Endodontics, which you've probably more commonly heard of as root canal treatment, is used when the inside of a tooth is infected. This is usually caused by decay due to poor dental hygiene and care, and sometimes because of damage done to the tooth in an accident.

Yet there's another, lesser-known, problem that can lead to a root canal being needed: leaky fillings. The term might sound strange, and either worrying or slightly comical depending on your point of view, but leaky fillings can be serious if they're left.

Here's how you can tell if you have one, and how a root canal can be of help.

Leaky fillings

Although it should be obvious, the first thing to remember is that you can only have a leaky filling if you have had fillings. People without them need not worry about this particular dental problem.

For those who do have fillings, leaking is more common in those made from silver amalgam, though it can sometimes happen with other materials as well.

It might sound like something is leaking out of the filling, but the problem is actually the ability of food and other materials to leak in. Over time, fillings can naturally change shape and size, which leads to small gaps. Through these gaps, decay can get inside the tooth where the filling was placed.

Symptoms and signs

Sometimes, there's no obvious sign that you have a leaky filling. Your teeth might feel perfectly normal and show no visible signs of leaking. In these cases, a dentist should be able to spot the issue, so make sure you keep up with your regular appointments.

Symptoms you will notice are increased sensitivity or the onset of pain. If you notice either of these problems in a filled tooth, it's possible that a leaky filling is to blame. See a dentist for confirmation and treatment.

Occasionally, you might see discolouration around a filling despite there being no pain, so it's worth taking a good look at your fillings periodically.

Root canals for leaky fillings

When a filling has changed enough to cause leaking, it will need to be replaced with a brand new, properly fitting one. If it's done quickly, you might not have any further problems, but in many cases, the inside of the tooth will be infected.

A root canal is a thorough cleaning and disinfection of the tooth's inside, which will ensure it's healthy again before the new filling is placed. Your dentist might recommend a root canal even if your leaking filling hasn't been causing any obvious problems, just to make certain there's no infection hiding in the tooth when you're given the new filling.

For more information about root canal treatment, contact a local dentist.