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
Patient Portal


Do I Need a Root Canal?

Man holding cold cloth to side of face

Root canals aren’t always necessary to treat a tooth, but root canals are one of the most effective ways of preserving a damaged, decaying tooth while keeping the structure of the natural tooth intact. The root canal procedure works to remove the infection, disinfect the area, and cover the remaining parts of the tooth with a tooth filler to protect the tooth from future infections and cavities.

For toothaches, it can be difficult to determine whether or not you need a root canal on your own. That’s why we recommend visiting a dentist as soon as possible to determine the condition of the tooth, and what the potential causes are to your tooth pain. Because there are multiple potential reasons for your toothache, your dentist will have the best tools available to diagnose your condition.

To give you a better idea of what your toothache could be, here are some of the possible conditions you may have:

  • Chipped/Cracked Tooth – chipped teeth can be repaired with bonding materials, and for patients with tooth pain, the pain will typically subside over the course of the next few days.
  • Lodged Food – Lodged food can also be a problem, even if you consistently brush and floss your teeth. If you have molars that haven’t received dental sealants, dentists will have the tools to help remove the food from the grooves and pits of your tooth.
  • Sensitivity – Sensitive teeth can typically be treated with fluoride treatments, and advising the patient to use brand name sensitive toothpaste to help prevent the onset of pain from hot food and cold drinks.

For dentists, these conditions can be treated without the need for a root canal. However, root canals are performed in more serious cases and are typically performed during the late stages of a cavity formation.

How Cavities Progress Over Time

Cavities are the most commonly sourced diagnosis for a toothache, but cavities are not something to take lightly. Cavity progression works in these stages:

  • Demineralization – Demineralization occurs when tooth enamel begins will begin to weaken. Signs of the enamel weakening will show signs such as staining, and even sensitivity at certain points. At this stage, dentists can treat this effect by giving fluoride treatment and advice to avoid eating sugary and acidic foods.
  • Enamel Decay – As the second stage, once the enamel begins to decay, the protective layer will experience sensitivity and possible pain. For this, composite fillings can be used to prevent the progression of the cavity from damaging the dentin and pulp.
  • Dentin Decay – Once the bacteria reaches the dentin, the tooth will experience more severe amounts of sensitivity and pain, especially when chewing. At this stage, larger restorations, such as crowns, inlays, and onlays, will be to be in place once the bacteria is removed from the source.
  • Pulp Decay – By the time the bacteria reaches the pulp, severe amounts of pain accompanied by high amounts of sensitivity when chewing and speaking. This stage will most likely require a root canal to remove the infection from the pulp, as well as a final restoration.
  • Abscess Formation – When the bacteria reaches the pulp, it can lead to pus-filled pockets forming, called abscesses, that can lead to the spread of the infection beyond the tooth and into the bloodstream. As this is a serious case, dentists will need to perform surgery to remove the tooth and potentially accompany it with a root canal to clean out the infection.

If you believe you may have a cavity, and live in the Milwaukie, OR area, contact Dr. Kevin H. Speer at Oak Grove Dental Center today to schedule a dental appointment.

Skip to content