When is a Root Canal Really Necessary? 8 Signs You Need a Root Canal

How can you tell when you simply need a dental filling or a root canal? What are the most obvious signs you need a root canal, and it just can’t be avoided?

With more than 15 million root canals performed a year, you’re definitely not alone if your dentist says you should consider a root canal treatment.

Do you have pain and tenderness in your mouth from root canal pain?

When do you need a root canal? Here are the signs you need a root canal.

What Is a Root Canal?

A root canal is a procedure to remove the inflamed or infected pulp from the inside of the tooth.

A root canal is a type of dental care known as endodontic treatment; endo means inside and odont means tooth in Greek.

An endodontic treatment will be done to remove the bad pulp, clean the root canal, and fill and seal the space. After the root canal is done, your dentist will place a crown or other restoration to protect the tooth.

It is important to address the root canal as the infection can spread, causing health issues beyond your mouth.

Tooth Anatomy 101

To talk about the tooth, we need a basic understanding of the anatomical build of a tooth.

The outer part of the teeth is the enamel. The enamel is white and hard and made mostly of calcium phosphate.

Under the enamel is the dentin layer. When the enamel is damaged, the cold or heat will enter pathways on the dentin layer into the tooth, causing pain.

The pulp is below the dentin layer and contains blood vessels and nerves.

Finally, the cementum is at the base of the root and is used to connect the tooth to the gums. 

Not Your Grandpa’s Root Canal

Remember when root canals were a big deal? Now it is just like getting a cavity filled.

How did the root canal process change so much over the years?

For one, new and more efficient equipment has streamlined the procedure. Imaging techniques have far advanced. Anesthetic is now used in a way where even the first injection doesn’t hurt.

Does Having a Root Canal Hurt?

Since you will be given numbing medication during the procedure, you will not feel anything. For a few days after the root canal, you may feel soreness and sensitivity in the area.

Pros and Cons of a Root Canal

There are pros and cons to every dental procedure. You’ll want to talk to your trusted dentist and weigh your personal reasons for why or why not you would get a root canal.


Fix the root canal pain

You keep the bone around your tooth

Don’t have to extract the tooth

Don’t have to pay for an implant


It’s uncomfortable to sit with mouth open entire procedure

Very small risk of infection after a root canal

Signs You Need a Root Canal

Do I need endodontic care? What are the signs that a root canal is the answer to your tooth pain?

It is important to inform your dentist about any of the following symptoms. Since root canals aren’t so scary anymore, there’s no need to be afraid of being honest with the dentist.

1. Severe Pain

Any pain in your mouth is unpleasant and should be mentioned to your dentist, but certain types of pain may signify root canal pain.

If you have spontaneous pain that hits you like a wave, it is likely that you have an infected or dead tooth that may need a root canal.

Are there certain positions in which your gums or tooth hurt worse? When you lay down or bend down is there a pressure on your tooth and face? This may be root canal pain.

2. Bumps on the Gums

If you notice any bumps on your gums, this could be a sign of an infected tooth needing a root canal. These pimple-like bums are known as a fistula.

3. Sensitivity to Hot and Cold

You can have sensitivity to hot and cold without needing a root canal. For those needing a root canal, the sensitivity and pain from the hot and cold lingers long after the drink or food.

4. Swollen Gums

If you’ve noticed that your gums are swollen it may be a sign of an infected tooth. Sometimes we can have inflamed gums after flossing or brushing too hard, this is different. The swollen gums will be tender and a bit painful to the touch and will remain swollen.

5. Darkening of the Gums

The darkening of the gums is a sign that the gums are decayed. If there is an infection and the tooth is dying, the gums will begin to decay. This is a telltale sign that you may need a root canal.

6. Chipped or Cracked Tooth

A chipped or cracked tooth is a two-fold sign of a tooth that may need a root canal. For one, perhaps there was trauma on the tooth that created the chip or crack and has now caused inflamed or infected pulp. Secondly, the tooth may be so far decayed or infected that it is cracked or chipped from being dead. Either way, you’ll need likely a root canal to try to save the remainder of the tooth.

7. Tender Gums

If your gums are tender to the touch, or even without touch, you may have root canal pain.

When at the dentist, be sure to mention your tender gums.

8. An Abscess

An abscess is something that will be seen on an x-ray as a dark spot. It is basically a hole in the jawbone because bone won’t grow around an infection.

Your dentist should let you know if you have an abscess in your tooth during your regular dentist appointment and x-rays.

Recovery After Root Canal

You’ll experience some minor discomfort the first few days after the endodontic treatment. Root canal pain is normal to experience for a bit, but if it extends beyond a week or so you should contact your dentist.

After the root canal treatment, you should get a crown to go on top of your tooth to best protect it.

Endodontic Treatment Can Save Your Tooth

If you have any of the signs you need a root canal, check out our services today.

You could need root canal treatment, but the only way to tell is by going to the dentist and getting evaluated by an expert. Don’t put your tooth and your health at risk, schedule a dental exam soon!

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