“I’d rather have a root canal!” is meant to be a joke referring to what is supposed to be the ultimate type of pain. A root canal (aka root canal therapy) is performed to alleviate an infection of a tooth’s root, which itself is painful. But the therapy relieves the pain, it doesn’t cause it. Since there are so many misconceptions about the procedure, we want to provide answers to common questions about endodontics, the science of treating an infected root canal:
Why does root canal pain hurt so much?
The hard outer surface of a tooth is called the enamel. Just underneath it, the bone-like dentin surrounds and protects the tooth. At its core is the pulp, which consists of nerves, blood vessels, and soft connective tissue. If a tooth is cracked (such as due a sports injury), if tooth decay has gone untreated, or if a patient has had extensive dental procedures (even orthodontics), bacteria from the mouth might leak into a tooth’s pulp. Once it becomes infected, the tooth will become increasingly painful until treated. Other symptoms can include a tooth’s sensitivity to hot or cold beverages or food, pain while chewing or just putting pressure on the tooth, darkening of the appearance of the tooth, and swelling or redness of the gums in that area.
Will having root canal therapy itself be painful?
A virtually pain-free local injection of an anesthetic assures that you will not feel pain during the root canal procedure itself. The discomfort will be no more than having a filling done. The endodontist, a specialist in doing root canal therapy, is highly trained and experienced and will use tiny instruments and special equipment to clean out the infection thoroughly, then fill the canal with a special material that will prevent future problems. You will be given a prescription for pain-reducing medication afterwards and instructed on how to use cold packs.
How successful is having a root canal procedure?
About 90% of root canal therapies stop the pain and infection, making it one of dentistry’s most successful procedures. However, the inside of the tooth is very complex and should be operated on only under a microscope. That is why it is important to have this therapy done by an endodontist, who has the equipment, tools, training, and experience to make it most likely to be successful. Occasionally, however, problems may develop. If you still have pain in the tooth after the third day, call our office to set an appointment for a reexamination.