Do You Really Need Root Canal Treatment?Do You Really Need Root Canal Treatment?

Today, we are seeing thousands of patients get root canal treatment even when there really is no need for them to do so. The reason for this is that the dental profession sometimes misconstrue gum tissue abscesses as nerve abscesses. In fact, gum tissue can easily be healed without root canal treatment.


Why is the dental profession very zealous in prescribing root canals? Obviously, there is some economic pressure behind this – root canals are expensive. On the other hand, gum abscess can be cleared up by the cleaning the area of the infection or with the use of an antibiotic. Either way, these fixes are less costly, simpler and perhaps better for the long-run.


Differentiating between gum abscess and nerve abscess is not exactly easy. One way to do so is with an the use of an irrigating device that flushes out the infection. If the swelling starts to go away, then there is more likely a gum abscess, and the infection is already healing. But if symptoms persist, professional care is necessary.

Before actually getting a root canal treatment, first make sure that you really need the procedure. There are specific signs and symptoms that a patient can watch out for. First, and perhaps the most obvious is if the affected tooth has recently darkened in color, because this mostly means that nerve damage has already occurred. 

Also check for tooth sensitivity to heat that can be relieved by cold. If hot liquid makes the tooth hurt and a colder one eases or eliminates the pain, there is most likely nerve damage,. Another indicator of nerve damage is if the tooth is sensitive to pressure, like when it is pushed toward the jawbone with the fingertip. Take note, though, that these tests are not conclusive.

After some period of careful cleaning with a soft toothbrush and rinsing with salt water, and the symptoms still exists, then you most definitely need to see a dentist. However, before a dentist can tell you that you need to get root canal treatment, make sure that you were able to go through the following steps.

  1. The dentist was able to perform careful visual exam of the teeth to check for color changes.
  2. The dentist was able to check for temperature sensitivity, particularly in hot and cold sensitivity.
  3. The dentist was able to observe additional sensitivity to pressure, either from pushing or tapping on the affected tooth, or from biting.
  4. The dentist was able to carefully x-ray the areas in question. Take note: never allow the dentist to let you get root canal merely from an x-ray diagnosis. There are times when a tooth appears to need it on x-ray, but can actually heal without it.
  5. The dentist was able to test the tooth with an electronic nerve tester. This is a simple device that measures the ability of the nerve to react to mild electrical stimulus.

If the dentist has not assessed the nerve in these ways, and recommends root canal therapy, it would be best to first discuss the decision with the dental professional. If they refuse to do the tests, never permit to start the treatment because you full commitment is needed once the treatment starts. There is no backing out halfway through the therapy.

A patient who has gone through and tested positive in all these tests is most likely 99 percent sure that root canal therapy is necessary. However, if one or two of the indicators are not conclusive, it is generally best to wait things out for a while. In most cases, the situation will just resolve itself.

by James Franklin
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