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Root Canals 101: Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

Root Canals 101: Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention


Root Canals 101: Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

The sentence “you need a root canal” has been striking fear in the hearts of dental patients for years. However, root canals have gotten a bad rap all along. A root canal will stop your toothache pain, and it can save your tooth from needing to be extracted. Most dental patients are surprised to find out that a root canal is not painful. With today’s technology, getting a root canal is no worse than getting a run-of-the-mill dental filling.

What Is a Root Canal?

A root canal is a dental procedure that treats infection in the roots of a tooth. For most people, the pain of an infected tooth root is excruciating, and a root canal will relieve this pain by eliminating the infected tooth pulp. Your dentist does this by drilling a tiny hole in your tooth, so they can remove the infected material along with any bacteria that may be present.

After your dentist cleans the canal, they will flush the area with an antibiotic solution and fill it to help prevent the infection from returning. Most people will need a dental crown because this procedure leaves the remaining tooth structure brittle.  Your crowned tooth will look and function normally.

How Do You Know If You Need a Root Canal?

If you have a toothache, this likely means there is an infection in your tooth roots that needs a root canal procedure. Another sign that something is wrong is when you suddenly start experiencing sensitivity to hot or cold liquids. If you have swollen gums or a white spot on your gums, these, too, can be indicators of a problem that you’re due for a root canal.

4 Common Root Canal Symptoms

The only way to be sure that you need a root canal is to visit your dentist for a diagnosis. However, there are several root canal symptoms you may notice on your own. If you experience any of these root canal symptoms, you should see your dentist as soon as possible. The sooner you see your dentist and get treatment, the better the chances of a successful root canal that will save your tooth.

  1. Persistent Pain

Dental pain is never normal. If your tooth hurts with pain that gets worse over time, this could mean you have an infection in your tooth root.

  1. Large Fillings That Are Beginning to Fail

It isn’t uncommon to have fillings in the large molars in the back of the mouth. Over time, the fillings can fail and develop cracks. If bacteria seeps in, this can cause infection. If you have a large filling, it is likely that a good part of the tooth has been removed to make room for it. So, there is often not enough tooth structure to replace the filling. In this case, a root canal becomes necessary.

  1. Cracks Or Chips That Develop

Even teeth that do not have fillings are at risk of trauma or exposure to other stressors that can cause teeth to become cracked or chipped. When this causes severe damage, this might mean a root canal is needed.

  1. A Discolored Tooth

An infected tooth root can cause the tooth to become discolored, giving it a grayish-black appearance. There can be other causes of tooth discoloration, but it’s always a good idea to see your dentist if a tooth becomes discolored.

Root Canal Frequently Asked Questions

If you have questions about root canals, we have answers.

Can you prevent needing a root canal?

Yes. Like most dental health conditions, root canals can be avoided with proper dental care and hygiene. Get cavaties filled as soon as possible, floss daily, use a mouthguard if you grind your teeth and visit your dentist regularily.

What if you don’t fix a root canal?

If left untreated, the bacterial infection in the tooth could get worse, and you might have to have the tooth extracted. Even more concerning is that the infection could spread to other parts of the body, having serious consequences.

How many visits to the dentist does root canal treatment take?

In most cases, a root canal treatment will take just one or two appointments with the dentist. The procedure itself will be completed in one appointment, but you may need to go back to the dentist a second time to get a crown. Almost everyone who gets a root canal will need a crown because removing the tooth pulp makes the tooth brittle. A crown will strengthen the tooth structure.

How painful are root canals?

Many people associate toothache pain with the root canal procedure. In reality, the root canal relieves that pain. The root canal procedure is virtually painless because your dentist will numb the area before starting treatment.

Are you awake for the root canal procedure?

Yes. During a root canal treatment, your dentist will inject a local anesthetic into the gums at the affected site, and this anesthetic keeps you from feeling pain.

Can a root canal be redone?

Yes. Once a tooth has been treated with a root canal, there are instances where all of the infected area is not removed, and another root canal is needed. However, this is rare since root canals have a high success rate.

What symptoms are not normal after a root canal treatment?

It is not normal if you feel severe pain or pressure, extreme swelling or an uneven bite after a root canal. You should contact your dentist immediately.

How long will you feel pain after a root canal?

You shouldn’t feel much pain after a root canal, other than mild discomfort, which should disappear after a couple of days. If you continue to feel pain or other symptoms, contact your dentist right away.

Should you brush your teeth after a root canal?

Maintaining good oral hygiene is always important. However, in the days after your root canal, be sure to brush and floss cautiously near the site to prevent tooth irritation.

How soon can you eat after a root canal?

You should be able to eat as soon as the numbness wears off. You should stick to soft, easy-to-chew foods and avoid anything too hot or too cold for a day or two following treatment.

We’re Here To Help

If you have dental pain or other symptoms of a root canal, this could mean there is an infection in your tooth. Don’t let fear or anxiety prevent you from calling West Coast Dental, your trusted dentist in Covina, Baldwin Park, Pomona, and many other nearby West Coast Dental clinics, to find out if you need root canal therapy. A root canal can eliminate your pain and save your tooth from extraction. If you think you might need a root canal, contact the team at West Coast Dental today at 888-329-8111.


American Association of Endodontists (AAE) – What Is a Root Canal?

American Association of Endodontists (AAE) – Myths About Root Canals

WebMD – Root Canals

Healthline – Do You Need a Root Canal? 7 Telltale Symptoms

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