A root canal is a treatment to repair and save a badly damaged or infected tooth. The procedure involves removing the damaged area of the tooth (the pulp), cleaning and disinfecting it and then filling and sealing it. The common causes affecting the pulp are a cracked tooth, a deep cavity, repeated dental treatment to the tooth or trauma. The term “root canal” comes from cleaning of the canals inside the tooth’s root.
The most common symptom that may indicate the need for a root canal is obvious tooth pain. Root canals are performed when the nerve or “pulp” of the tooth becomes infected and inflamed due to dental decay, a cracked or broken tooth, or an injury to the tooth. Your gums may also feel tender and swollen near the problem area.
In any case, you should always contact your dentist right away. Explain your symptoms by phone to a staff member, who may arrange for you to come in right away or may recommend emergency care depending on the severity of your symptoms. To soothe the pain and alleviate swelling, apply an ice pack to the outside of your jaw.
When you come in for your appointment, your dentist will examine your tooth and take X-rays in order to diagnose the cause of your problem. After proper examination, your dentist will be able to tell you the best course of action to resolve your symptoms or ask you to visit a specialist who treats nerve damage to the teeth. Depending on the cause of the problem, your dentist may recommend a root canal or a completely different and possibly less invasive dental procedure on what is diagnosed.
Only your dentist can answer the question: “Do I need a root canal?” Call your dentist right away if you notice tooth pain, swelling or tenderness to get on track with the right treatment.