One very common question we get from our patients is: “Does a root canal hurt?” For some people, going to the dentist creates anxiety, unfortunately, but many people fear more complicated dental procedures like root canals. In this blog we will go over what is involved in a root canal and how it affects the typical patient in terms of pain or discomfort.
A root canal is an appropriate treatment for a tooth with a pulp infection. If your tooth is infected in this way, you will feel pain. It may be throbbing or sharp. It may also radiate to your jaw, neck or ear. Other symptoms can include:
- Jaw swelling
- Tooth sensitivity
- Bad breath
- Bitter taste in the mouth
- Inflamed gums
- Open, draining sores on the gums
- Loosening of the tooth
- Swollen glands
In most cases the discomfort becomes so pronounced that even people who fear going to the dentist are willing to go in order to feel better.
What Happens During a Root Canal?
This procedure may require several dental visits. In order to diagnose a tooth infection, your dentist will take dental x-rays. They will discuss your treatment options with you so that you can decide what is best. A root canal involves opening up the tooth, removing the infected tissue, cleaning and disinfecting the area, and filling it with synthetic material. Once this is accomplished, and the infected pulp completely removed, the dentist seals the tooth with a dental crown or a large filling.
Does a Root Canal Hurt?
Root canal therapy is performed under local anesthesia so the pain is numbed. For most people this procedure is not any more painful than getting a cavity filled. Because it takes time to open the tooth and address the infection, there can be some discomfort involved. Your dentist will use more anesthetic if necessary to control the pain. In some cases for some patients, other sedation methods are used because they have too much anxiety or pain sensitivity.
After your dentist completes your root canal, you may feel some pain for a few days, but you should be able to manage this pain with over-the-counter pain medications.
Often patients would prefer to avoid a root canal because of its complexity and cost, but once a tooth has a pulp infection, a root canal is the only way to address that and save the tooth. This is a successful treatment that should last for years if you practice good oral hygiene like daily tooth brushing and flossing. The only other options for an infected tooth is to remove it completely – which will leave a space in your mouth and affect the surrounding teeth – or replace the tooth with a crown or a dental bridge.
Don’t wait on a root canal if you think you might need one. The infection in the tooth may spread to your other teeth or to your jaw. An untreated infection is never good news.
If you have questions about your dental health, call your dentist. It’s better to call with concerns than to “wait and see” if smaller problems become bigger ones. A root canal is not something anyone really wants, but it can be a good solution to a tooth infection, and it really does not hurt very much.