The truth about pain and root canal therapy is simple: root canal treatment generally doesn’t hurt.
However, the pervading attitude surrounding root canal treatment is that it is painful and uncomfortable. In actuality, the real source of pain is the underlying infection or inflammation affecting the fleshy insides (including blood cells and nerves) of your tooth. Root canal therapy is used to clean out the tooth, seal it from the risk of future infection, and prepare it for a long, healthy future. All of these steps ultimately lead to the elimination from pain in your teeth.
Your First Appointment
Your first root canal appointment will involve opening up your tooth, and removing the infected nerve and dental pulp that are ultimately causing the pain. This typically begins with your dentist carefully applying local anesthetic that should make your mouth feel very numb, over which he or she will place a rubber dam to isolate the tooth and make the process easier.
Actually “opening” the tooth can often be the most nerve-wracking part of the process, especially for a patient that hasn’t experienced it before. However, with your tooth numbed your dentist will generally remind you that the process shouldn’t hurt and you really shouldn’t feel anything while your tooth is “opened” and cleaned out.
Similar to getting a regular filling, getting your tooth drilled for a root canal should only cause some vibration. Many patients report that the only real difference between a filling and root canal treatment is the fact that it takes a little bit longer as your dentist carefully uses files of varying sizes to fully clear the entire tooth of infection and inflammation. During this process, your dentist will use a bleach-like material to kill bacteria and infection inside your tooth, followed by a gummy-substance placed as a temporary filling. After this first appointment, you should experience little discomfort and only occasional soreness.
Your Second Appointment
During your second root canal appointment, your dentist will numb your tooth again (even though the nerve has already been removed) and plug the hole to ensure there are no gaps or spaces inside. Finally, a composite filling is added to the “cavity” in many layers, this is done in order to seal it from future infection. Sometimes, it’s also recommended that the tooth be crowned as well. This helps ensure long-term strength due to the fact that the treated tooth will generally be more brittle and prone to damage.