Out of all the questions your family dentist or root canal specialist gets about root canals, probably this one is the most common: Does a root canal hurt? The answer, which may surprise you, is no. Root canals are generally performed in order to relieve tooth pain (although root canals may also be needed in teeth that are not causing pain), and pain after root canal treatment is not common.
While it’s best to keep up with dental health so that you never need a root canal, root canals are actually good procedures in that they’re used to save teeth that might otherwise need to be extracted. Despite recent advancements in securing dental prostheses -- dental implants are successful 98% of the time, according to scientific literature -- it’s important to reduce numbers of missing or extracted teeth, since these can cause further oral health concerns. Currently, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, people over the age of 65 have only 18.9 remaining teeth on average, and about 31% of people over the age of 75 have no remaining teeth at all. But root canals can remove the bacteria that attack decaying teeth so that they can be left intact.
While you shouldn’t experience pain after root canal treatment, there are a few things you should know in order to support the post-op success of your root canal:
- Wait for Numbness to Abate
You should find after the procedure that your symptoms have abated. But before you celebrate by eating a big, juicy steak, remember that you need to let your anesthetic wear off before eating. You could bite your cheek or otherwise damage your mouth unknowingly. Your dentist will also give you guidelines on what you can eat and when.
- Some Tenderness Is Normal
It’s completely normal after the treatment to feel tenderness around the tooth or when opening and closing your jaw. This should be easily treated with over-the-counter pain medication. If you have pain after root canal treatment that persists for more than a few days or you feel is too severe to be treated OTC, you should contact your dentist.
- Visible Swelling Is a Bad Sign
If you can actually see swelling in your mouth, call your dentist. You could have a post-root canal infection. Swelling, as well as itching or hives, can also be caused by an allergic reaction to an anesthetic or medication.
- Root Canals Require Follow-Up
Normally, a temporary barrier is put on your tooth after a root canal. But this needs to be replaced by a permanent filling or crown in order to preserve the health of the tooth. Before your procedure, make sure you’re clear on all the necessary follow-up appointments.
- You Still Need to Brush
You should brush and floss normally after a root canal unless your dentist specifically gives you differing care instructions.
What are some other common dental myths? Have you held the misconception that root canals are painful? Join the discussion in the comments.
Need a root canal? Learn more about root canal services at Anchorage Midtown Dental Center and see how we can make your therapy as painless as possible.