Endodontic treatment is commonly referred to as root canal treatment. This treatment involves elimination of infection from the dental pulp, and sealing of the pulp chamber to prevent future recurrence of infection. However, an experienced dentist will opt for root canal treatment only as a last resort when the infection is irreversible, and there is a risk of it spreading further.
In the early stages, the patient may experience mild pain in the infected tooth. Some patients have a tendency to ignore the sign if the pain goes away quickly. The tooth may also develop sensitivity to cold things. So the patient who has a tendency to avoid a visit to the dentist may try to eat or drink cold things from the other side of the mouth.
If the tooth becomes discolored or grayish, it is another sign that the tooth may require endodontic treatment. This usually occurs if there has been an injury or trauma to the tooth, causing damage to the nerve.
If the patient tends to delay the treatment, the pain in the tooth may go on increasing from mild to moderate to severe. Eventually it may become a persistent, unbearable pain, forcing the patient to visit a dentist.
These external signs are usually only indicative of root canal treatment. But an experienced dentist will wait for a while to see if the nerve damage repairs on its own. The dentist will take x-rays, and conduct a diagnostic test of the dental pulp and the nerve to determine whether root canal treatment is indeed the only option. This is a conservative approach because a root canal will usually weaken the tooth structure and a crown will be required to support it.