Text or Call Today! (423) 899-1112

How Painful Is A Root Canal And Do You Need One?

Endodontic treatment, more commonly referred to as “root canal” therapy, is a routine dental procedure that’s used to save teeth with deep decay, severe pain, abscesses, or cracks. Unfortunately, a lot of people have perceived notions that a root canal procedure is painful. The good news is that endodontic treatment helps address and prevent tooth pain, while also preventing you from having your tooth extracted. If you have a chipped or cracked tooth, you will only need a root canal if you have a compromised, inflamed, or infected pulp (the blood vessels inside your tooth.)

Without root canal therapy, cracked teeth can lead to severe tooth sensitivity and enamel deterioration. Your investment in these gentle dental procedures will restore chewing function and prevent adjacent teeth from becoming infected.

How Do You Know If You Need A Root Canal?

The only way to know if you need a root canal is to see your dentist in Chattanooga for an exam. Endodontic treatment will need to be performed if we can see compromised blood vessels or a cracked tooth root on your X-ray. If your tooth has a deep dental filling where new decay has developed around it, your dental pulp may be compromised. Most patients will experience a dull ache or intense pain when biting down on their tooth. 

You can also tell there is nerve damage if there is tooth discoloration in that specific area. Swollen gums, particularly a “fistula” or pimple on your soft tissues, is also common if the tooth is abscessed. Infected teeth with large cavities will eventually begin to die once the tooth decay reaches the tooth’s pulp at the center of the structure. Even though persistent pain is common, some teeth may never hurt at all. 

What Happens During a Root Canal?

Root canal treatment involves cleaning out the decay and infected nerve tissue inside of a dying or infected tooth. During the root canal procedure, your dentist numbs the infected tooth with local anesthesia and gently removes the infected pulp tissue. At that point, the pulp chamber is cleaned and sealed off to prevent reinfection and pain. Your tooth will then need a permanent crown placed on top of it so that it can function normally alongside other teeth. 

Thanks to modern technology and medication, root canal treatment is gentler than ever. In fact, your root canal procedure should feel just like any other basic restorative appointment. But if you’re a little nervous, and that’s completely understandable, our dentist can discuss planning to have your dental work completed under sedation. That way, all of the infected tissues that are causing pain can be treated without repeated dental procedures. Your root canal should feel just like getting a crown, or dental filling, except it typically takes a little longer. 

pain associated with Root Canal treatment

How Do You Know If You Need A Root Canal?

Some of the most common symptoms that you need a root canal include:

  • Pain when biting down or chewing
  • Tooth discoloration/darkening
  • Severely chipped or cracked tooth
  • Sensitivity to hot temperatures
  • A visible abscess on your gum tissues
  • Salty or unpleasant taste in your mouth
  • Swollen gums
  • Tooth pain

A small X-ray is usually all that we need to prescribe root canal treatment, because it allows us to see your full pulp chamber and tooth root below the bone. 

What causes a natural tooth to abscess? 

  • Traumatic injuries
  • Untreated tooth decay
  • Recurring cavities around old dental work

Any time we recommend root canal therapy, we’ll always show you what we see on your X-rays. You’ll be able to co-diagnose and co-plan your dental procedures right alongside of our dentist in Chattanooga. Our goal is to keep teeth healthy and retain them for years to come. So, if you have a damaged tooth or serious soft tissue infection that compromises your smile, it’s best to act quickly. 

X-ray after a root canal. You can see where there is no visible root in the tooth on the left.

What Should I Expect After A Root Canal Treatment?

If you’re getting a root canal, you can usually go back to your normal activities by the next day. Just remember that even with a root canal, you’ll still need to brush and floss around your tooth every day since it’s not immune to decay or gum disease. It can take a few hours the first day before numbing medication wears off, so make sure not to bite your cheek or lip in the meantime. Your gums can be a little sore from any injections or the dental dam around your tooth, but the irritation is minimal. 

In most cases, a temporary filling or crown will be applied to the tooth immediately after your endodontic surgery. Since a permanent crown is required, we’ll send an impression to our lab where the final crown is designed. You’ll want to come back to the office about two weeks after your root canal therapy to have the crown bonded in place. 

Why is Pulp Removed?

When you need a root canal, it’s because the blood vessels inside of your tooth are infected, dying, or compromised. Unlike repairing cavities with a filling, covering over a compromised dental nerve would lead to excruciating tooth pain and reoccurring infections. Eventually, the tooth would erode from the inside, deteriorating from deep within. When our dentist cleans out the nerve tissue and seals those teeth from the inside, it allows you to preserve your tooth for several more years. Endodontic treatment both saves your smile and eliminates the source of tooth pain (infected nerves beneath your enamel.)

Infected, dying natural teeth that require root canal treatment can be preserved for years. Getting a root canal is a great thing because it helps you preserve your natural smile. If you’ve heard rumors about root canals being painful or think pulling your tooth is best, it’s usually the opposite. Gentle root canals save you the hassle and headache of tooth loss, allowing your dental care to be proactive rather than reactive. 

Inflamed Gums? Tooth Hurts? Think You Need a Root Canal?

Contact McOmie Family Dentistry in Chattanooga to learn more about our gentle root canals and restorative services. 

You May Also Like…