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How Will Your Dentist Decide If You Need A Root Canal?

Root canals are routine procedures that dentists perform often when the pulp inside a tooth is infected. In fact, there are over 15 million root canals performed each year. While the treatment is routine for the dentist, it generally strikes fear in the mind of the patient. If you have a root canal procedure scheduled in your future and you are feeling fearful about it, you should know that your dentist will only perform a root canal if it is absolutely necessary. Your dentist, someone like Rick Chavez DDS, will use a variety of criteria to decide if you need a root canal. Keep reading to understand a few of these deciding factors.


If your tooth is painful, then your dentist may decide that a root canal is necessary. There are a variety of different types of pain that will indicate that your tooth is not well. Lingering pain is one type and this pain sticks around for an extended period of time. Typically, pain will come on when you eat hot and cold foods and stick around for an hour or more. If this type of sensitivity is concentrated around a single tooth, then this indicates that the tooth pulp is likely dead and the dental nerve is reacting more aggressively than it should to sensations. You may notice this type of reaction as well if you experience spontaneous or sudden pain. This pain arises for no reason and indicates dead tooth pulp too.

Pain that occurs as soon as you move in some way is another sensation that you may experience if you need a root canal. Typically, standing, laying your head down on your pillow, or completing any sort of exercise will cause the discomfort. This usually indicates that an abscess is located in your tooth. The abscess causes pain from the tooth if the pus sack is jostled in any way, like when you stand. Also, activities cause the pain because they send more blood throughout the body. Blood flow then increases to your teeth. This forces more pressure against the infected tooth pulp and the abscess, and you feel pain.

Infected teeth typically cause a great deal of inflammation, so you may feel some sensations around your ears, jaw, gums, sinus cavities, and the teeth around the infected one. This indicates that the tissues near the tooth are becoming inflamed and pain will be felt as the swollen tissues place pressure on the nerves in the area. While discomfort in other areas of the mouth and head can indicate an infection and the need for a root canal, your dentist will also need to note pain around a single tooth as well to rule out a sinus or ear infection.

Located Abscesses

Your dentist will make visual inspections to find an abscess around a tooth to determine whether or not a root canal needs to be performed. Abscesses may be located on an x-ray, and they will look like black spots either inside the infected tooth or along the jaw. An abscess in the tooth will show a tooth infection across the dental pulp. An abscess along the jaw will indicate to the dentist that infected fluids have seeped out of the tooth roots to form a ball of pus below the tooth. Both of these visual indications will often lead to the need for a timely root canal so that the infection does not have the opportunity to spread. 

When your dentist looks inside your mouth, he will also look for a fistula. This indicates that an abscess has formed as well. A fistula is a little white, yellow, red spot on the gums near the tooth. Fluids will likely appear around the formation and this indicates that there is pus below the gums that is trying to release from the tissues.