Angie's LIST Guide to
Symptoms of a damaged root canal
A root canal is the space that tunnels below the tooth and into the root where you'll find the nerves and blood vessels in the teeth. If you get a disease or a buildup of germs in the canal, you may need oral treatments or surgery to remove it.
A dentist who has been specially trained to perform root-canal procedures can remove the germs and disease before they lead to an abscess or infection in your mouth.
Symptoms of endodontic problems may include gum tenderness when chewing or when pressure is applied. Significant tooth pain, swelling of the gums and tooth sensitivity to cold or hot foods or liquids can also occur. Other symptoms include tenderness of the jaw bone, gingival tissues and lymph nodes; drainage in the mouth, gum and jaw area; discoloration of teeth and toothache.
If you have experienced symptoms of a root-canal problem, your family dentist may refer you to a specialist.
The majority of dentists who specialize in this field perform root canals. Endodontic dentists also can diagnose and treat a variety of oral problems associated with the pulp (tissues), nerves and roots of your teeth and gums.
Specialized treatment is typically required if the dental pulp becomes infected due to tooth decay, cracked teeth, tooth injury or fractured roots.
A general dentist will recommend specialized treatment if the tooth does not have enough bone support, if teeth cannot be restored or if the root canal can't be accessed.
Common treatments and procedures may include the surgical removal of the diseased or abnormal tissues, repair of the area with damaged tissue or replacment of teeth that have been knocked out or broken due to injury.
Other common procedures include tooth implants, enamel bleaching and the surgical removal of the tooth, root tip and surrounding tissue due to an abscess.
Choosing an endodontist
In most situations, your general dentist will refer you to an endodontic dentist. You might seek out this dental specialist on your own, so it's important to know how to find the best services.
First, contact your health insurance company to make sure that dental specialists are covered. Depending on your policy, you may need a referral from your dentist in order to have your health care provider pay for treatment. Read through the listing of endodontists in the provider directory available from your health insurance company.
Verify their qualifications, education and continuing education by consulting Angie's List, where you can also see member reviews and rankings. Make sure your candidates are highly recommended, have a successful practice and are a member of the American Association of Endodontists.
The more procedures that an endodontist has completed, the more experience he or she will have. Important considerations include whether they belong to any dental societies, teach at a dental school and can share information about their experience and credentials.
Depending on the type of treatment you are seeking, you will most likely be given something for pain relief during your procedure, so remember to ask what medications they typically use before and after the procedure. Cost is an important issue as well, especially if you do not have dental insurance, so ask about financing options and the total cost.
Ask your general dentist for copies of X-rays and your most current dental history and ask that your general dentist and the endodontics specialist consult with each other on your dental health.