I don't need a root canal. At least not yet.
Rachel and I took a walk downtown today so I could see the dentist, following a three-alarm toothache I had over Memorial Day weekend. The ache was centered in a molar where I have a massive filling at the gumline, and although it passed after a day, I don't want to kid myself. If it feels like you have a burning coal in your mouth and it hurts so bad that you want to cry, you have a problem and need to see the dentist.
So I saw him, and he found no swelling, no looseness of the tooth, no sign of infection or inflammation, and nothing obviously wrong with the tooth. Not even a sign of a new cavity.
An X-ray revealed that there was some loss of bone under the tooth, but even that wasn't entirely certain. The empty space existed at the time of the last X-ray at least, which means if it is the result of lost bone mass and not just the angle of the X-ray, at least it's not growing worse. (You can lose bone mass there if you put lots of pressure on the tooth as you chew, and erode the peridontal tissues that act as a cushion. At least that's what the dentist guy said.)
So what does it all mean? That the nerve in my lower left rear molar isn't happy, possibly because of the filling, and possibly because I have an overbite and so my back teeth do more work chewing than they're designed for, to make up for the chewing work my incisors don't do.
At some point, maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow, but at some point I'll need either to get the root canal done, or I'll need to have the tooth extracted. And he really advises that I not get the tooth extracted, because of what that would mean for my other teeth.
Brush properly, eat well, and take care of your peridontal tissue. It's the bursa of your mouth.