How Do I Know That I Need A Root Canal? Posted on January 15, 2014

Your tooth is hurting, but do you need a root canal, or can it be solved using a filling? There are several symptoms that may give you an idea that you need a root canal.

Signs That You Need a Root Canal

  • One symptom is that a tooth becomes sensitive to hot or cold or both at the same time and that this sensitivity is a recent development. Teeth can only tell you pain and cannot distinguish different stimuli such as hot, cold or sweets. A healthy nerve will usually respond in the range of 5 to 7 seconds when it is stimulated. This means that any pain goes completely away and the tooth feels the same as it did before it was stimulated. Any pain lasting longer than this indicates a nerve that cannot repair itself and will most likely require a root canal. It is not unusual for a tooth be slightly more sensitive to temperature after any new filling is placed. This should still fall in the range of 5 to 7 seconds though. Most of the time teeth that have a new filling or an old filling replaced will have some sensitivity to temperature changes. If the nerve is healthy, this will resolve in several weeks to a couple of months.
  • Another indication that a tooth may require a root canal is sensitivity to biting. This could indicate that an infection or abscess is developing at the end of the root. There are times when you may have symptoms well before the abscess can be seen on a x-ray. It takes about 15% to 20% of the bone to be damaged over an infection before it will show up on a x-ray. This sensitivity could also indicate a fracture within the tooth. There are several tests and instruments to help determine this, which the endodontist will have in his or her office.
  • You may also need a root canal if there is swelling in the area of a particular tooth. The swelling is caused by an infection associated with a root that is draining through the bone into the surrounding soft tissue. This can be small in size or very large. It may also appear as a small pimple with a little white head. Having this usually indicates that the nerve inside the tooth is dead, and the tooth definitely requires root canal treatment.
  • If you have an accident and a tooth or teeth are completely knocked out of your mouth (avulsed), this definitely requires root canal treatment. In this case, the nerve and blood vessels have been broken and the nerve tissue inside the root will die in a short time. In these cases, the tooth or teeth need to be placed back in the socket as quickly as possible. Root canal treatment should be initiated as soon as possible to help prevent root resorption from occurring.

Endodontists Specialize in Root Canal Therapy

Regardless of what you’ve heard about root canals, the modern equipment that endodontists now use makes this procedure much faster and more comfortable than it was decades ago. Be sure to use an endodontist, who is a dentist who has undergone additional years of training to learn to perform root canals and save teeth. Dr. Gregory Semashko is an endodontist who serves the Cranberry, Wexford, and North Hills area of Pittsburgh. Call his office today for an appointment.