How bad is a root canal?

Root canals have a bad rap. Just hearing those two words makes most people cringe. But the truth is, having a root canal isn’t much different than having a regular cavity filled. Read on to find out why needing a root canal isn’t really all that bad.

What exactly is a root canal?

Your teeth have layers of outer white enamel, hard dentin, and an inner soft tissue called pulp. Pulp contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissues that help your teeth grow roots as they develop. If the pulp becomes inflamed or infected, a root canal is the typical treatment. 

A fully developed tooth can stay healthy and nourished from the surrounding tissue and no longer requires pulp, so removing it will relieve your pain and restore the tooth’s health. Despite their reputation, root canals are effective at saving your teeth so that you retain your normal bite and natural appearance. They can also help protect the surrounding teeth.

What should you expect?

Many general practitioners perform root canals right in their clinics, but your dentist may refer you to a highly trained endodontist who specializes in this kind of treatment. Either way, you’ll have anesthesia that will keep you comfortable throughout the procedure and you shouldn’t experience any pain. Afterwards, you may feel a little sore or numb. If the tenderness persists, over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen should be sufficient.

A root canal removes the infected pulp from the centre of your tooth. Once the tooth is cleared, it’s cleaned and treated with antibiotics, then filled and sealed. A rubber dam will prevent any leaking of infected pulp or bacteria during the procedure.

Why might I need a root canal?

Root canals treat tooth pain and tooth aches resulting from infected pulp. They can help prevent needing a tooth extraction by restoring a tooth to health.

If your tooth is cracked or injured, has a deep cavity, or experiences issues with a previous filling, you’re more likely to require a root canal. Some of the symptoms that indicate this type of problem are severe pain when biting, sensitivity to heat or cold that persists, swollen or tender gums, and deep decay. You might notice pimples or darkening on your gums.

The good news

Generally, if you require a root canal, you’re already experiencing pain. Most people feel relief once the procedure is completed. A root canal is also less invasive and less expensive than the alternate treatment of requiring a tooth extraction followed by an implant or bridge.

If you have a lot of dental anxiety, talk to your dentist about ways to manage it. You can request to have an anesthetic boost during the procedure if you experience any discomfort. Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, might also be a way of helping you feel more relaxed.

What happens after a root canal?

It’s important to remember that even after a root canal, your tooth can still cause pain down the road. This may happen if it hasn’t healed properly, is injured, or if it wasn’t completely disinfected due to complicated tooth anatomy. New decay of the root canal filling is also possible. 

Prevention is essential if you don’t want to experience future root canals. Brush your teeth twice daily using a fluoride toothpaste and make sure you floss regularly. You should have your teeth checked routinely, including professional cleanings. Limit sugary foods and refined carbs, and wear proper safety equipment when you’re involved in high-risk activities for injuries, like playing sports.

So how bad is a root canal?

We’re not here to convince you that having a root canal will be pleasant, but it’s probably not as bad as you’re thinking. Most root canals can be performed in a single visit and aren’t much different than having a regular filling done.

Remember that it’s the infection and decay that’s causing the most pain, and a root canal may be your best option to alleviate your discomfort while saving your tooth. Once the anesthetic wears off, most people don’t require anything more than over-the-counter medication to manage tenderness in the days afterwards. In the end, this sounds like a pretty good deal!