It sounds painful, doesn’t it? But root canal in and of itself isn’t painful – it’s the condition that leads up to it that causes misery.
You need a root canal when you have a tooth that’s so infected and inflamed that it’s down in the pulp. Usually the cause is deep tooth decay due to untreated cavities. When you have a cavity that’s untreated, the bacteria that cause the decay work down into the center of the tooth. Then they settle and cause misery, resting in the pulp.
Infected teeth can be caused by trauma – a knock on the jaw during a sports game, for example. They can also be due to poor hygiene. Either way, the result is pain, down in the pulp.
Sometimes, even your dentist can cause damage to the pulp. If you’ve had extensive dental work done, you could be opened up to a serious infection and you might need root canal. Your dentist does not, of course, mean to hurt you, but it can happen.
What Should You Expect?
If an examination indicates that you need a root canal, you shouldn’t worry. It’s actually a routine procedure. You might have heard people say “I’d rather have root canal than…” and there you can insert “visit my in-laws,” “shop for new boots,” “go to my kid’s Christmas concert…” or whatever. But the reality is, root canal isn’t all that bad. In fact, you can usually have it done in just one visit to your dentist.
Root canal begins the same way that a filling does, and it’s no more uncomfortable. You’ll get a local anesthetic to numb your tooth, and for most patients, the needle going into the mouth is the worst part of the whole procedure.
The next part of the operation is to have an opening made in the tooth’s surface. Then the decayed and dying pulp is removed. This creates the canal. Then the canal is cleaned, and prepped for the filling. The filling is inserted, the opening is sealed, and you’re done.
You might feel some discomfort or tenderness following the procedure, but it will be easily treated using over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen.
The only thing that makes a root canal any different from another filling is that a crown will usually be needed to protect the tooth. That adds a bit of expense to the process, but it doesn’t add pain.
Back to General Dentistry