How to Know If You Need a Root Canal: 7 Signs and Symptoms



According to the American Dental Association Survey of Dental Services Rendered, more than 15 million root canals are performed each year. And this number has steadily increased since 1999.

Root canals are necessary to treat the nerve or pulp of a tooth. When nerves become infected and subsequently inflamed, endodontists or other teeth specialists will remove the nerve and seal the tooth. That way, future infections are less likely to occur.

These procedures can be painful. But treating the issue now is vital if you don't want to lose the tooth. That's why we've created this guide to the most common symptoms to check for if you think you need a root canal.

Ready to learn how to know if you need a root canal? Keep reading for the 7 most common signs that you need to see an endodontist.

How to Know If You Need a Root Canal


Knowing if and when you need to head in for a dental appointment is important for preventing some of the more severe, long-term symptoms. For example:

  • Swelling may spread to other regions of your face
  • Bone decay may occur around the infected nerve
  • Liquid may drain into the nerve, causing more severe infections

Worse, if you let your infected nerve go untreated, you may start losing teeth. Don't let your infection get that far. Instead, be on the look for these symptoms.

1. Mouth Pain


One of the earliest and most common symptoms of an infected tooth nerve is pain. The pain will be most severed at the surrounding gums. But you may also experience pain in your jaw or, as you'll see later, headaches.

2. Sensitivity to Hot and Cold


A moderate amount of sensitivity to hot and cold drinks or food is normal. If this happens to you often, however, it may be due to an infected tooth nerve. Similarly, if your tooth sensitivity lasts for 30 minutes or longer, it may be time to ask your dentist about a root canal.

3. Inflamed Gums


Gum inflammation is a common symptom of gingivitis, but it also indicates an underlying infection. If your gums are inflamed and red instead of pink, you likely have some form of periodontal disease. But if the inflammation accompanied by pain or swelling is more than often treated with a root canal.

4. Darkened or Discolored Enamel


If the enamel color of a particular tooth changes at a faster rate than surrounding teeth, you may be dealing with an infection. Slight discoloration is normal, especially for those who drink a lot of coffee, tea, or other dark-colored beverages. But if your tooth turns black or, worse, grey, this is a sign that your nerve infection has advanced to a more severe problem.

5. Headaches


As mentioned above, headaches and migraines are commonly seen in people who need a root canal. Cavities have been known to cause minor headaches for some individuals. But if you're experiencing severe headaches or migraines, it may be a sign you need to visit an endodontist.

6. Pimple on the Gums


Have you noticed a persistent or reoccurring pimple on your gums? Take special notice if this bump is located near a tooth that's causing you pain. A small, red bump may indicate the nerve infection is spreading and is yet another sign that you need a root canal.

7. Jaw Pain


Jaw pain can also be a symptom of TMJ. With a tooth nerve infection, though, the pain may spread into your ear. Regardless of whether you think your jaw and/or ear pain are caused by an infected tooth, you should see a dental expert right away to determine the cause of your discomfort.

What to Do If You're Experiencing These Symptoms


If you're experiencing any of the above signs and symptoms, you need to head to your local dentist or endodontist. Depending on the severity of the infection, your dentist may require immediate or delayed treatment.

With delayed treatment, the dentist will likely prescribe you something to deal with painful symptoms. That way, you won't have to deal with it while you're waiting for your root canal appointment.

But if your dentist or endodontist suggests you get a root canal immediately, here's what to expect.

  1. The endodontist will X-ray the infected tooth to determine the extent of the damage
  2. If the problem is less severe, you may require a treatment alternative to a root canal
  3. If the problem is more severe, the endodontist will anesthetize the infected area
  4. A sheet of rubber is placed around the infected tooth to isolate it for the procedure
  5. The endodontist drills a hole into the infected tooth and all infected pulp, build-up, and bacteria are scraped out

After your tooth is cleaned of all the pulp and infection-causing bacteria, your endodontist will seal the tooth. Often, the filling occurs at a later date sometimes a few weeks after the initial procedure.

Keep in mind that more severe infections might require a crown or implant. But if you catch the infection before it starts eroding the tooth, you'll save money by not needing a brand new replacement tooth.

Where to Get a Root Canal Near Rock Hill, South Carolina


By now, you should be equipped to answer the question: how to know if you need a root canal? And maybe you've checked off a few too many of these symptoms. Now what?

Think you might be dealing with a tooth that requires a root canal? Live in or around Roch Hill, South Carolina? Then book an appointment with A Healthy Smile today and fix that tooth infection before it gets worse.