When Does a Tooth Need a Root Canal?

root canal Alpharetta, GA

When there is severe decay or infection in a tooth, a root canal may be required. This type of procedure involves clearing out infected or rotting material residing in the passages between the pulp and roots of a tooth. Material like this can cause tremendous pain and oral damage, and a root canal can help alleviate the pain and repair the damage. Here are some signs a tooth may need a root canal.

Visible signs

Many times when a tooth needs a root canal, visible symptoms are present. These signs can take time to appear, so an urgent visit to the dentist may be required once they are identified. 

Cracks or chips

A tooth with a crack or chip is more susceptible to decay because germs and bacteria can penetrate the enamel through the crack and reach the nerve or root more easily. Once bacteria has started attacking a nerve, decay can happen quickly. 


Depending on how deep a cavity is, the nerve of the tooth may be exposed and vulnerable to attack from bacteria. An exposed nerve can be extremely painful and could eventually necessitate a tooth extraction if not swiftly corrected.


In some cases, a small white bump can form on the gums by the infected tooth. This is one sign indicating a tooth needs repair. It can also be a sign of an abscess or infection in the gums. 


As a tooth starts to decay, it will typically turn darker. While both white and dark spots can indicate cavities, darker spots are usually more severe. When an entire tooth turns dark, a root canal may be the recommended action. 


If the decay has caused an infection in the tooth, it can sometimes spread to the gums and cause swelling or puffiness. This symptom should usually be localized to the infected tooth.

Sensory signs

Visible signs can sometimes take longer to appear than sensory signs. It is important not to ignore unusual pain or sensations in the mouth. 

Tooth pain

Not all tooth pain means a root canal is necessary, but pain almost always accompanies other symptoms. Any time a tooth nerve is exposed, infected or decaying, it typically will cause pain in at least one tooth. In some cases, entire areas of the mouth feel sore or hurt.

Tooth sensitivity

Although it can be common for teeth to be sensitive to extreme hot or cold temperatures, a tooth that is sensitive to even mild temperature changes or remains sensitive even after the hot or cold element is gone can be a sign of tooth decay. 


To remove decayed material and allow an infected tooth to heal, a root canal may be the appropriate course of action. Visible signs like cracks, discoloration and swelling as well as tooth pain and sensitivity can all be signs of tooth decay a dentist should be made aware of. Having a root canal can help save a tooth from extraction and stop any pain associated with the infection. 

Request an appointment here: https://www.familydentistryonline.net or call Old Alabama Dental Care at (770) 200-4032 for an appointment in our Alpharetta office.

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