I feel that my upper jaw teeth are very sensitive. I am worried that I might need a root canal treatment. Is there anything I need to know beforehand?

First, not all teeth that are sensitive need a root-canal treatment. You haven’t mentioned what your teeth are sensitive to. For example teeth that are sensitive to cold or sweet only are usually not indicated for root canal treatment. An examination with a dentist might reveal a cavity which often is not always visible to the naked eye. An Xray (preferably digital), a dental microscope or magnification under loupes and/or an intra-oral camera are all modern tools dentists use to find cavities that might be hidden.

Other reasons for sensitivity include gum recession, where the root surface previously covered by the gum has now become exposed, cracked teeth, excessive pressure on a tooth due to a high filling and an old filling that has fallen off or cracked. Some of these are easy fixes and others might require a slightly more elaborate procedure.

Teeth that are sensitive to hot foods and beverages or which hurt when you bite on them and also teeth which wake you up at night or hurt spontaneously might usually indicate that there has been some damage to the inner nerve, also called the pulp. In this case, the tooth probably might need a root canal treatment to save it or, in the worst case scenario, might need to be removed and replaced.

I would urge patients not to rush into any treatment until a proper diagnosis has been made and explained. There have been significant improvements in root canal treatment in the past decade or so that make them much more predictable, relatively less painful and successful. A few of these are extremely flexible cleaning tools called files, the use of a dental operating microscope and the use of 3D CBCT scanner that can alert us of the presence of hidden canals. These tools become more important when the root canal is being repeated a second time for the same tooth.

Tanveer Ahmed is an implantologist, dental surgeon and medical director at New Ivory Dental and Implant Clinic. Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to friday@gulfnews.com.