Having your dentist say to you that you need a root canal, can be a daunting affair. This means that the pulp or soft tissue inside a tooth has been damaged by bacterial infection. A root canal involves removing the damaged pulp, cleaning the infection and filling in the emptied space. Not every tooth infection requires a root canal and hence it is essential to know the indication of a root canal.
Here are a few situations when a root canal may be needed:
- Pain: Discomfort ranging from a dull ache to a sharp pain can be a sign that you need root canal treatment. This type of pain is usually characterized by throbbing and may change as you switch positions. It is usually triggered by chewing, applying pressure on the tooth or eating something cold or hot. In some cases, the patient may not be able to indicate the exact tooth that is hurting but can only identify the painful area.
- Gun tenderness: Swelling that indicates the need of root canal treatment can range from being slightly red and inflamed to pronounced lumps on the gums. In some extreme cases, this swelling may extend out of the gums into the face and neck region. Sometimes, a pus filled boil with a pimple like head may also form on the gums. If this head bursts, the patient may notice a foul taste in the mouth. This swelling can come and go as the tooth decay deteriorates and may or may not be accompanied by pain. Teeth may also feel like they have been pushed out of their sockets and are taller than usual.
- Tooth discolouration: Discolouring of teeth can be a sign of internal tooth damage. This is especially noted if the teeth take on a dark yellow, grey or blackish tint. Tooth discolouration is fairly common in cases where the tooth has undergone trauma such as an accident etc.
- Exposure of the dental nerves: At times during regular dental work, the nerves in the tooth may be exposed. This indicates an exposure of pulp tissue and can trigger pulp degeneration if left untreated.
However, all of the above symptoms can be symptoms of other types of dental problems as well and do not necessarily individually indicate the need for a root canal. Only a dentist can properly diagnose a need for root canal treatment after a physical examination and testing.