When and Why Do You Need Root Canal?

Root canal treatment, often referred to simply as a root canal, is a dental procedure aimed at saving a tooth that has been severely damaged or infected. While the term “root canal” may evoke feelings of apprehension, it is a highly effective treatment that can alleviate pain and preserve the natural tooth structure. We will cover the process, indications, and importance of root canal treatment.

| Anatomy of a Tooth | Indications for Root Canal Treatment | Causes of Root Canal | Risks Associated with Root Canal | Final Remarks | References |

Anatomy of a Tooth

To comprehend why root canal treatment is necessary, it’s essential to grasp the anatomy of a tooth. Each tooth comprises several layers, including enamel, dentin, pulp, and roots. The pulp is located at the center of the tooth. It houses nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissues. It serves as a sensory organ, transmitting sensations like temperature and pain to the brain.

When a tooth is healthy, the pulp remains protected within the hard layers of enamel and dentin. However, if the protective layers are compromised bacteria can infiltrate the pulp chamber, leading to infection and inflammation. Once the pulp becomes infected, it cannot heal on its own.

Indications for Root Canal Treatment

Root canal treatment becomes necessary when the pulp of a tooth is damaged or infected. Several indications may signal the need for a root canal:

1. Severe Toothache: Persistent, throbbing tooth pain, especially when applying pressure, can indicate pulp inflammation or infection.

2. Sensitivity to Hot or Cold: Heightened sensitivity lasting even after the stimulus is removed, may indicate compromised pulp tissue.

3. Swelling in the Gums: Infection within the tooth can lead to swelling and tenderness in the surrounding gums.

4. Discoloration of the Tooth: Darkening or discolouration of the affected tooth may occur due to internal bleeding within the pulp chamber.

5. Bad Breath: If you have a persistent bad breath problem and your oral care routines can’t fix it, then it is highly likely that the bad odour is the result of bacterial infection.

Causes of Root Canal

Dental Decay (Caries)

Dental decay, also known as cavities or caries, stands as one of the primary culprits behind pulp damage or infection. This decay occurs when bacteria in the mouth produce acids. They gradually erode the enamel, the tooth’s outer protective layer. Over time, if left untreated, the decay progresses deeper into the tooth. It eventually reaches the pulp chamber. Once inside, bacteria can cause inflammation and infection [1].

Trauma or Injury

Trauma or injury to the tooth can also result in pulp damage or infection. Whether it’s a physical blow during sports or an accident, such events can lead to fractures. Severe trauma can expose the pulp chamber. It leaves it vulnerable to bacterial invasion and subsequent infection. Even seemingly minor injuries, if not solved, can compromise the tooth’s pulp.

Cracks or Fractures

Cracks or fractures in the tooth are another potential cause of pulp-related problems. These cracks may develop due to various factors, including trauma, chewing on hard objects, or the presence of large fillings that weaken the tooth structure [2]. When cracks extend into the pulp chamber, they create pathways for bacteria to infiltrate and cause inflammation or infection of the pulp tissue. Detecting such cracks may require diagnostic tools such as magnification and dental imaging for proper assessment and treatment planning.

Previous Dental Procedures

Previous dental procedures can also contribute to pulp damage or infection. It happens especially if they involve multiple fillings, crowns, or extensive restorative work. Improperly performed or poorly fitting dental restorations can create openings through which bacteria can penetrate the tooth and reach the pulp. Additionally, repetitive trauma during dental procedures can weaken the tooth’s structure.

Gum Disease (Periodontitis)

Gum disease, or periodontitis, represents another source of pulp-related issues. Advanced gum disease can lead to the formation of periodontal pockets. They harbor bacteria near the roots of the teeth. Bacterial infection from these pockets can spread to the roots and the pulp, causing inflammation and infection. Managing pulpitis caused by gum disease often requires a complex procedure.

Risks Associated with Root Canal

Incomplete Removal of Infected Tissue

One potential risk of root canal treatment is the incomplete removal of infected or necrotic tissue from the pulp chamber and root canals. Despite thorough cleaning and disinfection, some bacteria or infected tissue may remain. It leads to persistent infection or reinfection of the tooth. This can result in ongoing discomfort and even the formation of abscesses.

Damage to Surrounding Tissues

During the procedure, there is a risk of inadvertent damage to surrounding tissues such as the gums, blood vessels, or nerves. This can occur due to the use of instruments or excessive pressure applied during the cleaning and shaping of the root canals. While such damage is usually minor and resolves with proper care, more severe injuries may require additional treatment.

Failure of the Root Canal

Despite successful completion of the procedure, there is a risk of treatment failure over time. This can occur due to various factors, including the presence of additional undetected canals, incomplete sealing of the root canals, or the development of new infections. In such cases, the tooth may require treatment again [3].

Post-treatment Discomfort or Pain

It is common for patients to experience some degree of discomfort or pain following root canal treatment. This discomfort typically resolves within a few days to weeks as the tissues heal. However, in some cases, persistent or severe pain may indicate complications such as inflammation, infection, or an improperly sealed root canal.

Routine Techniques to decrease the chances of needing a Root Canal

  • Brush your teeth twice a day. Use fluoride toothpaste for extra protection.
  • Floss or use an interdental brush between your teeth once a day. This removes food particles and plaque that a toothbrush can miss.
  • Cut down on sugary snacks and drinks. Sugar feeds bacteria that cause tooth decay. Find out how diet plays an important role in your oral health.
  • Go for checkups every six months. Early detection of problems can prevent serious issues.
  • Wear a mouthguard if you play sports. It protects your teeth from injury.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Water helps wash away food particles and bacteria.
  • Don’t smoke or use other tobacco products. Tobacco can lead to gum disease and tooth decay.
  • Ask your dentist about sealants. They can protect the chewing surfaces of your back teeth.
  • It is ideal to chew sugar-free gum after meals. It stimulates saliva, which helps clean your mouth. However, one thing to keep in mind is to chew gums in which sugar is replaced with xylitol, stevia, or a combination of them.
  • Don’t ignore tooth pain or sensitivity. Early treatment can prevent more serious issues.

Final Remarks

In conclusion, root canal treatment is a highly effective procedure for saving teeth that are damaged or infected. However, prevention is better than cure. In order to avoid the invasive medical procedures, you should follow oral hygiene routines. Simple habits – brushing teeth twice a day, using interdental floss or an interdental brush regularly, chewing healthy gums – can go a long way in preserving teeth health. Check out how Chewing Gums can have surprising benefits on your oral health. Let’s not forget that teeth and bones have a significantly longer shelf life than human life. We just have to take good care of them!


[1] Causes of root canal – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33851687/

[2] Analysis of Reasons for Root Canal, its Treatment and Re-Treatment – https://pjmhsonline.com/2020/oct_dec/2002.pdf

[3] Root Canal treatment and the risks involved – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11307468/

Scroll to Top