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Root Canals

Is a Root Canal Necessary For a Tooth With No Pain

05/17/2007

Question:

My doctor told me I have a deep cavity in one of my teeth. I just want to get a filling, but she said she would clean out the tooth and then tell me if I need a root canal. If I don`t feel any pain, is it necessary for me to get a root canal? Can`t I just get a filling and if anything occurs in the future deal with the root canal at that point?

Answer:

You do not need to have pain to determine that a root canal needs to be done. Actually, many patients that require root canal therapy have no symptoms at all.

It is possible that you are not having any pain because the cavity is big enough that bacteria have already progressed into your nerve and have caused it to die (no longer has sensation). If that is left alone long enough, an infection and symptoms usually develop. It is also possible that the dentist sees a large amount of decay in your tooth and is trying to warn you that you may need a root canal if they remove all of the decay and the decay goes right into the root canal space. If you try to place a filling directly on the area of your nerves, blood vessels, etc., that may lead to future pain and infection.

The root canal is done to preserve the tooth in the mouth and to allow a filling and/or a crown to be done on the tooth. If you just "wait and see" there is no telling when problems will arise.  Often patients can have pain and swelling (infections) when they have important events like weddings or job interviews, etc. Problems often arise at inconvenient times in the future.

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Response by:

Melissa McCartney Drum, DDS, MS Melissa McCartney Drum, DDS, MS
Assistant Professor of Endodontics
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University