If you were to ask random people what they thought the most painful dental procedure was, the main response you would probably get is a root canal. Most people tend to associate a root canal with pain, but that is not necessarily the case. There are plenty of tv shows and movies that depict a root canal as excruciating. However, if your dentist suggests a root canal, there is no need to panic.
Generally, the pain experienced during a root canal is no different from any other routine dental procedure. While you may experience some discomfort in recovery, a root canal should never cause severe pain. However, if you do feel extreme pain, you may have a complication that your dentist needs to address.
What is a Root Canal?
A root canal is a procedure that removes the infected inner portion of the tooth in order to save the rest of the tooth. An infection can damage and destroy a tooth. Without intervention, an infection can not only cause you to lose a tooth, but it could also spread to other teeth. Therefore, the goal of a root canal is to remove the infection before it can do any more damage.
The inner part of the tooth, or the pulp, is what becomes infected. A dentist will drill through the enamel and the dentin to reach the pulp. Once there, your dentist will remove the infected pulp and clean the inside of the tooth. After the tooth is disinfected, it is filled and sealed to protect it from reinfection.
Patients generally undergo a root canal when they have an infection, a cracked tooth, or other painful situations. Lingering sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures is another sign that you need a root canal. However, a root canal should remove any pain that you are having. You will feel discomfort for a few days, but it should subside and lessen your overall pain.
What Should I Expect?
In terms of pain, think of a root canal in the same way as a routine filling. You will get similar methods of anesthesia to numb the area. The treatment area will be completely numb and free of feeling during your procedure so that you won’t feel any pain. After the process, you can expect the numb sensation for up 2-4 hours. You may feel a dull ache or discomfort after the root canal, but generally, anti-inflammatory medications should help.
If you feel any severe pain, you should contact your dentist immediately. Sharp or shooting pains after a root canal are not expected and could mean a complication. While it is not common, you can experience nerve pain from a root canal.
If you are anxious about the process, you can talk to your dentist about sedation options. They may be able to give you a medication to take before your procedure in order to reduce your anxiety. In addition, some dentists have the option of giving you sedation in the office.