Understanding Root Canals: When and Why You May Need One

Dental health plays a crucial role in our overall well-being. While maintaining good oral hygiene can prevent many dental issues, certain conditions may require more advanced treatments. One such treatment is a root canal. In this blog, we will explore what a root canal is, the circumstances that may necessitate one, and the benefits of undergoing this procedure. We will provide information backed by reliable references to ensure accuracy and clarity.

decay on tooth reaching the nerve causing infection and pain

A tooth with a large cavity extending into the tooth pulp.

What is a Root Canal?

A root canal, also known as endodontic treatment, is a dental procedure performed to save a severely damaged or infected tooth. It involves the removal of the infected pulp from the tooth’s interior, cleaning and disinfecting the area, and then filling and sealing it to prevent further infection.

Signs and Symptoms That Indicate the Need for a Root Canal:

Certain signs may suggest the need for a root canal procedure. If you experience any of the following symptoms, it is advisable to consult your dentist for an evaluation:

– Persistent tooth pain, especially when biting or applying pressure.

– Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures, even after the stimulus has been removed.

– Gum swelling or tenderness near the affected tooth.

– Discoloration or darkening of the tooth.

– Prolonged sensitivity to sweets.

– The presence of a pimple-like bump on the gum near the tooth.

Causes of Tooth Damage or Infection:

Several factors can contribute to tooth damage or infection, which may need a root canal procedure. These include:

– Deep decay: Untreated cavities can progress and reach the inner pulp, causing infection and inflammation.

– Dental trauma: A physical injury to the tooth, such as a crack or fracture, can expose the pulp, leading to infection.

– Multiple dental procedures: Repeated dental treatments on a tooth can weaken it, increasing the risk of infection.

– Dental abscess: A pocket of pus caused by a bacterial infection can develop at the tooth’s root, requiring immediate attention.

The Root Canal Procedure:

Understanding the root canal procedure can alleviate any anxiety or concerns. Here are the general steps involved:

– X-ray and diagnosis: Your dentist will evaluate the tooth’s condition using X-rays and other diagnostic tools to determine the extent of damage and infection.

– Local anesthesia: The tooth and the surrounding area will be numbed to ensure a painless experience during the procedure.

– Pulp removal: The dentist will create an access point, remove the infected pulp, and clean the canals using specialized tools.

– Disinfection and filling: The canals will be disinfected to eliminate any remaining bacteria, and then filled with a biocompatible material called gutta-percha.

– Restoration: After the root canal, a dental crown or filling may be placed to restore the tooth’s strength and appearance.

Tooth after root canal treated

Tooth after Dr. Naranjo completed root canal treatment.

Benefits of a Root Canal:

Undergoing a root canal offers several benefits, including:

– Pain relief: treatment removes the infection and alleviates the severe pain associated with it.

– Tooth preservation: Saving the natural tooth through a root canal procedure helps maintain the integrity of the dental arch, preventing adjacent teeth from shifting.

– Efficient chewing: Restoring the tooth’s functionality allows for proper chewing and a return to normal eating habits.

– Natural appearance: A dental crown placed after a root canal can restore the tooth’s aesthetics, enhancing your smile.


Root canals are valuable procedures that can save severely damaged or infected teeth, providing relief from pain and preserving natural dental structure. Recognizing the signs and symptoms that indicate the need for a root canal and seeking prompt dental care can prevent further complications. Remember, contacting a dental professional is crucial to receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.


American Association of Endodontists. (n.d.). Root Canal Treatment: Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from https://www.aae.org/patients/root-canal-treatment/faqs/

Mayo Clinic. (2019, November 26). Root canal. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/root-canal/about/pac-20384631

American Association of Endodontists. (n.d.). Cracked Teeth. Retrieved from https://www.aae.org/patients/dental-symptoms/cracked-teeth/

American Dental Association. (2017, October). Root Canal Treatment. Retrieved from https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/r/root-canals

Cleveland Clinic. (2021, March 19). Root Canal Treatment. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/10909-root-canal-treatment

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Dr. Oscar Naranjo