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What is a Root Canal?

A root canal is a treatment used to repair and save a tooth that is badly decayed or becomes infected. During a root canal procedure, the nerve and pulp are removed and the inside of the tooth is cleaned and sealed. Without treatment, the tissue surrounding the tooth will become infected and abscesses may form.

If left untreated serious infections can develop from decaying pulp can cause you to lose your tooth or even part of your jaw. A dental infection can even be life threatening and can lead to sepsis, cellulitis, bacterial endocarditis, heart attack, stroke, and even death. There are many historical stories of individuals who have died from complications from untreated dental infections including Jim Hensen, founder of the Muppets and even Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1603. An alternative to root canal treatment is extraction of the infected tooth.

What Are the Signs That a Root Canal Is Needed?

Sometimes no symptoms are present; however, signs you may need a root canal include:

  • Severe toothache pain upon chewing or application of pressure
  • Prolonged sensitivity/pain to heat or cold temperatures (after the hot or cold has been removed)
  • Discoloration (a darkening) of the tooth
  • Swelling and tenderness in the nearby gums
  • A persistent or recurring pimple on the gums