General Family Dentist | Milwaukie, Oak Grove, Gladstone, Happy Valley and Portland, OR

Kevin H. Speer, D.D.S.
2250 SE Oak Grove Blvd.
Milwaukie, OR 97267
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3 Signs You May Need a Root Canal

3 Signs You May Need A Root Canal

Although many people resent root canals, they are necessary dental treatments to prevent infected teeth from falling out or being extracted. Teeth can become infected when dental decay has eroded through the enamel and dentin layers to reach the innermost layer called the pulp. Once bacteria have infected the dental pulp, the only way to eliminate the infection is by removing the decayed pulp tissue. Hence, a root canal is needed. 

During a root canal, the decayed pulp tissue is first removed and then the pulp chamber and root canals are thoroughly disinfected to prevent further infection. The tooth is then filled with a rubber-like material and restored with a dental crown to provide stabilization and protection. 

As with most types of restorative dental treatments, the sooner you seek treatment from a general dentist, the better the treatment outcomes. In order to determine if you should schedule an appointment with your local dentist, here are three signs you may need a root canal: 


Teeth affected by pulp infections usually hurt. This is because the pulp is composed of blood vessels and nerves, so when it becomes infected pain signals are sent to the brain. Toothaches caused by pulp infections can come on suddenly, get worse throughout the day or each day, may be felt deep in the jawbone, and can increase when chewing or biting. Prolonged toothaches can also be triggered when the tooth is exposed to hot and cold temperatures. This is known as prolonged sensitivity because it lasts longer than the tooth is exposed to the cause. 

Discolored tooth

Change in Tooth Color

Another telltale sign that you may need a root canal is having a tooth that suddenly changes color. Although teeth can stain, they do not stain one tooth at a time, meaning a single discolored tooth indicates a problem. A tooth that appears yellow, light brown, gray, or black in color is most likely a sign that the dental pulp has begun to decay and die. If this is the case, a root canal will probably be needed to prevent the infection from progressing. 

Gum Pain

Even though a pulp infection occurs inside the tooth, the inflammation it causes may be felt in the gums. When this happens, it usually exhibits itself as gums that are red, swollen, pimpled, or producing discharge around the base of the tooth. As a result of the inflammation, the gums will also likely be tender to the touch. 

While each of these symptoms can stem from different causes, when they occur all at once they usually indicate a pulp infection. However, there are cases of pulp infections that do not produce symptoms or that only produce one symptom. Ultimately, only a general dentist can determine what the cause of your symptoms are. Whether you have one of these symptoms or all of them, you should schedule an appointment with your local dental office to determine their cause and get prompt treatment. 

Dr. Speer prides himself on excellence in all aspects of dentistry. He stays up to date on the latest technologies by attending various continuing education courses throughout the year. He also enjoys volunteering his time and expertise at events, such as Portland Mission of Mercy. He is a member of the Clackamas County Dental Society, Oregon Dental Association, the American Dental Association, and the Academy of General Dentistry. He is also the former President of the Oregon Chapter of Delta Sigma Delta, an international Dental Fraternity. 

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