Everyone knows the obvious sign of needing a root canal in the near future — a serious toothache, especially when chewing or applying pressure. Any tooth pain is your body’s way of saying something’s wrong, and a lot of the time it has to do with tooth decay. However, you and your teeth are unique, so you must obtain a professional diagnosis to determine the cause of your pain. Some signs that a root canal is necessary are obvious, but some are easy to miss.
A root canal is best performed by an endodontist, which is a dentist who specializes in dental surgeries. Root canals might be common, but they’re dental surgery, nonetheless. Since a fair percentage of root canals fail — and those usually are referred to an endodontist — you may as well go to a specialist from the start. Here are a few symptoms that a root canal might be in order:
1. The tooth becomes darker
You can’t always blame your coffee habit. Surprisingly, discoloration of a tooth might be a sign that there’s decay that’s been left for too long. This happens when the underlying dentin becomes affected. If you’ve been trying to tackle a tough stain with at-home bleaching kits or have kicked the dark soda habit and still aren’t seeing results, check with your dentist. It might be an infected tooth.
2. Swelling of the gums
It’s not just your teeth that are victims of infections, but also your gums. If they’re tender, quick to bleed, puffy or swollen, that might be a sign of an infected tooth. Inflamed gums can also be a symptom of other conditions, but all of them need medical intervention. Healthy gums are the framework for healthy teeth.
3. Hot/cold sensitivity
Many people experience tooth sensitivity to hot/cold temperatures, but if that pain lasts, it may be a telltale sign of an infected tooth. Check with your dentist to be certain. If there’s nothing wrong and you’ve simply become more sensitive to heat/cold over time, special toothpastes can help.
4. Gum “pimples”
You might be confusing them for canker sores, but gum “pimples” are different and a sign that a tooth is infected. Just like decay can grow under your teeth, bacteria can also become trapped below the gum’s surface making your gum painful and swollen.
Of course, the most insidious symptom is absolutely nothing. Some people have no signs of tooth decay. That’s why bi-annual — or at least annual — checkups are crucial. Only a dentist can diagnose tooth decay and determine whether a root canal is necessary, so make sure to keep those appointments.