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Do Root Canals Hurt?

March 22, 2023
by: Dr. Ammons

Many times, decay or trauma opens a tooth up, allowing bacteria to get into the soft center, or pulp, of the tooth. When this happens, root canal therapy is often recommended to remove the infection and salvage the structure of the tooth.

While this is one of the most common procedures, with 15 million being performed every year, according to the American Academy of Endodontics, many patients avoid it because they are afraid that it will hurt.

The truth is, while there may be some minor discomfort associated with the procedure, it doesn’t hurt. In fact, most patients report that they get relief from the pain of the infection following root canal therapy.

The dentists at Ammons Dental by Design have the necessary experience and expertise to guide you through this process. We can help you understand the procedure to make you more comfortable. In this article, we’ll explain some of the myths associated with root canals, factors that impact pain, and how to manage your pain/discomfort following treatment.

Common Myths about Root Canals

Many years ago, root canals could be painful. However, due to modern technology and improved anesthesia, this procedure is no more painful than having a cavity filled. In addition, endodontists have experience and expertise in pain management and can quickly and comfortably treat most cases by removing damaged tissue.

However, while a root canal can help resolve the pain of a severe toothache, the relief is typically not instantaneous. Some patients do experience instant relief, while others experience significant relief- but it still takes a few weeks to fully resolve. This is often due to inflammation of the ligament holding the tooth.

Many patients believe that the best way to treat an infected tooth is extraction. While this may seem like a good option, especially when it comes to cost, this can cost you more in the long run. A root canal is the best way to salvage the structure of the natural tooth and doesn’t hurt as bad as you might think.

Factors that Impact Pain During Root Canal Therapy

The procedure itself should not be painful due to the anesthesia. You may feel some pressure, but that is all. However, there are a few things that can impact your pain after the procedure:

  • If you eat too soon or you bite down hard on the affected tooth, you may experience pain
  • If you smoke soon after the procedure, you may inhibit healing, which can cause the pain/discomfort to last longer
  • If you don’t take antibiotics or pain medications as directed, you may experience more pain

How to Manage Pain/Discomfort Following Root Canal Therapy

Some tenderness/discomfort/pain following root canal therapy is normal for up to two weeks. You’ll notice this discomfort approximately 1 to 2 hours after the procedure, once the anesthesia begins to wear off. You may also have some jaw soreness from having your mouth open for so long. On the other hand, some patients have no pain at all and approximately 3% to 6% of patients have severe pain.

There are a few things that you can do to ensure a comfortable and successful recovery from root canal therapy:

  • Avoid eating until the anesthesia wears off to avoid biting your tongue or the inside of your cheeks or lips. When you do eat, choose soft foods.
  • Take pain medications as directed by the dentist. In most cases, OTC pain relievers will help, but you may have a prescription pain reliever if the dentist feels it’s necessary.
  • If you do have severe or worsening pain 2 to 3 days after your procedure, contact the clinic for an appointment.
  • Proper oral hygiene is critical for healing, therefore brush/floss teeth as usual.
  • You will likely have a temporary filling or crown, so your bite may feel different and more likely to be damaged. Therefore, avoid hard/sticky foods until you get your permanent restoration. Schedule your permanent restoration as soon as possible.

In some cases, if not cared for properly, you may develop a root canal infection or root canal abscess. The best way to care for your tooth after root canal therapy is to practice proper oral hygiene and take antibiotics as directed.

How Ammons Dental Can Help

Dr. Michael Ammons and the team at Ammons Dental by Design have the experience and expertise to perform root canals, as well as other dental procedures. We work with a wide range of ages from pediatric to geriatric.

If you have a tooth that you believe may need a root canal, schedule your consultation today. We have four offices to serve you: James Island, Camden, Summerville, and Downtown Charleston. Our hours vary by location, and our friendly office staff can help you schedule an appointment that fits in with your schedule.

We look forward to working with you to restore your smile and your confidence. We can help you ease your dental pain with our advanced technology and treatment options. Our team strives to stay on top of the latest dental advancements so that we can provide you with the best treatment possible.

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Multiple Convenient Dental Locations Near Charleston

Ammons Dental By Design has four locations so you can find the most convenient office for your family.
1015 Fair St.
Camden, SC 29020
Monday – Thursday:
8am – 5pm
P: (803) 969-0365
F: (803) 432-2625
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14 Lockwood Dr,
Charleston, SC 29401
(Suite A on the exterior of the Ashley House Building, across from the marina)
Monday – Thursday:
7am - 4pm
P: (843) 380-2734
F: (843) 577-4464
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1739-B Maybank Hwy.
Charleston, SC 29412
Tuesday – Friday:
7am - 4pm
P: (843) 380-8889
F: (843) 990-9504
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1710 Old Trolley., Ste.B
Summerville, SC 29485
Tuesday – Thursday: 8am – 5pm
Monday & Friday*: 8am – 5pm
*Rotating schedule
P: (843) 380-8904
F: (843) 871-0617
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