Root Canal

  • Medical Author:
    Steven B. Horne, DDS

    Dr. Steve Horne began his career at Brigham Young University obtaining his BA in English. He earned his Doctorate of Dental Surgery in 2007 from the University of Southern California where his pursuit for academic excellence landed him on the Dean's List. He was recognized for his superior clinical skills and invited to help teach other dental students in courses on restorative dentistry, prosthodontics, and tooth anatomy. During dental school, he provided dental care for underserved populations of Los Angeles and Orange County, Mexico, and Costa Rica with AYUDA. Following dental school, Dr. Horne entered active duty with the U.S. Army and practiced dentistry at Fort Knox, Kentucky, for four years. During this time, he was deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, and received multiple Army Achievement Medals, the Army Commendation Medal, and served as Company Commander. Dr. Horne currently practices full time at Torrey Pines Dental Arts in La Jolla, California, as a general dentist. Dr. Horne is a member of the American Dental Association, the California Dental Association, and the Academy of General Dentistry. Dr. Horne is married to his wife, Christy, and they have a chocolate Labrador named Roscoe.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Why is a root canal necessary?

There are many things that can damage the pulp or nerve of the tooth. Often a patient will feel pain or other symptoms that alert them to needing root canal treatment, but many times there are no symptoms or warnings. The following are some of the more common reasons for needing root canal treatment.

Pain: A toothache is the most common symptom of needing a root canal. The pain that comes from a tooth needing a root canal is fairly specific. If the tooth is still alive, the affected person will experience extreme sensitivity to hot or cold liquids or foods and that sensitivity will continue even after the hot or cold stimulus is taken away from the tooth. Heat sensitivity, instead of cold, is a symptom that is very specific to a tooth requiring root canal treatment. The tooth may start to hurt spontaneously, in the middle of the night, or sometimes when the patient isn't even using the affected tooth to eat or drink. The pain can progress to a very severe generalized headache that may cause the person to even forget what initially caused the pain. If the tooth is dead and has become abscessed, the patient will feel pain when he or she chews food or puts pressure on the tooth. An abscess may or may not produce swelling or bleeding around the tooth, and sometimes it causes significant swelling of the cheek, jaw, or throat. If this swelling is noticed, treatment needs are urgent -- even if that means going to urgent care or the emergency room of a hospital. Many other conditions of the mouth can masquerade as a toothache. Therefore, it is very important, when feeling some pain around a tooth, to get a thorough examination with pulp vitality testing by a licensed dentist for a proper diagnosis.

Sometimes a patient may feel intense tooth pain that makes them think they need root canal treatment, but the pain is a symptom of another problem requiring a different treatment. Root surfaces that have become exposed as a result of gum recession can mimic cold sensitivity. Sinus congestion can produce pressure around the roots of the upper teeth and cause pain upon chewing, which mimics root canal pain. Jaw pain can either be an indication of pain in the jaw joint or pain referred from a tooth needing a root canal. Even gum disease can mimic the throbbing pain around teeth that can feel similar to root canal pain. Continue Reading

Reviewed on 5/24/2016
References
REFERENCES:

American Dental Association Division of Communications. "Getting to the root of endodontic (root canal) treatment The goal: preserving the tooth." Journal of the American Dental Association 132.3 (2001): 45-54.

Watkins, C. A., et al. "Anticipated and experienced pain associated with endodontic therapy." Journal of the American Dental Association 133.1 (2002): 45-54.

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6. Root Canal Illustration Molar" by Jeremy Kemp

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