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Root Canal Therapy: What It Is and Does It Hurt?

Dentist talking about tooth decay with patient during primary consultation

Toothaches are no fun. But what if the pain lingers, throbbing and persistent? This could be a sign of a deeper problem within the tooth, potentially requiring root canal therapy. Despite its reputation, root canal treatment is a safe and effective procedure designed to alleviate pain and save your natural tooth.

Let’s explore what root canal therapy entails, debunk common myths about its pain level, and shed light on its importance in maintaining dental health.

What is Root Canal Therapy?

The inner chamber of your tooth, known as the pulp, contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue. When this pulp becomes infected or inflamed due to deep decay, cracks in the tooth, or trauma, it can cause significant pain. Root canal therapy aims to address this infection and prevent further damage. 

The Root Canal Procedure

A root canal treatment is typically performed by a dentist or an endodontist, a root canal specialist trained in treating the pulp and root of the tooth. Here’s a breakdown of the general procedure:

  1. Diagnosis: Before initiating root canal therapy, a thorough examination and diagnostic tests, such as X-rays, are conducted to assess the extent of damage and determine the need for treatment.
  2. Numbing the Area: To ensure patient comfort during the procedure, the affected tooth and surrounding area are numbed with local anaesthesia. This effectively eliminates pain and discomfort throughout the procedure.
  3. Accessing the Pulp: Once the tooth is numb, the dentist creates a small access opening in the tooth’s crown to reach the infected pulp chamber and root canals. Special instruments are used to remove the infected tissue and thoroughly clean the area to eliminate bacteria and debris.
  4. Removing Infection: This time, the dentist will meticulously remove the infected pulp tissue, including any nerves and blood vessels. This process is performed with extreme care and precision to ensure all infected material is eliminated.
  5. Cleaning and Shaping: After removing the infected pulp, the dentist will thoroughly clean and disinfect the root canals. This helps remove any remaining bacteria and debris that could contribute to further infection. A different set of tiny instruments will be used to shape the canals to prepare them for filling.
  6. Sealing the Tooth: Once the canals are cleaned, shaped, and disinfected, they will be filled with a biocompatible material, such as gutta-percha, a rubber-like substance. This material seals the canals and prevents future infections from entering the tooth.
  7. Temporary Filling: To protect the tooth and the filling material while a permanent restoration is created, a temporary filling will be placed on the tooth to protect it until a permanent crown or restoration can be placed. This temporary filling is usually made from a dental resin and will need to be replaced at a follow-up appointment.
  8. Permanent Restoration: During a follow-up appointment, typically within a week or two of the initial procedure, the dentist will remove the temporary filling and assess the healing of the tooth. If everything is healing well, the dentist will then place a permanent crown or filling on the tooth.  

Does Root Canal Therapy Hurt?

The idea of a root canal often evokes fear of pain. However, thanks to modern anaesthesia techniques, the procedure itself is generally painless. You may experience some mild discomfort during the injection of the anaesthesia, but the tooth itself will be numb throughout the treatment.

Pain After Root Canal Therapy

It’s normal to experience some mild tenderness or discomfort after a root canal procedure. This is due to inflammation in the surrounding tissues. Over-the-counter pain relief medication like ibuprofen or paracetamol can usually manage this temporary discomfort.

However, if you experience severe or persistent pain after your root canal therapy, it’s crucial to contact your dentist immediately. This could indicate an underlying issue requiring further treatment.

Benefits of Root Canal Therapy

Here’s why opting for root canal therapy can be a wise decision:

  • Pain Relief: The primary benefit of root canal therapy is pain relief. By removing the infected pulp, the procedure effectively addresses the source of the pain.
  • Saves the Tooth: Root canal therapy allows you to preserve your natural tooth. This is preferable to tooth extraction, which can lead to problems with chewing, speaking, and even facial structure.
  • Prevents Further Infection: When left untreated, a tooth infection can spread to the jawbone and other parts of the body, leading to a more serious case. Root canal therapy removes the infection and prevents further complications.

Who Needs Root Canal Therapy?

If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may be a candidate for root canal therapy:

  • Persistent toothache, especially one that worsens with hot or cold stimuli
  • Sensitivity to pressure when biting or chewing
  • Swelling or tenderness in the gums around the tooth
  • A pimple-like bump on the gum near the tooth
  • Loose tooth

When to See a Dentist

If you experience any of the above symptoms, it’s crucial to schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment of a tooth infection can prevent the need for root canal therapy altogether.

Root Canal Specialist: Endodontists

For complex cases or if you have anxiety about dental procedures, an endodontist can be a valuable resource. Endodontists are dentists with additional training and expertise in diagnosing and treating problems affecting the pulp and root of the tooth.

Relieve Your Teeth With Root Canal Therapy

Root canal therapy has a much-undeserved reputation for being painful. In reality, modern techniques and anaesthesia make it a comfortable and effective procedure that can save your tooth and alleviate pain.

If you’re experiencing persistent tooth pain, don’t hesitate to visit your dentist for a diagnosis. Early intervention can prevent the need for root canal therapy altogether. But if root canal treatment is necessary, remember it’s a safe and effective solution for a brighter, healthier smile.

If you’re convinced to get root canal therapy in Australia, heed more dental advice from the experts at Blue Gum Dental! Our experienced dentists will get to the root cause of the problem and minimise the pain you’ve been enduring. Book an appointment with us today so you can finally relieve yourself from the pain with Blue Gum Dental.

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