Root canal procedures might not enjoy a spot at the top of anyone's list of favorite activities, but these treatments can bring great relief from some annoying symptoms — while also preventing systemic infections that can wreck your overall health. But how do you know that you might need root canal treatment? Here are three telltale signs that should prompt you to visit your dentist for an examination.
1. Persistent Tooth Pain
Do you feel a twinge of pain whenever you chew, or whenever you consume hot or cold beverages? In many cases, this kind of pain simply means that you have thin tooth enamel or cavity that needs filling. More seriously, you might have developed a crack or break in the tooth that calls for the placement of a dental crown. Once these corrections have been made, however, your pain should go away. If you're still experiencing pain — or if the pain seems to linger or occur on its own — you may have damaged the nerve tissue inside the tooth. This problem, irreversible pulpitis, may require your dentist to remove the nerve tissue through root canal treatment.
2. Facial or Gum Swelling
Have you ever seen a cartoon or comedy show that displayed a toothache victim with a massively swollen face? Swelling of the face or jaw can indeed occur when you have a serious infection. Bacteria that spreads from the diseased tooth pulp down into the jawbone can create a painful swelling known as an abscess. You'll need to get this symptom checked out right away so that your dentist can tame the infection. Once the infection is under control, you can proceed with root canal treatment. A less dramatic kind of swelling may appear as a "pimple" or boil on the gums next to the diseased tooth. This boil indicates that an infection has developed in or around the tooth root.
3. A Discolored Tooth
Even if you experience no pain or swelling, you or your dentist might still notice one other sign of a root canal problem: discoloration. The affected tooth may appear slightly darker in color than the neighboring teeth. This change can occur so gradually and subtly that you don't notice it for quite some time, especially in the absence of other symptoms. It often means that the pulp of the tooth has started to die, making it a potential source of disease. The good news is that you can have that tooth capped with a beautiful new porcelain exterior, one that matches the color of your other teeth as closely as possible.
Put your new knowledge of root canal "warning signals" to good use. If you're experiencing these signs of an underlying tooth root problem or you have questions about root canal procedures, contact your dentist right away.