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The Main Causes of Root Canal Infections

You might be surprised to learn that sometimes, people have root canal system infections without experiencing any signs or symptoms. In other cases, however, they have likely been disregarding the indicators for some time. After all, root canal system infections don’t just happen overnight—they take time to take root. But how do they start?

THE ORIGINS OF ROOT CANAL INFECTIONSThe Main Causes of Root Canal Infection

While root canal causes vary, they all start the same way: with an injured tooth. Whether it’s a crack or chip in the tooth, a fractured tooth root, damage to the tooth pulp (with or without damage to the exterior of the tooth) or a tooth having repeated dental procedures, they can all lead to root canal system infections.* However, the number one cause of root canal system infection is tooth decay.**

Before causing a root canal system infection, the decay (a.k.a. cavity) must first develop beyond the tooth enamel, which is the hardest structure in your body—it’s even harder than bone!** Factors such as the thickness and quality of the enamel can determine how long it takes for a cavity to form, but it is typically within months—which is why your dentist wants to see you bi-annually for checkups.***

It’s when you don’t attend checkups that your tooth decay is likelier to penetrate through the enamel and into the next layer of the tooth—the dentin—that you become at risk of a root canal infection. Once the decay progresses through the dentin and reaches the tooth pulp, microorganisms in the tooth decay can cause inflammation, which promotes bacteria growth and the spread of infection. ††


Awareness is the first step in prevention, so paying attention to your oral health and knowing the indicators of decay and infection can go a long way in catching problems before they progress. And because tooth decay symptoms are often the same as or similar to the early signs of needing a root canal, it’s best to see your dentist right away—to address the issue and prevent further damage to your tooth.

The signs and symptoms to look for are:

  • Pain;
  • Prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold;
  • Tenderness to touch and chewing;
  • Discoloration of the tooth, or;
  • Swelling, drainage and tenderness in nearby bone, gum tissues or lymph nodes. †††

If you are experiencing any of these, you just might need a root canal—and, if your dentist isn’t one, you’ll want to request a referral to a GentleWave® Doctor.

Find a GentleWave Doctor today!


** Root Canal Info

*** Animated Teeth

Mayo Clinic


††† AAE

The GentleWave® Procedure is a medical procedure that is designed to prepare, clean and preserve the structure of teeth1,2,4 indicated for root canal therapy. Similar to other root canal treatment procedures, there is a potential risk of adverse effects. If you are considering the GentleWave Procedure, ask your clinician if you are a proper candidate. For additional information, visit

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