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Root Canal Treatment: Is It Painful? The Most Commonly Asked Questions Answered

19 Jan 2023

Ouch. We know dental pain. We understand the severe discomfort you’re in when you have an infected root canal. While you may have hoped your toothache would go away on its own, the unfortunate truth is that root canal infections just get worse if they’re not promptly treated. 

Making an appointment for your toothache might not sound like something you want to do; however, the quicker we see you, the better our chances at saving your tooth with the least amount of fuss. 

If you’ve got a root canal infection, we know you’ll have lots of questions. One of the most commonly asked questions we hear is, “are root canal treatments painful?”

While it’s got a reputation as being one of the most painful dental procedures, root canal treatments aren’t all they’re hyped up to be. Here’s what you need to know ahead of yours. 

What Is a Root Canal?

Say the words “root canal” to anyone, and they’ll usually think of the dental procedure. But the procedure is designed to treat infections in the root canal. This is an area inside the root of your tooth that contains living tissue, blood vessels, and nerve endings known as the dental pulp. 

At the core of each tooth is the pulp chamber. This is where the majority of your dental pulp is found. But extending down into the roots are the root canals. Depending on the tooth, you can have up to four root canals penetrating down toward the jaw. 

What Is a Root Canal Infection?

If you have a cavity on the outside of your tooth, bacteria can get in. Over time, the inner layers of the tooth become eroded, and bacteria start to break through. Once the pulp chamber is breached, it can become infected. 

What Are the Signs of a Root Canal Infection?

Infections inside the tooth are painful. You may feel a swelling or throbbing sensation, and you’ll have difficulty biting and chewing, particularly if the food is either hot or too cold. 

You might notice swelling around the gum, cheek, and jaw. Over time, the tooth may become darker and start to ooze with pus. 

What Happens If a Root Canal Infection Isn’t Treated?

Left untreated, root canal infections will kill the tooth and spread to other parts of the mouth. Your tooth will need extracting at this stage and may develop an abscess. 

As the infection spreads elsewhere in your mouth, your gums and jaws can develop issues. In severe cases, the infection could enter the bloodstream and affect other organs in the body. 

What Is Root Canal Treatment?

A root canal treatment is a procedure to remove all of the infected matter from inside your tooth. If we can do this early enough, we can save your tooth. 

Before the procedure, we’ll take x-rays to see exactly where the infection is inside your tooth. This ensures we’re successful in our treatment aims. 

After carefully removing the infection, we’ll use a naturally-occurring latex-like material called a gutta percha to fill the treated areas. We’ll then place a filling on the hole in your tooth. Sometimes, we may suggest coming back at a later date to have a dental crown placed. A crown will protect your tooth and minimise the risk of re-infection. 

This routine procedure is also referred to as endodontic treatment. 

Does a Root Canal Treatment Hurt?

Although the treatment might sound daunting, it’s relatively simple and really doesn’t live up to its scary reputation. Often, people refer to the pain associated with the root canal infection rather than the treatment. The infection will hurt far worse than the treatment to remove it. 

Before your treatment, we’ll give you a local anaesthetic. This numbs the treatment area, so you don’t feel any pain or discomfort while we’re performing the procedure. 

Once the treatment is over, and the anaesthetic has worn off, all of the pain associated with the infection will have subsided. You may feel a little tender or sensitive around the treatment area; however, this will soon pass and is easily managed with paracetamol. 

How Long Does a Root Canal Treatment Take?

We can usually complete your root canal treatment in one or two appointments. The exact treatment length will vary depending on the severity of your infection. Typically, we can perform the procedure in 30 – 60 minutes.

Is It Easier to Have a Tooth Extracted Instead of a Root Canal Treatment?

Although a dental extraction might not take as long as a root canal treatment, we always prefer to perform the procedure to save your tooth. Extractions are only used as a last resort when the tooth has already died, and there is a risk that the infection will spread. 

Removing a root opens you up to several dental risks. A missing tooth can increase the chances of developing tooth decay and gum disease. Gaps between teeth are hard to clean, and bacteria can build up in these areas. 

Without a full set of teeth, you may experience dental drift. This is where your teeth slide out of position towards a new space that’s opened up along the jawline. Added to this, the jaw bone beneath the gap may deteriorate, altering the structure of your face. 

Where dental extraction is necessary, we’d always recommend replacing the missing teeth with a bridge or implants soon after. 

How Do I Prevent Needing a Root Canal Treatment?

The best way to avoid needing a root canal treatment is to take good care of your teeth. Brush twice daily using fluoride toothpaste, avoid sugary food and drink, and visit us often so we can watch for the early signs of dental decay. 

Root Canal Treatments at Love Teeth

If you’re concerned that you have a root canal infection, don’t delay. Call us and arrange an appointment ASAP. 

With clinics at Cheam, Chessington, Stonecot, Worcester Park, and Sutton, we make it easy and convenient to get the essential treatment you need. 


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