7 Signs You May Need A Root Canal

by | May 20, 2022

Every year dentists perform over 15 million root canals. But, how do you know if you need a root canal? And, if you do, what exactly is a root canal?

What Is A Root Canal?

A root canal is a procedure to fix a tooth and is part of the tooth’s anatomy. The cavity inside the tooth that houses the nerve is called the root canal. 

When infection or a cavity reaches the nerve, it becomes painful. A root canal is also the process of removing the bad pulp, cleaning the root canal, filling and sealing the space.

Once the root canal is complete, your dentist will generally place a crown on the tooth for protection. It is vital to address tooth pain immediately because an infection can spread causing further health complications.

Tooth Anatomy 101

If you’re asking yourself, how do I know if I need a root canal, you need to first understand the basic anatomy of a tooth. 

The hard, white outside of the tooth is the enamel. Dentin is the layer under the enamel. When hot or cold substances enter the dentin layer through damaged enamel, it causes pain. 

Under the dentin layer is the pulp. It contains the nerves and blood vessels. At the base of the root is the cementum. This is what connects the tooth to the gum. 

Pros And Cons Of A Root Canal

Every dental procedure has pros and cons. For this reason, it’s essential to discuss your concerns with your dentist. 


  • Relieves your tooth pain
  • Stops the loss of bone around your tooth
  • Allows you to keep the tooth
  • Less expensive than an implant


  • It can be uncomfortable sitting with your mouth open the whole time
  • Small risk of an infection

How Have Root Canals Changed?

How do you know if the tooth pain is an infection in the root canal? Tooth pain or tenderness can be several things, so what are the signs you need a root canal?

Years ago, just the words root canal would make people cringe. Numbing medications are far more advanced as well as the technology. As a result, root canals are painless, and recovery time is minimal. 

Root canals were also costly many years ago. However, today they are more affordable, and most dentists offer payment options. 

7 Signs You Need A Root Canal

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it is crucial to tell your dentist. 

1. Severe Tooth Pain

While you should mention any tooth or mouth pain to your dentists, specific pains can mean you need a root canal. For example, spontaneous pain that comes in waves typically means you have a dead or infected tooth. 

In addition, specific positions, such as laying down or bending over, can increase pain. If these positions cause severe pain, it might be root canal pain.

2. Bumps On Your Gums

If you have little pimple-like bumps on your gums, you may have an infected tooth requiring a root canal. These bumps are called fistulas. 

3. Temperature Sensitivity

Just because you have tooth pain from a hot or cold substance doesn’t mean you need a root canal. However, if the pain lingers long after you swallow the food or drink, it often means a root canal is necessary.

4. Swollen Or Tender Gums

If you have a tooth infection, your gums will typically swell around the tooth. However, brushing too hard and flossing often causes swelling and tenderness. But if the gums remain swollen or tender to the touch, you may need a root canal.

5. Gums Are Darkening

If your gums are darkening, it is a sign of gum decay which means a tooth is dying. Darkening of the gums is also a sign that you need a root canal. 

6. An Abscess

An abscess is a dark spot on an x-ray. It is a hole in the jawbone caused by an infection that prevents the bone from growing. This typically requires a root canal.

7. Broken Or Cracked Tooth

Another sign you may need a root canal is a broken or cracked tooth. Maybe there was a trauma that chipped or cracked the tooth, causing inflammation and infection. Perhaps the tooth is so infected it died, leading to a crack or chip. To save the tooth,  a root canal is often necessary. 

Root Canal Recovery Time

After your root canal, you may have minor discomfort for a few days. While this is normal, if it persists after a week, contact your dentist. 

If You’re Asking Yourself, “Do I Need A Root Canal” Don’t Wait 

If you are experiencing any of these signs, they could be symptoms of a severe infection. Call Gardens Family Dentistry and schedule an appointment right away. Dr. Dalia Al-Azzawi treats root canals, does teeth cleanings, fillings, implants, and more for the entire family.

Contact us today and find out if you need a root canal or other dental procedure.