Are you experiencing a constant throbbing sensation in your mouth, or are your teeth extremely sensitive to hot or cold stimulus? If so, chances are you may need a root canal. Here are nine ways to determine whether or not you need a root canal to save your tooth.
A root canal is needed when a tooth’s nerve becomes irreversibly inflamed and damaged. If the tooth’s dental pulp — often called the “nerve” — becomes exposed to bacteria, it needs to be removed to prevent further pain and dangerous infections.
If you’re looking for more information about the root canal procedure, click here. In this post, however, I’ll focus on how you can tell when a root canal may be necessary, and answer some common questions I receive from patients about causes and prevention.
If you experience any of these nine symptoms – or, for that matter, have any type of sharp tooth pain – call your dentist as soon as possible.
How can you tell when a root canal may be necessary?
- If you’ve broken a tooth, and your nerve has been exposed, you may feel extreme pain to temperature changes — even cold air. And whenever your teeth are exposed to hot or cold stimulus, the pain lingers for minutes afterwards.
- Your tooth isn’t only a little bit sore. It’s throbbing, constantly.
- This sharp, acute pain has worsened over time.
- You have chronic, throbbing pain that happens throughout the day for no reason. It can even wake you up at night.
- When you bite down, you experience extreme sharp pain. Especially when chewing food.
- You have a foul taste or smell in your mouth (this may indicate you may have an infection).
- The infected tooth may become discolored, turning gray, which can be an indication the nerve is necrotic, or dead.
- You can see an abscess — what looks like a bump or pimple on gum tissue — and there’s pus draining from it.
- You have facial swelling. The swelling can move and, if left untreated, be dangerous. It’s a telltale sign you have an infection. Seek
How long should I wait to see my dentist?
Call your dentist immediately to schedule an appointment. The longer you wait, the worse the pain, and potential infection will become. Seek immediate treatment.
What can I do for the pain in the meantime?
You can purchase over-the-counter pain meds for pain and swelling, and/or place an ice pack on your face.
How can you best prevent a root canal?
Root canals are prevented the same way cavities are prevented: brush and floss your teeth, and get regular check-ups. Sometimes however, the need for a root canal may not be prevented.
The nerve may die or become necrotic over time for various reasons – a large restoration, a crack in the tooth, clenching or grinding, or trauma.
As mentioned earlier, if you are having any symptoms, call your dentist immediately. And if you have a cavity, get it filled right away.
What causes a root canal?
Decay is the main reason patients need root canals. If a cavity becomes large enough, it can enter your pulp chamber or nerve. If bacteria enters this chamber it causes an infection. As a result, a root canal is needed to remove the bacteria and save your tooth and reduce pain.
But root canals can also be needed if your tooth cracks, breaks or experiences any type of trauma. It can expose your pulp chamber, damage your nerve and cause pain.
Again, the nerve will need to be removed to salvage your tooth.
If the thought of a root canal makes you nervous, know that nearly 15 million of them are performed in the United States every year. And, once it’s over, your severe pain will be over, too. Call your dentist if you have any concerns or questions.