How Does a Dentist Determine if a Root Canal is Needed?

How Does a Dentist Determine if a Root Canal is Needed?

Nov 01, 2022

The dentist uses root canal treatment to repair and rescue teeth that have become infected or badly decayed. When the tooth pulp gets damaged, it requires immediate removal, cleaning, and sealing of the inside of the tooth.

The procedure is highly successful because it has a 95% success rate. Physical signs typically do not show up till the issue has become advanced.

That is why it is crucial to regularly get in touch with the dentist at the dental clinic near you.

Common Symptoms of Root Canal

The symptoms that signify the necessity of the root canal include:


Sharp pain in the tooth can also indicate that a root canal is affected. The pain types that can identify a root canal infection include:

  • A spontaneous tooth pain.
  • Tooth pain that cannot be relieved by taking pain-killing medicines.
  • Pain is so sharp that you are unable to sleep at night.
  • When you change posture, the intensity of pain changes.
  • Pain is triggered by eating hot food after cold food and vice versa, pressure, or other stimuli.

Tenderness of Gums and Swelling

Gum tenderness and swelling accompanied by any toothache also indicate a need for a root canal procedure.

Dental professionals often prescribe oral antibiotics to cope with root canal infection, swelling, and tenderness of gums.

General Feeling of Illness

The feeling of uneasiness and tender/swollen lymph nodes indicate the necessity of endodontic surgery.

It’s mainly when these signs are accompanied by other signs. Make sure you consult with an experienced dentist immediately to save your tooth and precious time.

Symptoms that Only a Dentist Can Identify

The following symptoms indicate the need for root canal therapy:

  • Recurring or Persistent Gum Boils

Gum boils are pus drains that let pus ooze off. It can even lead to swelling or penetrate the mouth’s soft tissues.

  • Discoloration of Tooth

Discoloration of the tooth also signifies the need for root canal therapy. It can be due to tooth trauma or indicate that few changes have happened within the tooth nerve. Also, tooth discoloration can be accompanied by swelling or tooth pain.

  • Exposure to Tooth NervesĀ 

When the dental professional contacts the soft tissue of the tooth pulp during the treatment, it results in the exposure of nerves. It can also lead to the degeneration of tissues in the future and indicate a root canal treatment.

  • Testing Techniques

Sometimes, dental professionals also use some testing techniques to determine the necessity of a root canal procedure.

These include:

  • Electric and thermal testing.
  • The cavity test.
  • Tapping on the problematic tooth.
  • Additional X-rays at different angles.
  • Selective anesthesia.

The dentist uses selective anesthesia to determine the pain source when a patient fails to signify the tooth causing pain. The expert may use extra X-rays to find whether a radiolucency is present.

In the cases where they cannot identify that an existing tooth is the issue or find that the tooth nerve is dead, then the dentist uses a cavity test.

They use a tap on the problematic tooth to determine whether the tooth pain occurs due to sufficient pressure. With the same idea, the expert uses electric and thermal testing.

  • Dental X-rays

Scheduling X-ray exams regularly helps to determine the existing issues with the teeth. It allows you to use highly-efficient treatment. The experts usually use the technology to detect radiolucency.

It is a dark area on the tip of the problematic tooth. Dental X-rays, with other methods, help the dentist create a complete picture of whether the patient requires a root canal.

Reasons for Root Canal Infection

An infected root canal happens when the bacteria inside the mouth invade the pulp.

A root canal infection can spread to the nearby tissues in the mouth – gums, cheeks, face, and other teeth. To treat it, the dentist recommends root canal retreatment.

Below are the common reasons a tooth can have an infection after an RCT. These include:

  • A damaged or cracked tooth.
  • Different tooth displacements due to intrusion, extrusion, or subluxation.
  • Abnormality in the anatomy of teeth.
  • Dental caries.
  • Repeated procedures on the same tooth.
  • Sterile necrosis caused by concussion of tooth.
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