How Do I Know if I Need a Root Canal?

Before we delve into the guts of the matter, we must address the following question: what is a root canal? There is a literal answer to this question, though it’s likely not the answer being sought here. Nevertheless, a root canal is a tooth’s internal section holding. It exists to hold tooth pulp—the stuff containing blood vessels and nerve tissue—intact. When most people say ‘root canal’, however, they’re referring to root canal therapy: the process whereby a dentist removes the pulp from an infected root canal.

root canal treatment

Why do people use ‘root canal’ as colloquial shorthand for ‘root canal treatment’? Highett-based dentists couldn’t tell you. They are dentists rather than etymologists, after all. What they can do, though, is analyse your root canal symptoms and determine if you have a root canal infection. To circle back to the original question, this—consulting a (Highett) dentist—is the only way to know if you need a root canal. But what are some of the symptoms that can nudge you in this direction?

Tooth pain that won’t go away

Is a root canal painful? Yes, but not in the way you think it is. The procedure itself is performed under local anesthesia, so you won’t feel the root canal treatment in Highett taking place. The pain you will feel will top and tail the root canal, existing before and after the procedure. And whilst tenderness and pain are fairly inevitable following any dental procedure, the pain from beforehand is the symptom suggesting you may need a root canal in the first place.

root canal pain

Persistent pain in the face, jaw, or teeth can suggest many dental issues, among which can include gum disease, cavities, damaged fillings, dental injury, or even a sinus infection. Regardless of the cause, it’s always best to visit a dentist to get to the bottom of what’s going on.

Temperature sensitivity

If you feel a dull ache or sharp pain when consuming anything hot or cold, this often means your tooth’s nerves and blood vessels are damaged or infected. The real tell is when the pain lingers even after you’ve stopped eating or drinking.


Root canal infection is a key culprit for tooth discolouration. Dental trauma or internal tissue breakdown can certainly damage tooth roots, resulting in a grey-black appearance. In any case, if there’s an inadequate blood supply to the tooth, the pulp can die—hence a root canal infection can develop, which can manifest as discolouration.

Root canal infection

Similar to tooth pain, discolouration doesn’t necessarily mean you need root canal therapy, but it’s grounds to go to a dentist (in Highett)—whatever the cause.

Gum swelling

Gum swelling can wax and wane. It usually corresponds and isolates itself to a single painful tooth. It’s caused by acidic waste products of dead pulp tissues. Sometimes, it’s accompanied by an abscess, parulis, or gum boil. These are all signs of infection and you should seek a dentist in Highett, whether you’re suffering from an infected root canal or something else altogether.

Painful tooth to the touch

If it’s painful just to touch—or bite down on—your tooth, you could be dealing with severe decay or nerve damage. Bonus points if the sensitivity persists long after you’ve stopped eating!

root canal symptoms

Of all the root canal symptoms, this one is more definitive. If your tooth pulp is dying, it will likely irritate the ligament around your tooth’s root tip, which will likely manifest as hypersensitivity to biting pressure. In a phrase? “Get thee to a Highett dentist!”

Loose tooth

Unless you still have a milk tooth, a loose tooth is never a good sign. If it’s a sign of root canal infection, acidic waste products from your dead nerves will soften the bone surrounding the dying tooth root. Hence, your tooth will wobble around like it did in primary school!


Please note that if multiple tooth feel loose, root canal therapy is likely not the answer. Nevertheless, you should always consult a dentist regarding loose teeth—whether you have just one or a whole mouthful.


Get root canal treatment in Highett

Now you know what to look out for, you may be seeking root canal treatment in Highett. Henry Street Dental Care has got you covered! To discuss your options, call us on (03) 9553 1675 or book an appointment with us online. Whether you actually need a root canal or have a different dental issue entirely, we can get to the root of the problem—pun intended.