Do I need a root canal?
We get this question most frequently from patients that schedule emergency appointments because they’ve noticed some tooth pain. In most of these cases, patients don’t end up needing root canal therapy. Root canal therapy is only necessary when the nerve and blood vessels inside teeth are inflamed or infected. In these cases, the pain is often constant and severe, and occurs spontaneously, or even wakes the patient up at night.
In most cases, the nerves and blood vessels (also known as the pulp of a tooth) only get inflamed or infected after there has been a history of problems with the tooth. It is very rare for a tooth that has never had a deep cavity, a large filling, a crown, or trauma to end up needing root canal treatment. The most common cases of teeth that end up needing root canal treatment are the ones that have had cavities that were so deep that they were very close to the pulp, or even into the pulp. This is just one of the reasons why it is important to catch cavities when they are small and to stop them in their tracks before they become painful.
History of trauma to the tooth is also a common reason why root canal treatment may be necessary. If a tooth was fractured and the pulp was exposed, it is likely the pulp will become inflamed and painful. Even in cases in which the tooth does not break, but the root of the tooth is moved off its blood supply, over time the tooth will die because it is
no longer receiving nutrients from the blood. After the pulp dies, bacteria can invade and cause an infection. Sometimes a toothache won’t happen for years after the original incident.