Do you shy away when you hear the term “root canal”?

It’s ok if you do, it’s not like they have a reputation for being enjoyable. They can, unfortunately, be a part of life, especially if you have a history of cavities and plaque buildup, or have experienced an injury to the mouth such as a chipped tooth.

If you do end up needing a root canal, the sooner you take care of it, the better. That’s why we’ve compiled this guide, so you can see early on; the signs you may need a root canal.


A root canal is a procedure that removes the decay in your tooth’s root and pulp. You see, each tooth is made up of four layers:

  1. The outside of your tooth has a layer of enamel.
  2. Below that is a layer of dentin (which is what makes up most of your tooth).
  3. Then a little deeper is the soft core of your tooth. The core extends to the root in your jawbone.
  4. The dental pulp is the final layer, inside the core of the tooth. It contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. That’s why you usually feel pain or discomfort when you need a root canal, the pulp is often inflamed or infected, sometimes even dead.


The entire procedure will take a few hours to complete. During your appointment your dentist will:

  1. Remove bacteria and decay from pulp and the root.
  2. Disinfect the area with antibiotics.
  3. Fill the empty roots.
  4. Seal that area to prevent further decay. At the end, part of your natural tooth is left in place, but it’s much more fragile now. That’s why we recommend covering it with a crown.
  5. (If you opt for a crown) an impression will be made so you can have it installed permanently on a later visit. For now a temporary crown might be used.

You shouldn’t feel much pain during the procedure, but it will be uncomfortable. Thanks to today’s technology, a rootcanal feels like getting an extra deep filling. It’s also likely your dentist will use a local anesthetic to numb your tooth and gums.


SENSITIVITY: Extreme sensitivity is usually the first sign that you need a root canal. If you wince when drinking hot coffee, or bite into an ice cream cone, that could be a bad sign. It could be a dull ache, or tingling, either way, sensitivity to temperature can be an indication that the nerves are damaged or infected.

PAIN: Eventually that sensitivity will turn into pain. Persistent pain in your tooth, the bone below your toot, or in the jaw are all signs you may need a root canal. The pain could be constant or may go away periodically but always returns.

DISCOLORATION: When the pulp is infected it usually causes your tooth to become discoloured. It may even be a dark grey or black, because the tooth or tissue is traumatized by an infection.

SWOLLEN GUMS: If there’s consistent pain around a tooth your gums become inflamed. There’s also a chance that an abscess will form. That looks like a little pimple on your gums. It will eventually start oozing pus from the infection in the nearby tooth… that’s not something you want to taste.


It should be made clear, the only way to confirm you’re in need of a root canal is to make an appointment with your dentist. Even if it’s not a root canal, those symptoms are all a sign that something is wrong in your mouth. Let your dentisthelp you determine the best course of action.