What Is A Root Canal & When You Should Get One

What is a root canal? A root canal is often abbreviated as RCT, root canal therapy, or root canal treatment. With root canals, you’ll probably hear your dentist use the words endodontic treatment, or you may even see an endodontist which is a root canals specialist.

root canal procedure

A root canal procedure is typically one of your last options to save a severely decayed, damaged, abscess, or dying tooth. Instead of extracting the tooth, a root canal procedure removes the nerve tissues from your tooth and seals off the hollow chambers. It’s kind of like putting a filling where your nerve once was which preserves and saves your natural tooth.

Depending on treating which tooth in your mouth, the process and the cost will vary.

Some teeth only have one canal because there’s only one root in most of the front teeth whereas the back teeth will often have three or four canals, and will sometimes even have curved and twisted roots. All of these factors combined with your dentist’s own personal experience and resources will determine whether you will have the root canals procedure at your usual dentist’s office, or if refering you to see an endodontist who we said is the root canals specialist.

Lots of patients ask if you had a root canal do you need a crown. The answer is generally yes.

If you had root canals, you will need a crown, especially on the back teeth. Sometimes if you had a root canal in one of your front teeth, they can maybe patch it up with bonding material instead of a crow. But this always determines in a case-by-case situation depending on the status of your remaining tooth structure. A general rule of thumb here you will always need a crown after getting a root canal on your back teeth, your molar teeth, and your premolar teeth.

teeth crown
The other question is can you have a crown without getting a root canal and this is a more straightforward answer of yes.

Absolutely it is very common for a patient to need a crown but not need a root canal. Oftentimes you’ll need a crown due to tooth decay on the crown portion of the tooth. If there is no infection in the root portion of the tooth, the decay did not reach the nerve, then you wouldn’t need a root canal. You would just need a crown.

Needing root canals usually involves decay and infections. But it can also associate with past trauma of the nerve of your tooth, or from a hairline fracture down the root of the tooth, and also sometimes with trauma. It can actually catch you by surprise years down the road if you got hit in the face as a kid, the issue might not show up on your teeth until you’re an adult.

So how would you know if you need a root canal?

Of course, your dentist would tell you by examining the tooth in question with x-rays, different bite tests, and stimulus tests. If you are ever concerned that you may need a root canal, the best advice is to always visit your dentist’s office ASAP.

Until then here are some red flags to look out for some warning signs that your tooth may be headed into a root canal territory.

Severe pain.

teeth fistula

The type of pain that doesn’t go away throbbing all night, a sore on your gums by one tooth sometimes with an abscess. You can see a little bubble above the tooth on your gums. Also, this little bubble is a fistula, and fistulas can come and go but the abscess will remain until the root canal completes. So it’s super important to be aware that just because the bubble went away does not mean your tooth healed itself. It definitely didn’t. The bubble will always come back and oftentimes it comes back with more pain than before.

Pressure sensitivity and heat sensitivity.

When you have a tooth that isn’t responding well to hot foods and drinks, definitely a red flag. Lots of patients didn’t realize when they were getting root canals. They didn’t realize that a root canal often starts as a cavity. I know we mentioned it could also be because of trauma or a fracture. But more often than not, it is because of tooth decay that got bigger which could have been prevented.

That’s why it’s so important to schedule a filling appointment if your dentist recommends you to refill a cavity. This is because tooth decay spreads. If it spreads to the nerve of the tooth, it becomes an abscess which causes the swelling inside of the tooth. It can create a cyst or an area of drainage out of the tip of the root, as known as an infection.

root canal

If your dentist says you have a cavity and you need a filling, I can’t stress enough how important it is to schedule that cavity filling appointment. So you don’t ever have to worry about that tooth making its way into root canals territory. If you don’t get things treated, they will always turn into something worse if you wait too long. Putting off filling, a cavity can turn into a root canal. And putting off getting a root canal can turn into the tooth becoming unsalvageable needing to pull.

dental appointments

In all, don’t wait until something hurts to seek out dental care. Routine dental appointments and catching things before they hurt are key to giving you a better chance to save and preserve all of your natural teeth. I hope this blog helped you.

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