Dr. Kathleen Mullaney • DDS • FAGD

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7 Signs You Need a Root Canal

7 Signs You Need a Root Canal

Facing a toothache can be distressing, especially when it persists despite over-the-counter remedies and patience. Sometimes, a toothache is more than just a passing discomfort; it may be a sign of infected dental pulp that requires immediate attention. If you’re unsure whether your toothache warrants a root canal, it’s essential to understand the symptoms that indicate the need for this dental procedure.

Our experienced Alexandria dentist explains the common signs you may need a root canal here.

What Is Dental Pulp?

The dental pulp is the soft tissue at each tooth’s core. It houses nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue. When the dental pulp becomes infected or damaged, it can lead to severe complications if left untreated.

What Is a Root Canal?

A root canal involves removing the infected pulp, thoroughly cleaning the inside of the tooth, and sealing it to prevent further infection. This treatment preserves the tooth and prevents potential long-term health issues.

The Top Signs You Need a Root Canal

Figuring out if you need a root canal can be tricky because only dentists can spot certain symptoms. That said, here are seven common signs that might mean you need a root canal:

  1. Persistent Toothache
  2. If you have a deep, intense pain in your tooth that radiates to other areas of your face and the pain persists for extended periods, it could be a sign of an infection that needs a root canal. It’s important not to ignore toothaches because they rarely go away on their own and require immediate dental attention.

  3. Sensitivity to Heat and Cold
  4. Heightened sensitivity to hold or cold temperatures can signal the need for a root canal. While mild sensitivity is normal, if it persists and doesn’t go away quickly, it could mean there’s nerve damage in the tooth.

    If you experience sharp, intense pain when consuming hot or cold beverages, contact Dr. Mullaney today! She’ll conduct a comprehensive exam to see if a root canal is necessary to address your dental issues.

  5. Tooth Discoloration
  6. Tooth discoloration in a single tooth can be concerning and require dental attention. While mild stains can be treated with teeth whitening, severe discoloration, particularly if the tooth appears grayish-black, could indicate a more serious issue like dying dental pulp. In this case, a root canal would help prevent further problems such as abscesses or tooth loss.

  7. Swollen Gums
  8. Swollen gums shouldn’t be ignored, as they could be another sign of an underlying dental issue.

    If you have tender, swollen gums, it’s crucial to closely monitor the swelling because it could spread to other areas of the face and neck. Consult our Alexandria dentist to determine if a root canal is necessary for treating the infection or inflammation causing the swelling.

  9. Gum Boils or Abscesses
  10. Swollen gums with pimple-like sores, known as gum boils or abscesses, are a clear indication of an infection. These boils might ooze, and you may also experience an unpleasant taste in your mouth or bad breath.

    Don’t ignore gum accesses — you’ll likely need a root canal to remove the infected pulp and avoid complications.

  11. Tooth Fractures or Cracks
  12. Chipped, fractured, or cracked teeth can create an entry point for bacteria, leading to infection and the need for a root canal. Even minor cracks or fractures can allow harmful bacteria to penetrate the tooth’s inner layers, which can cause decay and subsequent infection.

    Seeking immediate dental treatment for chipped or cracked teeth could potentially prevent you from needing a root canal in the future.

  13. Lingering Pain on Tooth Pressure
  14. Simply put, if you have long-lasting pain when applying pressure to a tooth, you may need a root canal.

    If you feel discomfort or sensitivity while biting or chewing, and the pain lasts for weeks or months without getting better, the tooth’s root is likely damaged. In these cases, a root canal is often the only way to relieve the pain and avoid more problems.


Professional Dental Care in Alexandria, VA

If you live in Alexandria and need dental help, Dr. Kathleen Mullaney and her team are here for you! We offer a range of services, including root canal treatments, and are committed to providing compassionate care.

Whether you have a toothache, sensitivity, or other signs of needing a root canal, call 240-532-3335 or contact us today to schedule an appointment and take care of your smile.
Author Bio: Dr. Kathleen Mullaney offers various general and cosmetic dentistry services in Alexandria, VA. She earned her doctorate in dental surgery from the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) and proudly served as a United States Navy dentist before opening her practice. With over 25 years of experience, Dr. Mullaney is delighted to be one of Old Town’s most respected and sought-after dentists! Call 240-532-3335 to schedule an appointment.

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Had my first visit to Dr. Mullaney’s office this month since the pandemic and the experience was gold standard. The safety processes and clean office environment were impeccable. Dr. Mullaney and staff were, as usual, amazing. Every step was explained, the protective garments worn by staff were the best I have experienced. It was a safe and positive visit and I recommend making an appointment!!

I am a new patient. After my first dentist appointment with Dr. Mullaney, I left feeling very informed and in control of ultimately making decisions about the care and treatment I receive. The staff is incredibly kind and knowledgeable. I love that they participate in helping veterans through The Freedom Day USA program. They are committed to providing a very clean and friendly atmosphere. In addition this practice goes out of its way to bring comfort and the latest in dentistry to all their patients.

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Dr. Mullaney and her staff are absolutely wonderful. They are very professional, personable and greet you by name when you walk in the door. Dr. Mullaney is very talented and really has perfected her craft. Even with a last-minute treatment change, she is unwavering in performing the highest quality treatment available. I am extremely grateful to you all for making my visit pleasant and even fun!