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How Do You Tell If You Need A Root Canal?

June 29, 2023
How Do You Tell If You Need A Root Canal?

Root canals are standard dental procedures that relieve pain and can save natural teeth from extraction. The signs you may need a root canal are often mistaken for other dental issues.


Here are several signs you should keep watch for:

  • Significant toothache when chewing or putting pressure on the tooth
  • Painful sensitivity to hot or cold that may last after the exposure has ended
  • Swelling and tenderness on the gums around the tooth
  • Pimple-like swelling on the gums
  • A broken tooth
  • A hole, crack, or chip in your tooth
  • Discolored or darkened tooth
  • Sometimes no pain at all! 


If you notice any of these signs, seek dental attention immediately. The sooner your tooth receives treatment, the better the outcome will be.

The Root Canal Procedure

Root canals become necessary when the pulp inside the tooth is inflamed or infected. Antibiotics alone will not cure the infection.  The dentist removes the infected pulp, replacing it with a safe material to protect your tooth from reinfection.


First, the dentist applies local anesthesia. The dentist then removes the cavity in the tooth and accesses the area where the nerve pulp is with a dental drill. After removing the pulp inside the crown, the dentist uses a series of small files to remove the pulp from the root canals. The dentist also disinfects, smooths and reshapes the inside of the canals to make it less likely that another infection will take hold.


If the infection is severe, the dentist may place antibiotics inside the tooth and wait a few days for them to take effect. After addressing the infection, the dentist will return to restoring the tooth.


The dentist refills the tooth with a plastic material called gutta-percha that seals out food, saliva, and other contaminants. The tooth receives either a filling to replace the missing tooth that was removed to access the nerve.  Afterwards it is determined if the tooth needs a crown to protect it. 


If a crown was done on the tooth, the patient returns to the dentist when the permanent crown arrives from the lab. When the dentist cements the permanent crown in place, the restoration is complete.

Is a Root Canal Painful?

Root canals have an undeserved reputation for being painful. Today, a root canal is no more uncomfortable than a standard filling, thanks to modern local anesthesia techniques. If you have any concerns about the procedure, ask your dentist anytime.

Putting Off a Root Canal

If you suspect your tooth needs a root canal, there is no reason to delay calling your dentist. Delaying a root canal can lead to severe consequences. The infection inside your tooth could spread to other teeth and become systemic. It could spread to your neck, jaw, or head. Promptly receiving a root canal is a much better course of action.

Call Blossom Dentistry

If you experience any of the telltale signs you may need a root canal, call our Foggy Bottom office at 202-922-2900 to schedule an appointment. We can relieve your pain and possibly save your tooth from extraction.


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