Do Root Canals Hurt, and Do I Need One?

| January 11, 2018


If there’s one dental procedure that patients worry about, it’s a root canal. Over the years, this common procedure has gotten such a bad rap in the media that people tend to fear it unnecessarily.

Fortunately, we’re here to clear up the misconceptions about root canals. Read on to learn what you can expect during this safe, effective procedure.

How Do I Know if I Need a Root Canal?

There are a number of symptoms that indicate you may need a root canal. These can include:

  • Pain. This is the most common symptom, and the pain can range from a dull ache to an intense throbbing. You may experience pain in response to a stimuli—like hot or cold food—or it may occur spontaneously. Oftentimes, the pain is intermittent.
  • Gum Tenderness, Swelling, or Infection. While swelling doesn’t occur in every patient, some patients who need root canals experience swelling, ranging from slight to pronounced.
  • Fever and/or Swollen Lymph Nodes. Although these symptoms aren’t as common as pain and gum tenderness, you should still mention them when you visit our office. They can also indicate the need for a root canal.

What Is a Root Canal?

Pulp is a soft area inside the tooth, containing nerve endings, tissue, and blood vessels. When pulp becomes infected, a dentist performs a root canal procedure.

During a root canal, infected pulp is removed. Then, the inside of the root canal is cleaned, filled, and sealed. Finally, a crown or filling is used to restore the tooth so it’s fully functional.

What Can I Expect During a Root Canal?

A root canal often requires multiple appointments. After taking an x-ray, we’ll numb your mouth before drilling a hole into your tooth. Once the hole has been drilled, we’ll scrape and clean the area using root canal files.

After the area is cleaned, what occurs next depends on the patient in question. In some cases, we may apply medication inside the tooth and then wait to seal it. Other times, it will be sealed during that same appointment.

Once the tooth is sealed, we’ll place a filling over the tooth to keep out bacteria. Occasionally, further restoration—like a crown or crown and post—may be required. While the specifics of treatment vary from patient to patient, the procedure is an uncomplicated one with a very high success rate.

Will I Feel Pain During or After a Root Canal?

Most patients who get root canals are very happy with the procedure. Oftentimes they’ve been experiencing pain for a long time and a root canal alleviates their discomfort.

As for feeling pain from the root canal itself, you’ll be numbed with anesthetic during the procedure so you won’t feel anything. Afterwards, you’ll find that the affected tooth will no longer be sensitive to heat or cold. However, for a few days, you may still experience some tenderness in the area surrounding the tooth. We’ll give you a pain medication to help alleviate discomfort.

If you’re experiencing tooth pain—or are due for a dental checkup—please call us at 614.486.7378 or request an appointment here. For your convenience, we offer daytime and evening appointments.