Root canals are perhaps one of the most dreaded dental procedures. In fact, many people avoid going to the dentist for fear of needing a root canal. This is primarily because root canals were uncomfortable in the past and many people may have either had a bad experience or heard of one. Luckily, modern root canals are much more comfortable thanks to dental anesthetics and sedation. In fact, most patients report root canals as being no more uncomfortable than having a filling placed.
It is important not to fear root canals, because they are highly important dental procedures that are actually known for saving teeth. They are performed when the innermost layer of the tooth, known as the pulp, becomes infected by decay-causing bacteria. Once the pulp is infected, the only way to prevent the tooth from dying and falling out is to have a root canal.
During a root canal, the damaged and decayed pulp is removed from the center of the tooth. Then the tooth is filled with a rubber-like substance and restored with a dental crown for additional protection. Root canals ultimately eliminate the decay, while allowing you to keep your natural tooth. However, early detection of a pulp infection is the best way to have good treatment outcomes. Here are three main signs to know if you have a pulp infection in need of a root canal:
For most people, pain is the symptom that gets the most attention and causes them to wonder if something is wrong. Pain associated with a pulp infection often comes on suddenly and will continue to get progressively worse. In some cases, the pain may come and go, or it may only be noticeable when you bite down. Some people have even described it as a deep, throbbing pain in the jaw. Pain can also occur as tooth sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures, as well as sweet foods.
Another key sign you have a pulp infection in need of a root canal is a discolored tooth. Since the dental pulp begins to die once infected, this can cause the affected tooth to have a grey, yellow, light brown, or black color. If a single tooth is discolored and does not match the other tooth, then this could indicate a possible pulp infection.
Pulp infections can also affect the gum tissue as well because of the excess bacteria. Gums that are swollen, tender to the touch, red, or that have pimples or discharge can be indicative of a pulp infection. However, if these symptoms occur alone, they can also indicate possible gum disease.
Overall, tooth pain, tooth discoloration, and gum problems are three key signs that you may have a pulp infection in need of a root canal. Individually, these symptoms may have other causes, however when they occur together it is usually due to a pulp infection. Ultimately, however, the only way to know for sure is to visit your local dental office for an examination. With pulp infections, the sooner you have a root canal, the better, so don’t put it off if you think you may need a root canal.
Dr. Piazza has been a lifelong resident of Naperville. He is a graduate of Naperville North High School, received his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry at North Central College and earned his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree at the University of Illinois College of Dentistry in 1988. After graduation, he opened his current dental practice in Naperville.