Does a root canal hurt?
Does a root canal hurt? In order to fully answer that question it is crucial you understand that most of the common knowledge of what is a root canal treatment or therapy is in fact based in misconceptions, because root canal treatment isn’t regarded well by most people. It is widely accepted that this procedure is one of the most painful types of dental treatment that a patient can undergo, but believe me, not having a root canal done is worst than what you may experience in your dentist.
Root canal treatment is also called endodontic treatment, and it is required when the tooth pulp (the tooth nerve) is affected by a problem, normally tooth decay that reaches the tooth pulp. When this happens you may experience extreme pain, and in most cases it won’t go away even with strong drugs or medication.
Medication itself may help to control the pain, but the main problem affecting your tooth is still there: the tooth pulp infection. If you don’t take action your tooth will hurt for several days to weeks until the tooth nerve dies and only then you’ll feel better. The problem is if you insist in not looking for professional help it will then evolve to an abscess which is an infection of the bone surrounding the roots tips or apexes and you’ll start to experience more pain, eventually fever and in most cases the area of your face in relation to the affected tooth will swell and become distorted. Root canal treatment is the only option if you want to save your tooth. The other option is tooth extraction.
So at this point you should start to ask yourself not if a root canal does hurt, but rather if you would like to experience what I’ve written above. Let’s take a look at the most common fears involving this type of treatment.
Fear 1 – I’ll experience pain during the root canal treatment and afterwards
Root canal treatment is done under local anesthetic. It doesn’t hurt more than a filling or other procedure. The common association that people make of pain to this kind of procedure stems from the primitive methods used to perform it, added to the rumors, urban myths and the actual pain you feel before the appointment. Believe it or not, many studies show that most people state they didn’t feel pain during the treatment and felt much better afterwards.
Fear 2 – Root canal treatment will take many appointments
In light of recent studies, if the tooth condition allows it, this procedure can be done in a single visit, but each case has its own peculiarities (for example the extent of the infection and the need to have an intracanalar medication) and your dentist may take 2 or 3 sessions, rarely more. Further appointments may be needed to restore the tooth (but these aren’t a part of the root canal treatment itself).
Fear 3 – Endodontically treated teeth don’t last long
There’s a common misconception that teeth subjected to a root canal therapy will hurt again, and won’t last long. The studies show that well performed root canal treatments have a success rate close to 100% in preventing reinfection and subsequent new pain episodes. The studies have also shown, endodontically treated teeth aren’t more brittle than sound teeth. The problem is the restorative option for these teeth isn’t always the best. A full coverage crown is almost always one of the best restorative options for these teeth.
Now you tell me: Does a root canal hurt?
In my opinion, it hurts more not having it done, or losing a tooth because of unjustified fears. Also you should be aware that your teeth don’t have to hurt before root canal therapy is needed. Sometimes the nerve dies “silently” and you’ll still have to get it done to prevent infection and abscesses. Also if you have experienced excruciating pain and you feel better now even though you didn’t go to a dentist, chances are you need root canal done. You’re not experiencing pain right now because the nerve is dead, but you will experience it for sure, when the infection starts to spread to the bone surrounding your tooth.
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Photo credits: radiant guy