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Oral Health Buzz

Are Root Canals Painful? A Simple Question with a Complex Answer

Brenna Stone

Do you need a root canal to save your tooth? Are root canals painful? You don't have to dread getting this procedure done. With the help of numbing medicine, you shouldn't have any severe pain. You do have to take good care of your mouth after the treatment, and you may experience some post-procedure discomfort, but nothing that an over the counter pain reliever could not ease. You can take the worry and fear out of the equation by focusing on turning your oral health around.

Root Canals Treat Pain

Root canals are performed to save teeth. In the United States, they save an estimated 24 million teeth every year. If the pulp (the soft tissue containing the blood vessels and nerves of your tooth) becomes infected or damaged, then a root canal procedure is carried out to remove the pulp. Being in need of a procedure is typically more painful than the actual root canal experience itself. Signs of infected pulp include swelling, sensitivity and pain when you bite down or push on your tooth.

Once the affected tissue is removed by your endodontist, a dentist who specializes in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of the dental pulp, you don't have to worry about the pain and discomfort stemming from infected pulp or about the infection getting worse. You will likely be able keep your natural tooth for the rest of your life, pending injury or other dental issues. Damaged pulp is replaced by a rubber like material called gutta percha. Once the procedure is complete, usually after one or two appointments, you can see your dentist to have your tooth restored with a crown or filling. You will be able to resume your everyday oral habits, such as chewing, smiling, brushing and flossing.

Numbing and Medication

According to the American Association of Endodontists, most patients feel little to no pain while a root canal is being performed. Before the procedure is done, the tooth and surrounding area are numbed to prevent the sensation of pain. For a few days after the treatment, expect some pain and sensitivity. Your endodontist will recommend over-the- counter pain relievers like aspirin or ibuprofen, or he will give you a prescription pain medication to ease any temporary discomfort. Pain that doesn't clear up after a few days or that returns months or even years after a treatment is not normal and could be a sign of a new infection. If this happens, let your dentist know right away.

Are root canals painful? With local anesthesia, the actual procedure is not painful. Needing a root canal, however, can cause some discomfort. While the thought of having to get a root canal may put you on edge, the treatment itself is a solution to a problem. Once you tooth is treated, take excellent care of your smile with daily brushing and flossing and be sure to see your dentist regularly.

Learn more about the details of a root canal treatment in the Colgate Oral Care resources.

Source: iStockphoto/Konstantynov

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