How Do You Know if Your Root Canal is Infected?


The words “root canal” may sound scary, but it really doesn’t need to. The more informed you become, the less scary they are. Did you know the phrase “root canal” actually has two meanings? First, it refers to the hollow space within the root of the tooth that’s filled with soft tissue and nerves (also called pulp). Second, it’s a very common and relatively simple procedure for removing inflamed or infected pulp from a tooth before the infection spreads and the tooth starts to decay. 

Part of maintaining good oral hygiene is being aware of changes to the appearance, sensitivity, and function of your teeth. You can spot the symptoms of an infected root canal before it becomes a major dental problem. Here are some signs to look for:

  • Constant pain

Tooth pain can result from a variety of ailments, but if you suffer from constant, localized pain that is especially strong when biting down, it could be a sign of a root canal infection.

  • Sensitivity when eating hot or cold foods

A certain degree of sensitivity to hot or cold foods is normal, but it’s time to call your dentist if you feel throbbing pain or pressure while eating such foods, or continued sensitivity long after you stopped eating. 

  • Swelling and tenderness

If you experience swelling and tenderness around the gums, mouth, or face, it may be the result of a root canal infection.

  • Tooth discoloration 

Pain, sensitivity and tenderness are the more obvious signs of infection, but some symptoms are not so obvious. If the tooth starts to look discolored, it’s possible that a mouth injury has traumatized the tooth and resulted in a root canal infection. 

  • Pimple or abscess on the gums

A pimple or abscess on the gums near the affected tooth is a clear sign of infection, especially if it releases pus or fluid.

  • Hot feeling around the tooth and gums

Similar to symptoms of infection in other areas of the body, root canal infections can make the gums and the affected tooth feel hot or abnormally warm.

When to call your dentist

If you experience any of the above root canal infection symptoms, you’ll need to see your dentist as soon as possible for an exam and X-rays. The root canal procedure typically takes one appointment, and you should feel complete relief from your symptoms within a few days. However, if you continue to suffer from any symptoms, or others including fever of 99.5 degrees or more, or a feeling of lethargy that lasts up to a week or more afterward, you might have developed a rare post-surgical infection that will need immediate attention. 

Get the relief you need and schedule a root canal exam at San Diego Dental Specialty Center

No one should have to suffer the pain and discomfort of a root canal infection. Get the relief you need at San Diego Dental Specialty Center, where our professional, compassionate dental experts will guide you through the root canal procedure and keep you as comfortable as possible along the way. Fill out our contact form or give us a call at (619) 272-6246.