12 Dec Is Root Canal Treatment Painful?
Many patients ask me: Is root canal treatment painful? I am scared of pain.
The short answer to that is that root canal treatment is not painful and not meant to be painful. In fact, patients who visit Elite Dental Group for root canal treatment leave feeling relieved at how fast and pain-free the experience is. With advancements in dental technology, endodontic tools and the ready availability of dental anesthesia, patients usually do not experience any pain or discomfort during the treatment process.
If you have chanced upon this article, you are probably looking for a solution to save your tooth or teeth from further infection or damage. You might also be looking for pain or discomfort relief from your toothache. It is likely that you are contemplating retaining your teeth but are afraid to head for root canal treatment after hearing about the bad experiences of a friend or family member.
It is normal for patients to experience some form of anxiety, especially when it comes to treatments like root canal treatment, which has a bad reputation for being painful.
This article will help briefly address:
- What root canal treatment is,
- Why I am confident that root canal treatment is not a painful treatment, as well as,
- How to prevent pain during and after root canal treatment.
What is root canal treatment?
Although root canal treatment can sometimes be more expensive than a tooth extraction, there are many benefits to retaining your original tooth. Some of these benefits include:
- Faster healing time in comparison to tooth extraction;
- Less complications in comparison to tooth extraction;
- Reduce the need for costly treatments like dental implants and bridges.
What does root canal treatment feel like?
A typical root canal treatment feels like any other general dental procedure if done under the right hands. Since all patients will be given anesthesia, a root canal treatment is usually not painful and resembles getting a filling.
Although I personally have not been on the receiving end of a root canal treatment, many patients describe the feeling as light pressure exerted on the tooth, but generally feeling numb for the entirety of the procedure.
Patients who have received a root canal treatment usually tell me that they feel a bit sore or numb once the local anesthetic has worn off. It might even be common to have some tenderness or discomfort for a few days after your procedure. This is normal and can be resolved with over-the-counter painkillers or pain medication that is issued by your dentist.
How painful is root canal treatment?
Root canal treatment is not meant to be painful. It is meant to relieve pain.
However, there are some complications that can lead to pain. These complications are usually a result of the following:
- Lack of experience of the dentist;
- Lack of proper tools from the dentist to spot gaps or cracks in the tooth;
- Lack of careful planning from the dentist;
- Disturbance of surrounding tissues;
- Allergic reactions to anesthetic;
- Reinfection of the root canal.
While root canal treatment is generally not known as an extremely complex dental procedure, it is important to note that the effectiveness of root canal treatment is entirely reliant on the following factors:
- The careful planning of your dentist to ensure that your root canal is properly cleaned and disinfected;
- The thoroughness of your dentist in removing infected matter;
- The use of professional dental magnifying loupes and dental microscope for enhanced thoroughness;
- Proper sealing of the access hole in the tooth to prevent bacteria from re-entering the tooth through gaps or cracks;
- The right recommendations from your dentist to ensure that your tooth does not erode with time and can withstand pressure.
How to prevent pain during root canal treatment?
During the root canal treatment, you will be offered local anesthetic (LA) to numb feelings of discomfort during the treatment.
Patients who are uneasy in the dental chair usually request for IV sedation while the procedure is conducted. IV sedation can help ease you into a relaxed state during the procedure and provides the highest level of sedation.
As every patient is unique and experiences pain and discomfort differently, it is highly recommended for you to discuss your pain and tolerance levels with your dentist before treatment. Your dentist will then be able to recommend relevant pain coping mechanisms or solutions before your procedure.
Some precautions that I find useful for most patients to follow before root canal treatment to avoid unnecessary discomfort, are the following:
- Avoid the consumption of hot and cold foods and drinks;
- Avoid sugary and acidic foods;
- Brush and floss your teeth before your dental appointment.
Why would root canal treatment hurt?
Root canal treatment can hurt if the gums remain inflamed. While root canal treatment would have eliminated the nerve of the tooth during the procedure, the nerves in the surrounding tissues are still present. This can cause swelling and some minor discomfort.
Do root canal treatments hurt more than fillings?
No, root canal treatments do not hurt more than fillings. The discomfort that is experienced for root canal treatment is the same as that of fillings.
How long does pain after root canal treatment last?
Pain after root canal treatment should not last more than a few days. Patients may experience anything from a light pressure to a slight throbbing or ache.
It is not usual to experience severe pain that lasts longer than a few days. In the rare instance where you experience such pain, do seek the immediate help of your general dentist or endodontist as it is a warning sign of a potential complication.
What are the alternatives to root canal treatment?
Root canal treatment is not the only treatment that can help restore your bite and chew. There are other equally pain-less treatments that can be offered.
Based on the severity of your condition and your individual needs, your dentist might recommend the following options:
- Tooth extraction with replacement by a dental implant or dental bridge;
- Direct filling if the nerve is still vital
Root canal treatment is a treatment that can be done to relieve pain from your toothache and retain your original tooth. It is meant to be a painless dental procedure that is done with the assistance of local anesthesia or various forms of sedation.
Dr Thira Wong is a restorative dentist at Elite Dental Group with a prime focus on root canal treatments and restorative dentistry procedures. She is known by her patients as the dentist who works with pain as she often relieves dental pain caused by toothaches and swollen or infected gums. Dr Thira Wong is an advocate for ethical dentistry and believes in practicing dentistry as if every single set of teeth were hers.