Help! I have tooth pain, do I need a root canal? Most people have heard of the procedure, and each year root canals are performed to save millions of teeth, but what exactly is involved in a root canal, and when will a dentist advise a patient to get a root canal rather than a traditional filling?

Typically performed by endodontists and general practitioners, root canals are a dental procedure that focuses on treating the inside of the tooth to save the outside of the tooth. Beneath the white enamel that coats the tooth, and the hard layer – known as dentin – that gives the tooth its structure is a soft pulp containing blood vessels and nerves that both provide nutrients to the tooth during development.

As you age, the pulp can become inflamed or infected due to causes such as deep decay, cracked teeth, or even repeated dental procedures. If the pulp becomes infected, it can cause significant pain, even potentially causing abscesses over time.

A dentist will typically make a recommendation for a root canal if they determine that the pulp is negatively impacted. For patients, though, some signs that a root canal may be required include severe pain (especially when chewing, or when pressure is applied to the tooth), tooth discoloration, swelling and tenderness to the nearby gums, or a crack so severe that pulp material can be seen or felt. While these symptoms are signs you may need a root canal, it’s also possible that deep decay can require a root canal without causing any symptoms at all.

To a patient, this procedure will begin much like a normal dental filling – it will involve drilling to remove decay, and then the dentist will carefully remove the inflamed pulp, cleaning and disinfecting the narrow roots of the tooth. Once cleaned, the dentist will fill the empty space with a rubber-like substance that mimics the removed pulp, and finally, rebuild the core of the tooth with a cement-like compound that forms a strong foundation for the crown. The crown, crafted to mimic the size and shape of the original tooth, will be fitted onto the rebuilt core and cemented into place. After the procedure, you may be prescribed antibiotics to avoid future infection, but since the nerves within the tooth are removed, post-procedure pain is typically fairly mild.

The root canal is a routine procedure, but it often requires multiple visits and is used to treat teeth with serious problems. Not only does a root canal save the natural tooth, but it’s also less expensive and less invasive than alternatives such as bridges and implants.

If you are experiencing tooth pain call Tory Hill Dental immediately for an appointment at 207-929-6626 or via our website at