Is a Root Canal a Dental Emergency?

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is a root canal a dental emergency?

When it comes to understanding what qualifies as a dental emergency, there are two things to consider – is it a problem that needs immediate treatment, and is it causing you significant pain? 

Many incidences fall under dental emergencies, from infections and severe toothaches to dental trauma and chipped teeth. Read on to find out if a root canal ever qualifies as a dental emergency.


Root canal therapy is done when your tooth has become infected or the dental pulp has become damaged. This is typically a result of undetected tooth decay that has penetrated deeper into the tooth and dental trauma. 

So, what is dental pulp? This is the center layer of your tooth, beneath the dentin and enamel. It’s made of connective tissue, blood vessels, and nerves. This is why when it becomes infected, it is usually painful. 

To cure an infection, we must remove the cause, which is the damaged dental pulp. In a root canal procedure, we remove the pulp in its entirety from the tooth, clean the canals, and refill the tooth.


Root canals are indeed considered dental emergencies, and here’s why. If a root canal is needed, it’s because you’ve seriously damaged your tooth or you have tooth decay that is so severe that you have an infection. 

This typically causes severe pain, difficulty eating, and most importantly, the infection will continue to linger and spread without immediate treatment. You must keep an eye out for signs of an infection and get prompt treatment. 

This infection can spread to the neighboring teeth and other areas of the body through the bloodstream. In serious cases, this can cause sepsis, which can be fatal.


Keep in mind that even if you have inflamed or infected pulp, you may not always experience symptoms. It’s perfectly possible to need a root canal without any physical symptoms. 

People also misinterpret pain that subsides and then completely goes away to mean that the infection has gone away. However, this is not the case. The infection cannot be resolved without dental intervention. 

If you were experiencing extreme tooth pain from an infection that suddenly went away, the nerve in your tooth has most likely died but the infection is still present. These symptoms are signs of an infection:

  • Abscess in the gums around the tooth
  • Chipped, cracked, or damaged tooth
  • Swelling of the face, gums, or neck
  • Darkened or discolored tooth
  • Intense sensitivity that lingers after consuming hot or cold foods or drinks
  • Severe tooth pain, especially when touching the tooth or eating
  • Tenderness of the gums


First, we will have you come in for a consultation to determine if a root canal is necessary. We’ll examine and take digital x-rays of your tooth to look for pulp damage. At your first appointment, we will perform a pulpectomy. 

Your mouth will be numbed first so you don’t feel pain. Then, we’ll drill a hole into the chewing surface or back of the tooth to gain access to the pulp. The dental pulp, as well as the root, is removed and the canals are thoroughly cleaned and shaped to prepare them for the filling. 

A gutta-percha material which is similar to rubber then fills the inside of the tooth to replace the pulp. If the tooth is a molar or is severely damaged, we will cover it with a dental crown for protection.


If you’re experiencing symptoms of a tooth infection, don’t hesitate to call us for an emergency appointmentContact us at Smileform Dentistry today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Inna Solovey. We offer same-day, after-hours, and weekend appointments for emergencies.

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