When Is a Root Canal Necessary? Here Are Some Signs You Need One By Daniel Whiteman D.M.D. on October 15, 2023

A man experiencing jaw pain

An infected tooth can be painful, and without proper treatment, can lead to further oral health issues such as infection and even missing teeth. A root canal can eliminate the infection to relieve your pain and restore your oral health. Learn about what symptoms to look for and when you may need a root canal at our dental practice in Brookline, MA.

How Does a Tooth Become Infected?

There are several ways a tooth can become infected and thus require root canal therapy. However, an infection usually occurs when bacteria enter a tooth via cracks, chips, or cavities. The bacteria can then travel to the tooth roots, infecting the pulp, blood vessels, and other tissue in the tooth roots. In some cases, gum disease can be the cause of your infection. Periodontal care like scaling and root planing or laser therapy can address the issue within the gums, but if the tissue in the tooth root is already infected, a root canal is usually needed to eradicate the infection to restore your oral health.

What Are the Symptoms of an Infection?

Some signs you may need a root canal are obvious, while others may be subtle. Here are some signs you may need a root canal:

  • Tooth Pain
  • Tooth Sensitivity
  • Gum Inflammation
  • Tooth Discoloration
  • Bleeding
  • Abscess
  • Facial Swelling

If you experience any of these symptoms, it may be a sign that you require a root canal. However, in some cases, when caught early enough, it can be addressed through other treatments such as periodontal care. When in doubt, it is best to see your dentist to prevent the spread of infection.

What About Antibiotics?

Antibiotics are often not enough to completely eliminate an infection once it reaches the tooth roots. In some cases, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics along with root canal therapy to be sure the infection is completely gone and hasn't spread to other parts of your mouth.

Can I Just Have the Tooth Pulled?

While it may seem simple to just pull an infected tooth, we only perform an extraction as a last resort. Even a single missing tooth can cause issues such as:

  • Shifting teeth
  • Further tooth loss
  • Jawbone deterioration

A root canal allows your dentist to eliminate the infection while preserving the tooth structure. By saving the tooth, we can prevent the need for more extensive dental work such as dental implants or bone grafting.

Doesn't a Root Canal Hurt?

It is a common misconception that root canals are painful.

Before your dentist begins treatment, the area is thoroughly numbed. This should be the only uncomfortable part of treatment and it is quick. After you are numbed, you shouldn't feel any pain. If at any point something hurts, please let your dental team know so we can stop and address your discomfort. We also have sedation options for those who need an extra level of comfort. Once your root canal is complete, you may be sore for a day or two, but many patients find relief from painful symptoms once the root canal is complete.

Think You May Need a Root Canal? Contact Us

If you are experiencing any symptoms of an infection, please contact us to request a consultation. We also offer emergency appointments to help address pain or other emergent symptoms quickly. Our Brookline practice proudly serves the greater Boston area.

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Dr. Whiteman

Whiteman Dental Associates Daniel M. Whiteman, DMD

Dr. Daniel Whiteman is dedicated to providing exceptional care at his Brookline, MA, practice

  • Licensed to practice in the U.S., Canada, and Israel
  • Over 20 years in practice
  • Uses state-of-the-art technology
  • ADA-compliant office
  • General, cosmetic, and restorative treatments
  • Patient-oriented approach
  • Implant and CEREC (same day crown) dentistry
  • Laser dentistry including gum contouring and fibroma removal

To schedule your consultation, contact us online or call us at (617) 731-4746.

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