Does It Hurt to Get a Root Canal?

If there’s one dental procedure that people tend to dread, it’s root canal treatment, also called endodontic therapy. The mental image that many seem to conjure up includes pain and suffering. The good news is that root canal therapy is actually not painful in the vast majority of cases. Here’s what you can expect from the procedure.

You’ll Be Numb Most of the Time

You might be relieved to find out that in most cases, you’ll have local anesthetic for a root canal just like you would if you were having a filling placed. One exception is if you have an abscess that has already killed the nerve in the tooth. Another is if you are having a root canal re-done (yes, that can happen, but it’s fairly rare), because the nerve is already gone. In almost all cases, this local anesthetic is enough that you won’t feel anything.

Very occasionally, someone will have a severe infection that makes it difficult for the dentist to get them numb enough. In this case, most of the time, the patient will have an antibiotic for a week or two before having the root canal done. The antibiotic will treat the infection enough so that sufficient anesthesia can be achieved when the root canal is done.

You’ll be in the Chair for a While

The part that many patients find the least pleasant when it comes to having a root canal is that it takes upwards of an hour in many cases. This can be uncomfortable, and it’s generally the source of the most discomfort during the procedure. There are a few things that might help. First, bring music or something else to distract yourself. Secondly, you can ask for a bite block, which is a piece of rubber that you can rest your jaw on to keep it open. Some patients don’t like this; you can try both with and without to see what works best. And finally, during most of the procedure, you will be able to take a break if you need one. Don’t hesitate to let your dentist know.

You Might Be Sore Afterward

Although the procedure itself is usually pain-free, most patients are a bit sore for a few days after the root canal. Part of it is jaw discomfort after staying open so long, and part of it is because the tendons and ligaments around your tooth can become irritated. If you can safely take ibuprofen, do so. If not, acetaminophen is a suitable alternative. If your pain is getting worse instead of better, call your dentist in case he or she wants to see you.

If you have questions about your upcoming appointment, please give us a call!