Root canal therapy (abbreviated as RCT, also called endodontic treatment or therapy) is highly effective at saving teeth that would otherwise die and have to be removed. As with all dental procedures, it’s best to get a tooth in need of an RCT treated quickly so that the situation doesn’t worsen. That said, how do you know if you need a root canal?
When Root Canal Therapy Is Needed
First, let’s begin with why RCT may be needed. When the pulp of a tooth (the soft tissue inside the tooth) becomes infected or damaged, it begins to break down. Bacteria multiplies within the pulp chamber, eventually causing an infection or abscessed tooth. If it is left untreated, the tooth will die and the infection can spread to other teeth, the surrounding gums and even into the bone, face, neck and head, causing further serious health complications. Fortunately, RCT has a very high success rate of cleaning and sealing the inner chambers of the tooth and restoring your oral health. In most cases, a successful root canal treatment lasts a lifetime.
There are many possible causes of damaged tooth pulp, including: an untreated crack or chip in the tooth, deep decay, repeated dental procedures, large fillings, or trauma to the mouth or face.
Signs and Symptoms
Although your dentist will determine whether or not RCT is necessary to save your tooth with an examination and x-rays, there are some common signs and symptoms to indicate when root canal therapy could be needed. They are:
- Persistent or recurring pimples on the gums
- Swelling and tenderness in nearby gums, lymph nodes
- Tooth pain while chewing or upon application of pressure
- Prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold
- Discoloration of tooth
- Sometimes, no symptoms are present
Because there are sometimes no symptoms, it’s important to keep up with routine dental exams to detect and treat an infected or damaged tooth as early as possible - and indeed, any oral health issue. Visit your dentist regularly, and as soon as possible if you notice any of these symptoms!