Each year, root canal treatments are used to save millions of teeth that may otherwise need to be extracted. The procedure can be lengthy and may involve more than one visit, but it is extremely helpful in restoring the function and appearance of a tooth while relieving pain. By better understanding why a root canal procedure is performed and what signs might indicate that you are in need of one, you can feel more at ease when you have your treatment done.

Why Do Dentists Perform Root Canals?

If your dentist is recommending a root canal, you have a tooth that is badly decayed or infected. When the tooth pulp is damaged, root canals are performed to take out the damaged nerve and pulp before cleaning out and sealing the inner workings of the tooth. Although patients often dread this procedure because they fear it will be painful, it is actually no different that the discomfort felt when getting a cavity filled.

When the nerves or pulp inside of a tooth become damaged or infected, bacteria are able to multiply inside of the tooth. These bacteria may then cause a pus-filled pocket known as an abscess to form. Infection can also occur within the root canal of a tooth, and this issue may result in serious problems like facial swelling, bone loss around the tooth root, and excessive drainage.

What Signs Should You Look For?

It may be difficult for you to know if you need a root canal on your own, as the symptoms that you experience are often similar to those of a standard cavity. Pain and discomfort will be experienced in the affected tooth, especially when biting and chewing. Extreme temperatures may also trigger pain, and it can be so severe that it wakes you while you are sleeping.

If you notice any of these symptoms, your dentist can help you to better understand the cause. There are several signs that he or she may spot that can also indicate that you are in need of a root canal:

  • Gum lesions, as infected teeth can cause small bumps to form along the gum line.
  • Teeth that have become darker in color, as this shows that some type of change has taken place inside of the teeth.
  • Dark spots that appear on a tooth in an x-ray.
  • Exposed nerves, which signify that the pulp tissue inside a tooth has been damaged.

How Will My Dentist Diagnose the Problem?

Your dentist can perform certain tests to determine if a root canal procedure is necessary to fix your teeth. An x-ray is the most commonly performed exam, and they can help to determine the exact tooth that is causing you so much pain. Other testing can help to determine if there is a problem with your teeth, such as percussion testing, which involves your dentist tapping on your tooth with a small tool to see if pain is experienced. Electric pulp testing may also be used, and electrical currents will be utilized to determine the sensitivity of a tooth. These tests together can provide definitive proof on whether or not a root canal is necessary.