5 Signs that You May Need a Root Canal

Your teeth consist of three layers: the outer enamel layer, the middle dentin layer, and the soft, inner core that extends through the root into your jaw bone. The core contains the dental pulp, composed of blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. When decay gets into the core, the pulp can become infected, inflamed, or even necrotic (dead).

According to the American Association of Endodontists (AAE), dental specialists perform more than 15 million root canals each year in the United States. A root canal is the procedure where your dentist or endodontist cleans out decay in your tooth’s pulp and root, removes the nerve, and repairs the damage. It’s a means to save the structure of your natural tooth and is topped by a dental crown to provide added strength and stability.

At Smile Boutique in Mount Vernon, New York, Dr. Wayne Hofflich provides cutting-edge, minimally invasive root canal procedures. He also knows how painful a tooth can be before it’s had a root canal, so he’s put together this list so you can spot the warning signs and schedule an appointment early enough that distress is kept to a minimum.

5 signs you may need a root canal

While on occasion you may have no symptoms while needing a root canal, most people have one or a combination of the following five signs:

1. Persistent pain

Persistent tooth pain is one of the most common signs that you may need a root canal, and pain is one of the hallmark signs people associate with a root canal. The pain may be persistent, or it might ebb and flow a bit, but it always comes back. Some people feel pain deep in the bone under the affected tooth. Others feel referred pain in the face, jaw, or other teeth. All are signs you need to see a dentist — early treatment leads to better outcomes.

Tooth pain by itself may have causes other than a root nerve problem. Other conditions include:

Only your dentist can determine the underlying cause.

2. Sensitivity to hot and cold and air

If your tooth hurts when you eat or drink something hot or something cold, or if it’s bothered by air flow into your mouth, your tooth’s nerve may be infected or dying. The sensitivity may be a dull ache or a sharp pain, and it may linger after you’ve removed the offending food or drink. The bottom line is you probably need a root canal.

3. Tooth discoloration

An infection of the tooth pulp can cause the tooth itself to become discolored. Trauma to or the breakdown of the internal tissue can affect the roots, giving the tooth a grayish-black appearance. It’s easier to see in a front tooth than on a molar. And while discoloration can result from other causes, if you notice this particular color, make an appointment with our team.

4. Swollen gums

If your gums are swollen near a tooth that’s painful, that can be a sign you may need a root canal. The swelling can come and go, and it may or may not be tender when you touch it.

The swelling is produced by acidic waste products of dead pulp tissues, which can lead to swelling outside the root tip region.

In addition, you may notice a small white pimple on your gum, also called a gum boil, parulis, or abscess. The pimple may ooze pus from the tooth’s infection, and the pus may produce an unpleasant taste in your mouth. It can also make your breath smell bad.

5. A chipped or cracked tooth

Not all chipped teeth require root canals, but if you’ve had an accident where your mouth has suffered trauma, including if you’ve bit down on something hard, and your tooth hurts as a result, you need to get it checked out.

The chip may be a sign of a larger crack, either to the visible tooth or the root below the gum line, and that can allow bacteria to enter, setting you up for a nerve infection. We can diagnose the problem with a simple X-ray that shows if or where the tooth is cracked and if the nerve is infected.

If you spot any of the warning signs of a root canal, contact Dr. Wayne Hofflich at Smile Boutique ASAP to make an appointment. You can give us a call at 914-664-7400, or you can book your consultation online.

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