The Facts: Does a Root Canal Hurt?

A toothache can make you lose interest in life because you cannot eat, sleep or do your daily activities in peace. What if in all your pain, your dentist told you that you need a root canal to relieve your pain? The first thing you may wonder is what it is. And with the sound of the name, it may seem like a painful procedure. Your next question to the dentist may be; will it hurt?

The answer is no.

A root canal treatment does not hurt. Just as the word says, the root canal procedure involves accessing the inside of a tooth’s root canals to remove the decaying pulp and replacing it with a different material. This prevents the infection in the pulp from spreading to the other parts of the teeth.

The root canal houses the pulp, nerves and blood vessels. The nerves have a sensory role, and make the teeth sensitive to cold or heat. When the pulp is removed, the teeth are no longer sensitive but this does not have any effect on their function.


However, this does not mean that the tooth can no longer feel pain, it is just insensitive to cold and heat and you may experience sensitivity in the area around the tooth after the treatment.

It is not just teeth that are painful that need a root canal. In some cases, the pulp may be infected but you may not be feeling any pain. One of the signs you can look out for is a pimple near the affected tooth.

This is caused by pus that is draining from the infection and may not be painful. The solution is to have your tooth checked so that root canal treatment can be done to prevent other nearby tissues from being infected.

In most cases, the treatment is successful and a tooth can live on for up to ten years or even a lifetime after treatment. The tooth does not look any different from the other teeth and one cannot tell that root canal treatment has been done on it.

How does such an invasive procedure not hurt?

Also known as endodontic treatment, when the procedure is done, a local anesthetic is used which numbs the tooth and the area surrounding it. This ensures that you do not feel the pain. After the procedure, the dentist provides pain-relieving medicines.

How is the treatment done?

In the root canal procedure, the damaged pulp is removed and the canals inside the root are cleaned, disinfected, then filled and sealed.

  • X-ray. The first thing the dentist does is to take an X-ray or examine the existing ones if he suspects that the tooth has a problem and may require a root canal. This is to show which teeth are affected by the decay.
  • Anesthesia administered. Once the affected tooth is identified, a local anesthetic is administered. This helps to numb the tooth and the area surrounding it so that you do not feel the pain when the procedure is being performed.
  • Opening the tooth. Also known as pulpectomy, this involves making an opening on the tooth and removing the decayed pulp.
  • Closing the tooth. The opened tooth is then filled using gutta-percha material and sealed using cement.

Why the decayed pulp should be removed

root-canal-painWhen the pulp and nerve tissues decay, they cause bacteria to multiply, which results in an abscessed tooth or an infection. Other than the pus, the infection can also cause swelling on the neck, face or head as well as loss of bone at the roots tip. You may also find there are drainage problems coming from the root that may create a hole that drains to the skin through the cheeks or to the gums.

This is why it is important to have a painful tooth checked to determine if it is the pulp, which is damaged so that a root canal can be done to remove the decayed pulp.

What causes the pulp to be infected?

The pulp is inside the root canals of teeth. It contains nerves, connective tissue and blood vessels. Some of things that can affect the pulp and cause it to decay or be damaged include a cavity, a crack on the tooth, leaking fillings, and trauma such as a fall or continuous tooth treatment.

Symptoms of a pulp infection

How will you know that you have pulp infection? Except for those who go for regular dental checkup and the doctor may diagnose damaged pulp even if you are not feeling any pain on the tooth, the most common symptom is pain.

You may feel pain when chewing or biting and sensitivity when consuming cold or hot foods. If the infection has spread, you may experience facial swelling, oozing pus from the tooth, a persistent pimple on the gums, gum near the tooth swelling and the tooth may became dark.

After root canal treatment

Now that you know that the root canal treatment is not painful, it does not mean that after the treatment you will not feel any pain or discomfort. Although the dentist provides medication to deal with the sensitivity, there are things you should do after the treatment as you recover.

  • Avoid hard foods before you complete the treatment. You should also avoid chewing with the repaired tooth until the procedure is complete including sealing the crown. This prevents breakage of a weak tooth.
  • Do not consume many sugary foods.
  • Have good oral hygiene by flossing and brushing your teeth regularly.
  • Do not smoke in case you normally do.


A root canal treatment does not hurt. Its purpose is to improve the tooth condition that has been caused by decaying pulp. In fact, the toothache due to the damaged pulp may be more than the resulting pain during the treatment.

Although the procedure is invasive because it involves creating a hole to drain the pulp, you may not feel pain due to the anesthesia used.

However, you need to take care of the teeth after the procedure to ensure successful healing by not eating hard or sugary foods and by constantly cleaning your teeth.