Your dentist just spoke those dreaded words, “you need a root canal.” Now what? Your mind is probably racing and speeding to the idea of pain. The concept of root canal therapy is loaded with myths and misconceptions, particularly around pain.
Continue reading to learn more about root canals as we answer the commonly asked question, “do root canals hurt?”
What is a root canal?
A root canal treatment involves removing the damaged section of nerves and pulp from the center of the tooth. The root itself is not removed, neither is the tooth. The process simply involves cleaning out the bacteria and decayed section within the tooth and root.
How does a root canal work?
Root canal therapy is performed to relieve pain from an infection or tooth damage and protect your oral health. These treatments are done to eliminate bacteria and dead tissue from inside the tooth thus saving the natural tooth. A dentist or endodontist performs the root canal treatment.
Your dentist numbs your tooth and the surrounding area with a local anesthetic to keep you comfortable throughout the procedure. Using x-rays to show the exact location of the damage, the dentist uses specialized instruments to enter the tooth, relieve pressure, and remove the infected section or damaged portion of the tooth. The tooth is disinfected and filled before a dental crown is placed to protect the tooth.
When do you need a root canal?
When tooth decay extends beyond a simple cavity and spreads into the dental pulp or pulp chamber of the tooth, a root canal is necessary to remove the damage. Damaged pulp allows bacteria to multiply within the tooth leading to an infection or abscessed tooth.
Signs that you may need a root canal include the following:
- Severe tooth pain
- Swelling around the tooth
- Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures even after the heat or cold has been removed
- Darkening of the tooth
Remember that your dentist’s goal is to protect your oral health and to save your natural tooth. When it comes to tooth decay, the object is to catch and remove the damage as early as possible to save the tooth and avoid an extraction.
Root canal expectations
Do root canals hurt?
In reality, you probably had more pain from the damage to your tooth prior to the procedure than you will from the dental treatment itself. The initial pain you felt was probably due to the infection, decay, or inflammation present in your mouth.
The root canal procedure itself is as routine and pain free as filling a cavity. The entire procedure is performed using an anesthetic to keep you comfortable.
Pain after a root canal treatment: What does it mean?
Your mouth may feel sore following the procedure because you just had work done. Your dentist had to remove a damaged section of your tooth. This means he applied pressure to areas of your mouth. This may be a reason for your post-treatment pain.
Additional causes of pain following a root canal include the following:
- Jaw pain due to having your mouth open for an extended period of time during the procedure
- Tooth pain or sensitivity from the treatment itself
- Gum sensitivity from the placement of a dental crown
Generally, you can relieve your pain with over-the-counter medications and ice packs. Follow good oral habits and use a soft-bristled toothbrush to keep your dental crown and teeth healthy. Tooth and gum sensitivity can be managed with a sensitivity toothpaste. If your pain persists beyond a couple of days or is severe, reach out to your dentist for guidance.
Since root canals are highly successful, retreatment is rarely needed. If an additional procedure is needed, it may be due to a bacterial infection. In these cases, your dentist checks for a crack or fissure as a source of the bacteria. Retreatment should ease any lingering tooth pain.
Relieve your toothache with root canal treatment at Soft Touch Dental
When it comes to a toothache or pain, early diagnosis and treatment are key. A dental procedure like a root canal may help relieve your pain and save your tooth.