Outside of basic dentistry, the procedure that might be most associated with dentists is the root canal. Root canals go beyond basic cavity fillings or teeth cleanings; they’re a method of clearing out a deep tooth infection without removing the tooth. The most basic answer to the question posed in the title is this: you need a root canal when the root of your tooth becomes infected. Going further into detail can help you understand the symptoms that point to a root canal as well as why getting a root canal done is so important.
The signs you may need a root canal aren’t too dissimilar to the signs of a bad cavity. You may experience a lot of pain in the affected tooth as well as sensitivity to hot and cold. The gums near the tooth may become tender or begin to swell, and you may see the formation of a small bump – it might look like a pimple. One of the most prominent signs that you need a root canal is that the affected tooth begins to darken.
What’s happening when you’re experiencing all of these symptoms is fairly simple but does require some knowledge of tooth anatomy. The parts of your teeth above the gums are known as the crowns; below the gums, you’ll find the roots. Generally, infection doesn’t find its way to the root because it’s not exposed; it has to travel through the rest of the tooth first. When you have a cavity, however, the infection can begin to work its way from the crown to the root. Teeth are filled with blood vessels and nerve endings that keep them healthy but when an infection reaches your roots, it begins to compromise these tissues and the infection can eventually spread.
You’ll need a root canal (technically, a root canal procedure; the root canal is where the infection is) when the infection reaches the roots. Without the procedure, the tooth would have to be removed because the risk of infection spreading is too high, and eventually the tooth would die anyway (as the infection kills all of the healthy tissue in the tooth). The root canal procedure involves removing all of the infected tissue. After this, an artificial crown is often put over the tooth. This option is generally preferable to removing the tooth, which can affect how your smile looks, can cause problems chewing food, and can create misalignment in the rest of your teeth.
When you experience symptoms that could mean a cavity or a root canal infection, you should go see your dentist right away. The longer you wait, the more likely the infection is to spread, and the less likely it is you’ll be able to keep your tooth. Our experienced dental clinic in Winnipeg will be able to diagnose your teeth very quickly; from there, we’ll be able to propose the best treatment options for you.