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How Do You Know If You Need A Root Canal?


While root canals are used to save badly infected teeth or teeth that are extensively decayed, it can be difficult to tell whether you need to get a root canal or another treatment, particularly if what you’re experiencing is mostly sensitivity to hot and cold, or intermittent pain.


The best solution is to see your dental team to determine the cause of your discomfort, but here are some signs that a root canal may be necessary.

Pain and Inflammation

The most common indication that you may need a root canal is tooth and gum pain. Although the cause may be a less severe infection, or perhaps a cavity to be filled, you’ll want to take care of it right away, before the pain, or the reason for it, gets worse. You may notice that pain becomes more intense when you apply any pressure to the sore area, whether that’s from biting and chewing or brushing and flossing your teeth.  

Another sign you might require a root canal is swelling or inflammation. Perhaps it’s just a small tender or raised area along your gumline, or it might be more severe, indicating swelling across your face or neck. 

Sensitivity or Tooth Discoloration

Sensitivity to temperature or consuming something sweet or sticky can also indicate the need for a root canal. Just as pain and swelling can have many causes that affect your oral health, so can these indicators, but especially if sensitivity has increased or become more severe, root canal treatment may be necessary. Regardless of the reason, your dentist can help determine the cause.

Tooth discoloration is another potential sign you need dental intervention. While stains can develop over time due to age, medication, or consuming foods that stain teeth, such as tea or soda, it can also indicate severe tooth decay. If you have a single tooth that has begun to get darker, or you find a dark spot appearing on a tooth, reach out to your dentist for an examination.

Dental Abscesses

When an abscess occurs, it requires immediate dental intervention. An untreated abscess can worsen quickly if left untreated, potentially even making it difficult to swallow or breathe. Abscesses also cause swollen gums, and often leave an unpleasant taste. Uncomfortable and painful, an abscess or the presence of pus in the mouth can also indicate the need for root canal therapy.

Signs a Root Canal is Needed

Each of these signs indicate the need to visit your dentist:

  •     Pain
  •     Inflammation
  •     Sensitivity
  •     Tooth discoloration
  •     Abscesses 

Combined, these signs reveal the possibility of a serious infection or substantial decay that requires a root canal as treatment. So, why wait?


Today, root canal therapy is a quick, skillful intervention usually no more painful than filling a cavity. The process involves opening your tooth, removing the pulp, and disinfecting the tooth chamber, then filling it, using a material called gutta percha. In almost all cases, because the root canal procedure involves removing the pulp of the tooth - which includes the blood vessels of the tooth as well as the nerve, the tooth no longer has any circulation, and consequently has a weakening structure. It also can darken because it is no longer vital. In order to restore the tooth’s structure to provide proper form and function a crown is recommended as the ideal restoration after a root canal. In a case where a tooth requires a root canal, while it sounds daunting, your tooth will be stronger, healthier, (and usually more aesthetically pleasing) after the procedure, than it was before.

Schedule a Visit Today

So, if you’re experiencing dental discomfort or pain of any kind, or want to learn more about root canal therapy, reach out to us today. We’re here to help!