Many people hear the words “root canal” and associate it with pain and perhaps the nerve-wracking sound of a drill. While a root canal does involve a drill, most patients experience a pain-free procedure. Many report only sensitivity during recovery.
Simply, a root canal is a routine dental procedure where the pulp, or the inside of your tooth—blood vessels, tissues, and nerves, is removed and replaced with a filling or a crown. An infected or abscessed tooth will usually require a root canal. But there are other possible signs or symptoms that you may need this treatment.
Signs You Need a Root Canal
Many people experience tooth sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures. But if the pain lingers long after exposure to a food or drink, you may need a root canal.
If you have a persistent toothache that you feel deep into your jaw or face, you may need a root canal. There could be many things that cause your tooth to hurt. But if the pain is severe and doesn’t go away, you should talk to your dentist.
An infection in the tooth will often need a root canal. Symptoms of this issue include tenderness, pain, and swelling. Along with swelling, you may have a boil develop on your gums near the infected tooth. This happens because the infection will create pus that needs to drain.
Another sign you may need a root canal is if the tooth that is causing you pain begins to feel loose. Loose teeth are sometimes a cause for alarm as it is a sign of gum disease. In this case, the infection in and around the tooth causes damage to the bone. After eradicating the infection, the gums and ligaments should tighten up and return to normal.
Darkening or discoloration of the tooth is an indicator that you might need a root canal. Staining from dark-colored foods and beverages can cause discoloration. However, in association with pain, it is probably a sign of tooth decay. If you notice that the discoloration is limited to only one tooth, you should consult your dentist.
What Happens During a Root Canal?
The first step in a root canal is for the dentist to apply an anesthetic. They will put some numbing medication on your gum near the problem tooth before they inject a local anesthetic into your gums.
Once your tooth and gum are numb, the dentist will begin by making a small hole at the top of your tooth in order to remove the infected pulp. After removing the infection and cleaning all the pathways in your tooth, the dentist will apply antibiotics to ensure the eradication of the infection and keep it at bay. You may also receive a prescription for oral antibiotics.
With the tooth clean and disinfected, the dentist will fill your tooth with a special material and place a temporary filling or crown to prevent any further damage or infection. After a few days, you will return to the dentist who will take x-rays of your teeth to make sure that the infection is completely gone before they place a permanent crown.
You may experience some pain or ache. But most people feel relief after the procedure with the removal of the cause of their pain. It may take some time to adjust to how your tooth feels after the procedure. It is normal for it to feel odd. If you still experience significant pain, you should contact your dentist immediately.