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3 Signs You Need a Root Canal

August 3, 2020
Woman in dental chair smiling and having a discussion with dentist

A root canal is a common but complex dental procedure. The goal is to clean out the tooth roots and seal the space with a biocompatible material. Once the root canal is completed, a general dentist places a permanent restoration which may include a post and restorative material to build up the remaining tooth structure. This sets a sturdy foundation for the final crown which restores the tooth to function. Taking these steps allows us to save teeth that would otherwise need to be extracted.

Regular checkups and dental X-rays are a critical part of oral health.  Although everything may feel just fine, not all teeth that need root canals cause symptoms. In most cases, however, you will notice signs that are difficult to ignore.  In general, if you have dental pain that interferes with sleep, work, or a good time, it is time to see your dentist.  Below are three of the most common signs you need a root canal:

Tooth Pain

Although tooth pain does not always mean you need a root canal, it does signal that something is wrong. A thorough exam by an Endodontist, an expert in tooth pain, is the best way to determine what may be the cause. Dental pain may range anywhere from mild to excruciating. It can also be constant or come and go.  You might feel pain only when chewing, or it might last continuously for hours or days. As time goes on, it is common for the pain to change in intensity or quality.  Oftentimes root canal pain begins with mild discomfort, progressing to extreme pain/sensitivity, and if left long enough an abscess or infection may develop.


Like pain, dental swelling runs the gamut from mild to severe. You might notice a tender, slightly raised spot on the gum near the tooth, or you may be swollen into your neck or face. This area may or may not drain fluid and is likely to feel sore or tender. Long standing dental issues may cause swelling that comes and goes over weeks, months, or years. Regardless, swelling is a clear sign of a problem that requires immediate attention. See your dentist right away.

Temperature Sensitivity

Dentin hypersensitivity, or sensitive teeth, can be caused by many factors. However, a new sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures can sometimes be the only outward sign that a tooth needs a root canal. You might feel only mild discomfort, or hot or cold items like ice water or hot pizza may literally take your breath away. Your dentist will determine the source of your pain and whether you need a root canal.

Modern Root Canal Treatment

Root canals historically have a less than rosey reputation as painful and uncomfortable procedures. Modern root canal treatment, on the other hand, has changed this perception dramatically. Patients are much more likely to describe their procedures as “a long filling” than the painful episodes of yesteryear. At North Shore & Brookline Endodontics your comfort is our number one priority and we work hard to ensure a pleasant experience from the moment you enter our office.

We are committed to reducing your anxiety. If you have fears or concerns, please discuss them with us. We have quite a few techniques to help you feel more relaxed. 

North Shore & Brookline Endodontics is a specialty dental practice limited to endodontic therapy, with six clinics in the greater Boston area. Our mission is to use our knowledge and experience in root canal therapy to save teeth that would otherwise be lost. If you are searching for a skilled, compassionate endodontist in greater Boston, call the closest office today to learn how we can help.

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