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How Painful is a Root Canal?

You open your calendar, and you see the dreaded note - "root canal appointment." It's not unusual to have a funny feeling in the pit of your stomach when you have an upcoming dental procedure - and root canals tend to get an even worse reputation than other treatments. But your root canal can be a pleasant process, and the result is going to make the process more than worth the effort. Read on to learn more about what you'll experience before, during, and after your root canal in terms of discomfort. We guarantee that the reality is going to be more positive than your expectation!

Pain Before a Root Canal

Before your procedure, you're likely in pain - ranging anywhere from mild to debilitating. There are many different reasons why patients receive root canals, but for many, treatment is due to an infected tooth. This type of deep infection impacts the tooth's nerves, causing sharp twinges throughout the day. They may be worse when you eat or drink something hot or cold, or may show up for no reason at all. Suffice it to say, you've not been feeling your best leading up to treatment.

Because you're already in pain, it can be tempting to think that treatment will make things even worse. After all, when your tooth is aflame, the last thing you want is for your dentist to touch it! But treatment will heal and soothe the area to get you back to a comfortable baseline.

Pain During a Root Canal Procedure

A root canal is very similar to a filling, which you've likely experienced before. And your tooth will be numbed in the same way to prevent discomfort. Your dentist will inject local anesthetic into the treatment site and allow it to numb up before beginning the treatment process. If you're not feeling completely numb, let them know so that they can provide additional anesthetic as needed. If you have profound dental anxiety, sedation may also be beneficial. Let us know before your appointment if you're interested in learning more about your sedation options.

Because you will be fully numb during treatment, it is unlikely that you will experience pain. The primary sensation most patients feel is pressure as the tooth root cavity is cleaned. There are some cases in which the patient does experience some discomfort, but these are rare and typically don't compare to the pain you were experiencing before the procedure.

Endodontic treatment is typically quick and you'll be able to return home to rest up immediately after.

Discomfort After a Root Canal

There is typically downtime associated with a root canal, especially if your tooth was infected. You'll typically begin noticing soreness in the area in the hours after treatment when the local anesthetic wears off. You will be able to take over-the-counter pain killers to help manage this. We also recommend soft foods for several days after the procedure so that you don't aggravate your sore tooth. Other than those considerations, you'll be able to work or go to school as you normally would. There may also be some swelling, which can be managed with cold compresses. The sensitivity will fade within a few days.

Reasons Root Canals Are Worth It

Even if you happen to experience discomfort during your root canal, you're taking the necessary steps to feel better in the future. If the issue that led to the need for your root canal had been allowed to persist, it could have led to tooth loss or other serious concerns, and necessitated more invasive procedures like tooth extraction or periodontal surgery.

Root canals have a high success rate and allow you to retain your tooth going forward. By receiving this treatment today, you make a significant investment into your smile's long-term survival. And that's more than worth a few days of healing following treatment.

If you have dental anxiety, we understand that a root canal can feel terrifying. We strive to put all our patients at ease and change their perceptions of the dentist. If you'd like to learn more about sedation or have questions about endodontic therapy, don't hesitate to get in touch and speak with a member of our team. 


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