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Myth or Fact: How Painful Is A Root Canal?


A root canal is a necessary treatment to save an inflamed, infected or badly damaged tooth. The procedure includes removing a specific damaged part of the tooth, usually the pulp, then disinfecting it to fill it later and seal it.

If you are not familiar with how the procedure goes, the thought of having a root canal may intimidate or frighten you. The common misconception that root canals cause so much pain is, in fact, one of the few reasons why some people say the procedure should be avoided.

But is it really that painful?

Decades and years ago when procedures are done old school style, it is easy to understand why people say it is painful. It might have been the truth then, but it is no longer true now. With the constant development in medical technology and anesthetics, the pain is now dramatically reduced. If you experience minimal pain when you get a cavity filled, then that’s the maximum you’d feel when undergoing a root canal. In addition, endodontists today are already experts in pain management. Thus, they are now trained to perform procedures as such with very insignificant pain.

The truth is, when people think it’s the treatment that is painful, it is actually the infection in the tooth that stings -and a root canal is exactly what is necessary to get rid of that pain. Most professionals even say that the root canal procedure itself is generally painless. It is, in fact, the American Association of Endodontists, that claims how most patients feel little to no pain at all, while a root canal is being performed. And now that the procedure includes the application of local anesthetic that numbs the tooth and its surrounding area, it isn’t that difficult to believe. You can also get calming medicines, such as nitrous oxide, to calm your nerves during the procedure.

However, it is not unreasonable to expect that after a few days from undergoing the treatment, some pain and sensitivity might be felt. To address this, your dentist will surely recommend over-the- counter pain relievers like aspirin or ibuprofen. Some will also decide to give you a prescription pain medication to ease any discomfort. Of course, any pain that doesn’t get cleared up by OTC medicine or doesn’t back down after a few days and recurs after treatment is not normal.  This could certainly be a sign of a new infection, which you’ll have to report to your dentist right away.

Here are a few pro tips to lessen the pain, if there is any:

  1. Research on well-known dentists. Most of them will have reviews online these days which can tell you whether the dentist is good in performing procedures with very minimal infliction of pain.
  1. Consider all forms of anesthesia including sedative if you wish to be absolutely free of pain. This way, you have nothing to lose but a few more bucks but definitely everything to gain.
  1. It is always easier to prevent pain before it has even started. Take ibuprofen immediately before the local anesthetic starts to wear off.

While the thought of getting a root canal and the pain that comes with it may scare you, the treatment itself is actually the solution to the pain. Once you’re done, there’ll be so much relief in the coming days; you’ll thank yourself you went.