When the soft tissue of your tooth is infected, the only treatment available to preserve your tooth is to remove it, but is a root canal painful? Everyone is unique and handles pain differently. The great news is that advances in dentistry have come a long way, and while there is some discomfort, you should not experience too much pain during and after the procedure.
Using modern tools and a numbing agent will help you avoid pain during the procedure; however, you might still feel discomfort. Also, once the numbing agent wears off, your tooth might still be a bit sensitive, but it does vary from person to person.
Good oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups are the best way to prevent needing a root canal. The sooner a problem is caught, the easier the treatment will be, and you could avoid needing a root canal altogether.
Root Canal Explained
When tooth decay is left to flourish, it can penetrate your tooth’s pulp and cause an infection. So during the root canal procedure, your dentist will remove the bacteria, decay, pulp, root, and nerves.
Next, your dentist disinfects the cavity with antibiotics and fills the bare roots. Lastly, your dentist will seal the cavity to prevent any new decay from infecting the area.
That is the best treatment that preserves the natural tooth. However, it weakens the tooth, so you should always have a crown to strengthen and support it.
The Symptoms of a Root Canal
If you experience any of the following signs, you might need a root canal and should visit your specialist as soon as possible to avoid more invasive treatments:
- A tooth that is starting to darken
When the soft tissue inside your tooth is infected, it will start to darken due to the inadequate blood supply to the pulp, which is a sure sign that you need a root canal.
There are other reasons for tooth discoloration, so it is always best to consult your doctor to find the root cause.
- Continuous pain
A toothache is one of the signs that you might need a root canal performed. It can be recurring pain or pain that goes away but always returns.
The discomfort is not limited to just your tooth. Pain in your jaw or face can also mean you have an infection your dentist needs to remove.
Toothache can stem from several problems, such as:
- A broken filling
- Gum disease
- Pain originating from a sinus infection
- An infected impacted tooth
If caught early, treating these problems will be much less invasive than if left to deteriorate.
- Pain caused by eating or pressure on the tooth.
If you are experiencing pain when eating or touching your tooth, it could be caused by tooth decay or damage to the nerves in the tooth’s cavity. A root canal is the only way to treat this and preserve your natural tooth.
- Pain when consuming hot or cold food/beverages
Does your tooth hurt when brushing your teeth and rinsing your mouth out with hot or cold water? Can you not eat ice cream without reeling in pain?
If you experience sharp or dull pain when consuming hot or cold items, and the pain lingers afterward, you probably need a root canal.
You experience this sensation due to an infection of your tooth’s blood vessels and nerves.
- Damaged teeth
Chipped or cracked teeth result from multiple factors, such as contact sports, accidents that cause trauma, and chewing hard foods. When this happens, bacteria can infiltrate your tooth and cause infection and inflammation, which requires a root canal.
- Swelling of the gums
When your gums swell and become tender, it might be time to see your dentist. If the swelling subsides but continuously returns—the swelling results from acidic waste accumulated from dead pulp tissue.
Another sign to look out for is a pimple on your gum, called a gum boil or abscess. This boil can leak pus, resulting in bad taste in your mouth and foul breath.
- Loose Teeth
Infection of the nerves and soft tissue inside the cavity can spread to the rest of your tooth and cause it to loosen. That is a big sign that you need to have the pulp removed. When left to rot, acidic waste can weaken the bone surrounding the affected tooth, causing it to loosen.
However, if you find multiple loose teeth, something else is happening, and a root canal will most likely not be necessary.
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How much is Too much pain?
Pain after a root canal is uncommon, so something is wrong if that pain lasts for an extended period.
While pain is uncommon, many people feel sensitivity or tenderness for several days after the procedure. This results from the following factors:
- Damage from a dental instrument
To perform a root canal, your dentist uses an instrument to clean out the infected pulp, and sometimes it can harm the surrounding tissue, causing sensitivity.
- Continued swelling or inflammation of the tissue surrounding the tooth
The initial purpose of a root canal is to remove the nerves (pulp) from the tooth. However, some small nerves are left in the ligaments and tissue surrounding your tooth. After any dental procedure, these nerves can experience pain, sensitivity, or discomfort.
- A temporary filling that your dentist did not insert properly
When your dentist does not properly smooth down a temporary filling, it can cause pain and discomfort. The reason is that if the filling is higher than the surrounding teeth, it causes the mouth to bite down harder on that exact spot, putting additional pressure on the tooth.
Generally, any pain or sensitivity resulting from a root canal should dissipate within a few days of the procedure.
If you are still experiencing pain after several days, you should seek out your dentist as soon as possible because something is wrong.
Do Root Canals Fail?
Although extremely rare, root canals can sometimes fail, which can cause pain. That could be due to:
- An error made by your dentist
- Deterioration of the tooth or sealing material over time
- Your dentist missed an extra canal. Your dentist must reopen the tooth, remove the filling, and find the hidden canal to treat this issue.
- Bad oral hygiene leads to tooth decay
- The restoration starts to leak.
- Vertical cracks in the tooth, if you have vertical cracks in your tooth, your dentist will need to remove them.
- Your dentist cannot clean out the cavity entirely due to a blockage.
How to Treat the Pain at Home
Most dentists recommend over-the-counter pain medication like Tylenol or Ibuprofen to treat the pain from a root canal. However, if this medication is not working for you, ask your dentist for a prescription for something more substantial.
Your dentist should discuss a diet plan with you before sending you home. While you have your temporary filling, you should avoid using the tooth to chew or bite down on food. This filling is fragile and can break.
Good oral hygiene serves many different purposes, and you should brush your teeth and floss regularly. In addition, it would help if you used toothpaste and mouthwash that contains fluoride.
The following tips will help you avoid unnecessary pain from a root canal. They can also help preserve your crown, making it last for many years, and protect all your remaining healthy teeth.
- Stay away from foods or drinks with a high sugar content
- Go for a professional cleaning every six months
- Floss at least once a day
- Stay away from hard foods like candy, raw carrots, and popcorn
- When brushing your teeth, do so twice a day for two minutes each time
Can you still get Toothache in Teeth that have had Root Canals?
It is possible to have pain in a tooth where your dentist previously performed a root canal years after the procedure. That is due to:
- Your root canal is not healing properly
- If you sustained an injury that can lead to new decay entering the tooth
- Decay can infect the root canal filling, which causes a new infection
- Your dentist left behind some infected tissue due to a complicated root anatomy
This procedure can be painful, but it is manageable if your dentist performs it correctly, and won’t last long.
If your pain persists for over a week, something is wrong, and you should seek your dentist as soon as possible.
Your tooth will be more fragile after this procedure, and it is always best to have a crown placed to help strengthen and support it.
Root canals are very effective and the best treatment available to preserve your natural tooth.