A root canal is a fairly complex dental procedure in which a tooth and its roots and pulp are cleaned, smoothed out, and permanently sealed. A biocompatible material is used, which binds to the tooth structures and prevents future infections. In some cases, a post is inserted into one of the canals, or chambers, of the tooth root to anchor a crown or other restoration, and the remaining tooth structure is built up with a restorative material. This restores the tooth to a healthy state.
In some cases, teeth that need root canals show no signs. This makes it very important to receive regular checkups and dental X-rays, as prompt treatment is critical to oral health. In other cases, however, you will notice symptoms that are hard to ignore.
1. Dental Pain
One of the most common signs that you need a root canal is pain in or near the tooth. It can range in severity from mild to excruciating, but almost always has a distinct throbbing component. This has been described as a sort of “heartbeat” rhythm. Some people experience pain only when the tooth is irritated by chewing or other pressure, while others find that the pain lasts continuously for hours or days. You might notice a change in the quality or intensity of the pain when you change positions, particularly when standing up or lying down.
Although dental pain is not always a signal that a tooth needs a root canal, it is always a symptom that something is wrong. Make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible after you first feel pain.
2. Swelling and Tenderness
Some teeth that need root canals do not swell at all, while others cause severe swelling in the face and neck. Most fall somewhere between these two extremes. Check for a spot that is tender or inflamed if you do not see a pronounced lump. In some cases, the swollen spot is more like a boil on the gum, which might or might not drain pus. Even if no actual pain is present, the swollen area is likely to be sensitive and sore.
Sometimes swelling spontaneously goes away on its own, while at other times you might need an antibiotic to clear up the infection. Either way, it is important to see a dentist right away.
3. Temperature Sensitivity
Although teeth can become sensitive to hot and cold temperatures for many reasons, this is often the only clue to a tooth that requires a root canal. In some cases, drinking cold water or eating hot soup can literally take your breath away, even if it does not directly contact your tooth. Biting into an ice cube or a hot slice of pizza can be excruciating.
Sometimes the temperature sensitivity is more subtle, but however it presents, it is a clear sign that something is not right. Make an appointment with your dentist to diagnose and treat the problem.
Root Canal Treatment
Many people are afraid to have a root canal because they believe that it is a tremendously painful procedure. In fact, with modern techniques, most patients report no pain at all during the root canal and only minimal discomfort afterwards.
Your dentist will discuss the procedure with you in detail before beginning, and is always happy to answer your questions and address your concerns. We treat many patients with dental anxiety and even phobias, and are committed to providing a relaxing, low-stress environment in which you can feel safe and secure. We will not start your procedure until you feel ready to do so.
At Family Dental Care of Bellevue, we are committed to providing quality dental care to our patients and their families. We are proud to have been voted one of the best dental offices in Washington State. If you are ready to take the first steps toward improving your dental health, we invite you to call 425-643-5778 today to make an appointment for your initial consultation.