Root Canal Pain Myths Dispelled

2 August 2016
 Categories: Dentist, Articles


If you have an infected tooth, then your dentist has likely scheduled a root canal to take care of the problem. If you have a dental phobia or if dental procedures simply make you a bit nervous, then you may be scared of the procedure. You are not alone. Many people are afraid of the dentist, but most dental fears come from beliefs about dental procedures, not painful experiences. This means that your beliefs are causing you fear, but you may have no reason to be afraid. Here is some information that will help to dispel some of your root canal pain myths.

Root Canals Are Painful

Most people think that root canals are painful, but this is not true. The root canal is meant to relieve your discomfort so you no longer feel pain. The pain associated with a root canal is typically the infection discomfort that leads to the need for a root canal. Tooth infections are extremely uncomfortable because bacteria and infectious pus come into direct contact with the nerves that sit inside the pulp chamber. These nerves are called peripheral nerves, since they branch out from the main roots of the nervous system. The nerves are made up of sensory fibers that transmit information to your brain. When these nerves become damaged, they send out extremely strong distress signals. The signals are meant to alert you to a serious injury or illness. 

Unfortunately, distress signals become stronger and stronger as more and more of the nerve fibers are damaged. Pain will build and so will pressure inside the tooth. When a root canal is performed, all the nerves throughout the pulp chamber and tooth roots will be removed. This will immediately stop the pain sensations and distress signals sent out by the tooth. 

You may not be entirely comfortable when the root canal is performed, but your dentist will give you lidocaine to numb the tooth. If your tooth is extremely infected and an abscess has formed in the gums, then you may need to take antibiotics before the root canal is performed. The infection will cause the pH of the tissue around the tooth to drop. The change in the pH will substantially increase the amount of time that the anesthetic will take to absorb into the tissues. Your tooth may not be fully numb when the root canal is performed, so the antibiotic is provided to reduce the infection before treatment is provided. 

A Root Canal Can Cause An Infection

Bacteria, pus, and debris will need be released from your tooth when a root canal is performed. Some people believe that this bacteria will travel into the mouth and cause an infection elsewhere. While it is true that the bacteria can cause an infection somewhere else, your dentist will take a number of precautions to make sure this does not happen. 

Your dentist will place a sheath around the tooth so the contents of the tooth cannot slip into the mouth easily. This sheath is called a dental dam and it is placed over the entire area of your mouth. The dam is made from either vinyl or rubber, and a small hole is secured in the dam so the infected tooth can be worked on. The edges of the dam may be taped around your mouth or it they be set on a frame to keep the dam from slipping out of place.

Once the tooth is opened, your dentist will use suction to immediately remove all of the pus, pulp, blood, and bacteria that release from the infected tooth. Water will be used to rinse the tooth. An antiseptic fluid will be forced into the tooth at the end of the treatment to kill any leftover bacteria. Your dentist may also choose to place a medicated pack in the tooth for a short period of time before the tooth is filled. The tooth also may be sealed right away, and if this happens, you will be provided with an oral antibiotic to reduce infection concerns. 

Talk to a dentist for more information on dental services like root canals.