Do I Need a Root Canal?

Everyone’s heard of a root canal, but what exactly does it do? Root canals are used to treat severely decayed or damaged teeth where the nerves or pulp in the tooth is affected. During a root canal, the nerves and pulp are completely removed from the inside of the tooth and the remaining space and surfaces are thoroughly cleaned and sealed.

Dental Pulp

The pulp and pulp chamber are the soft areas that make up the center of the tooth. The nerves and blood vessels connect here and run down the roots of the tooth. Nerves in the teeth are not too significant after the tooth has fully erupted in the mouth. They are used only for sensing the temperature of foods that you consume, such and hot or cold beverages; thus, their absence will not disrupt the normal function of the teeth in chewing foods.

When the nerve tissues or pulp is damaged, it begins to break down, multiplying the number of bacteria in the chamber. This can lead to infection or an abscessed tooth. The infection then has the possibility of spreading to other parts of the mouth, face, neck, or head and causing bone loss. This is why root canal treatment is necessary to remove the pulp and prevent further damage.


While sometimes no noticeable symptoms are present, and the infection and damage would only be seen by a dentist, these are some signs that you could need a root canal:

  • Severe toothache pain when applying pressure or chewing
  • Lingering sensitivity and pain to food or beverages of hot and cold temperatures
  • Dark discoloration of the tooth
  • A persistent or recurring pimple on the gum
  • Swollen gums
  • Tender gums

In Between Appointments

If you are currently undergoing a root canal treatment and are expected to return to the office for the completion of your procedure:

  • Temporary Filling. Your tooth is covered by a temporary filling material that is easily dislodged and removed. Wait about an hour before you eat anything and refrain from playing with it with your tongue. If it dislodges in between your appointments, call the office immediately.
  • Appointments. Even though you may already feel comfortable, your treatment has not been completed yet. Do return for the next phase of the treatment and to receive permanent filling or crowns.
  • Discomfort. It is normal for a person to feel some tenderness and discomfort after the procedure. You may experience pain on the tooth and the surrounding tissues from 2 days to a few weeks, but it should subside. Take analgesics tablets (i.e. Advil, Tylenol, etc.) to receive some relief from pain.

After the Procedure

This tooth may also require the insertion of a post to provide reinforcement and strength.
At this point, you may have received a permanent filling or a dental crown for your tooth. The pulp tissue of the tooth has been extirpated or removed so it is no longer vital. After the procedure, you could expect the following:

Tooth Fracture. The tooth is no longer vital so you can expect that it is going to be brittle. To avoid tooth fracture, the tooth may be reinforced with a post and crown. This will prevent tooth fracture and will prolong the life of the tooth.

Infection. Ideally, a tooth that has received a pulp treatment will no present with pain symptoms. 95% of the cases are successful, but there is a 5% chance for it to flare-up and be re-infected. A re-infected tooth may receive a second root canal procedure or may face a tooth extraction.

Maintenance. To prolong the life of the tooth and the final restoration you have received, make it a point to see your dentist on a regular basis. For teeth cleaning and checkups. Do observe proper oral hygiene practices at home that promote health and good oral condition.

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