Root canal treatment – signs & symptoms

A root canal treatment is a procedure used to save a tooth that has become infected or suffered irreversible damage to the pulp of the tooth. Common causes of pulpal infection or damage are tooth decay, trauma to the tooth due to an accident or sports-related injury, or a crack in the tooth, which is a dental problem more commonly seen in adults and in teeth with large fillings. Your dentist may recommend a root canal when your tooth shows signs of infection or significant pulpal nerve damage.  

But, how will you know if you need a root canal?

Tooth pain might be just one of the many symptoms indicating your need for a root canal. There are many signs and symptoms related to pulpal damage and decay and some of the most common ones are outlined below. Of course, if you ever have concerns about your dental health, you should check in with your dentist. 


What are the signs that I may need a root canal?

The signs and symptoms of pulpal damage can differ from person to person but in most common cases, individuals experience:


Tooth pain while chewing

Tooth pain can range from mild to severe. Typically, individuals in need of a root canal treatment experience the worst pain while chewing or biting into things.


Oversensitivity of the teeth with cold or hot drinks

Many individuals report tooth sensitivity when eating food or drinking liquids that are particularly hot or particularly cold in temperature. This feeling of discomfort may linger even after the hot or cold food has been consumed.


Gum or facial swelling

It is common to experience swelling or tenderness of the face or gums near the affected tooth. Often times this swelling is accompanied by tenderness or sensitivity.  


Discoloration or graying of the tooth

Those in need of root canal treatment may start to notice changes in the color of their teeth, i.e. greying or darkening of the tooth's surface.


Drainage from the tooth

In severe cases of pulpal infection, drainage of pus into the gums and soft tissue of the cheek can occur.


Sometimes you may not have experienced any signs or symptoms, but your dentist may notice an infection on a routine x-ray or deep decay under a filling.  Scheduling regular preventive visits is important for this reason, as your dentist will be able to identify any potential issues.

While the thought of undergoing a root canal procedure can feel scary for some, the goal is never to cause you pain, but to save your tooth and get you back on track to optimal dental health. Be aware of the common signs and symptoms of pulpal damage that may indicate the need for a root canal treatment. This way, you can continue to maintain your natural smile and lessen the need for ongoing dental work.


Additional resources

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Concerned about the health of your teeth? Visit your local Delta Dental