A root canal is a dental treatment process used to restore decayed teeth. A root canal is generally performed to keep the patient from losing a tooth as well as to prevent abscesses from forming. Some people fear root canals because they believe them to be painful. However, a root canal is generally no more painful than having a tooth filled.

In most cases, root canal treatments are successful at preserving the patient’s natural teeth. The earlier a patient sees a dentist, the more likely the patient is to save the tooth. There are several root canal symptoms that people should look out for.

patient getting a root canal

5 Root Canal Symptoms

1. Tooth Pain

Serious pain in a tooth that becomes more intense while eating is the most tell-tale of root canal symptoms. Other patients complain of sensitivity to hot and cold that lingers even after the hot or cold substances have been removed from the tooth. A decaying tooth will often darken, sometimes to the point of turning black. A decaying tooth may also produce a foul odor in the mouth.

2. Gum Pain

In some cases, the patient may feel a small bump on the gums around the area of the decayed tooth. Soreness and swelling of the gums is also common. The gums are usually sensitive to the touch.

3. Diagnosis
Dentists usually confirm that a patient needs a root canal based on X-ray results and oral exams. During an oral exam, the dentist will check for tooth sensitivity and swollen gums. The x-ray will show the dentist if there are signs of infection, and it will also allow the dentist to assess the canals and locate the decay.

4. Root Canal Procedure

Once the dentist has x-rayed the teeth and checked for root canal symptoms, he or she will inform the patient of any problems. If a root canal is needed, the dentist will use anesthesia to numb the area around the tooth. After applying anesthesia, the dentist will then drill a hole in the tooth. Then, the decayed nerve tissue, the tooth pulp and bacteria are removed from the tooth. To do this, the dentist scrapes the inside of the tooth to clean it out.

5. Crown Procedure

After the tooth is cleaned, the dentist seals it. In most cases, a crown or a filling is placed over the tooth to protect it and prevent it from breaking. The crown procedure requires more than one office visit. First, the dentist will fit the tooth for the crown by taking impressions of the tooth. The patient usually receives a temporary crown during the first visit. The impressions will be sent off to a lab where the crown will be made to fit the tooth. When the patient comes back for the second visit, the dentist will fit the permanent crown over the tooth and check the space to ensure the tooth fits properly.

After a Root Canal

After the procedure is done, the tongue and gums will be numb for a while, usually a couple of hours. The patient should refrain from eating while the mouth is numb, this is to prevent the patient from biting their tongue or the inside of their cheek. It is normal to experience a little discomfort in the area around the tooth after the numbness wears off. Over-the-counter pain relievers usually work to fight this mild pain.

Caring for a Crown

For a few days after a crown is first cemented, the patient should refrain from eating sticky or chewy foods. Chewy foods can pull the crown out. For the first few days, the patient may need to chew more heavily on the opposite side of his or her mouth; this is because the area around the crown might be sore. If a crown comes out, the patient should see the dentist again to have it re-cemented.

A crown should be cared for in the same manner as the patient’s natural teeth. Crowns should be brushed and flossed. However, dentists might recommend that crowns be flossed more carefully so as not to pull up on them. Ask a dentist or hygienist to demonstrate how to properly floss around a crown.


Practicing good oral hygiene is the best way to prevent tooth decay and reduce one’s risk of needing a root canal. Brushing twice a day and flossing every day are important. A toothbrush should be replaced every three or four months. Rinsing with mouthwash will help reduce the amount of harmful bacteria in the mouth. People should also refrain from eating or drinking too much sugar, especially the sort found in soda and candy.

Having regular dental checkups is another way to prevent root canal symptoms. During regular checkups, patients have cleanings, a process during which plaque is removed from teeth. This process helps to ensure teeth remain healthy by reducing the patient’s risk of periodontal disease and gingivitis.

dental instruments


Root canal symptoms should be taken seriously. If a person experiences severe pain in a tooth, sensitivity to hot or cold and has swollen or sore gums, he or she should see a dentist as soon as possible. When the need for a root canal is detected early, the dentist is usually able to save the tooth. Still, if it’s not detected early, the patient may need to have the tooth extracted.

Images from depositphotos.com.