the anesthesia fades away over two to four hours. You can even return to work shortly after your procedure. Just wait to eat until the numbness is completely gone. All signs of minor discomfort or swelling should disappear in a few short days. 

Are There Other Benefits of a Root Canal?

Endodontic treatment can save a tooth that would otherwise die! Inflammation, infection, and decay are difficult problems to heal, especially when the trauma to your tooth runs deep into the pulp and nerves. A root canal removes dangerous inflammation, prevents the development of abscesses, and keeps your tooth firmly in place. With proper care, any tooth that undergoes a root canal treatment can last the rest of your life!

A root canal is always best performed by a dentist you trust. Dr. Robert Lozano DDS of RB Dental Excellence provides expert dental care to patients throughout San Diego, CA. With more than 21 years of experience, Dr. Lozano utilizes state-of-the-art equipment and technologies to ensure your oral care needs are always met. Call (858) 485-0707 today to schedule a root canal appointment and escape the misery of chronic tooth pain.

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First visit Exam & Cleanings

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First visit Exam & Cleanings

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