Most of us have heard of a root canal but don’t have a clue about what they are. That mystery could be a significant reason that potential patients are anxious about root canal treatment. The good news is root canal pain is easily and comfortably treated by modern dentistry. The procedure and recovery time are nowhere near as worrying as most people expect. If you have questions about root canal procedures, we have answers.
In this post, we’re going into the details of what root canal pain and other root canal symptoms look and feel like, and what to expect throughout the different stages of your potential root canal treatment and recovery.
What is a Root Canal?
Deep under the hard outer enamel of your teeth is a softer tissue called pulp. The pulp extends down into the roots of your teeth and contains the nerves and blood supply that help maintain healthy teeth. Just like cavities in the harder parts of a tooth, the pulp can become infected or die off completely. Not too long ago, teeth with dead or infected pulp would simply be removed. A root canal is a modern dental procedure that avoids the loss of teeth and pain of extractions. Instead, the infected pulp is removed and the root is cleaned, filled and sealed to strengthen the tooth and prevent further infection. We already have an article that explains the procedure in more detail [here].
Root Canal Symptoms
Seeing a dentist will help you determine if the discomfort you’re experiencing is root canal pain. There are some common signs you can look out for, however, if you experience several of the following symptoms it might be time to come and see us about potential root canal treatment.
Tooth pain can be caused by a whole range of things, including gum disease, cavities in the harder parts of your teeth and damage to previous dental work. Pain originating from other parts of your face and around the mouth can also feel like tooth pain. Pain from all of these sources may come and go or get better or worse over a day. Root canal pain however, is usually constant and consistently intense.
Teeth Changing Colour
Damage to tooth pulp, including an infection seriously impacts the health of a tooth. The pulp contains all of the nerves and blood vessels that maintain the tooth. Unhealthy teeth often change colour as damaged pulp becomes less effective at keeping your tooth well supplied with oxygen and nutrients. Discolouration is definitely a good indication you’re in need of a root canal.
Sensitivity to Temperature
Damage to nerves and blood vessels in the pulp changes the way you detect and perceive pain from your tooth. This often includes sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures. Experiencing sudden pain whilst consuming hot and/or cold food or liquids doesn’t necessarily have to be caused by damage to the pulp. However, if the pain persists for some time after you’ve stopped eating or drinking, it may be a sign that you’re experiencing root canal pain.
The tooth is painful to touch or eat with
If a tooth is sensitive to light pressure or chewing most foods, it’s likely a sign of fairly extensive decay or a deeper infection. This means the pulp and root canal are almost certainly affected. Pain from pressure is a common sign of many dental health issues, but if the pain you experience from light touch seems excessive or you’re experiencing it in combination with some of the other symptoms we’ve mentioned, there’s a good chance you’re feeling root canal pain and may need a root canal treatment.
Root Canal Recovery
Many potential patients seem to assume that root canal treatment is particularly painful and comes with a long recovery. The good news is that the popular depiction of root canal treatment is mostly based on outdated technology and methods.
Is a root canal procedure very painful?
Using modern dental techniques, a root canal is really no different than getting a large, slightly deeper filling. The procedure always involves anaesthetic. Other than mild discomfort from applying local anaesthetics, you shouldn’t feel any pain at all during the procedure. Post-procedure pain is usually mild and easily treated with over the counter pain killers. It’s also important to keep in mind that root canal pain before treatment is usually so bad that it is far worse than any discomfort experienced during or after treatment.
Recovery time after root canal treatment
Your initial root canal procedure may only involve a temporary filling. This removes any infection and provides you immediate relief from your root canal pain. A few days later you’ll return to your dentist for scans and a checkup. Usually the infection will have been successfully treated and a permanent filling and crown will be placed on the tooth. The surprising news is that other than slight discomfort that may continue for a few days, that is the extent of the recovery. You’ll likely be back to your normal routine the day after your permanent filling.
What can I eat after having a root canal procedure?
Everyone worries about not being able to eat after dental surgery. After your initial treatment, it’s best to avoid hot, hard or crunchy, and spicy foods. Soft, cold foods like soft fruits, dairy, mashes and eggs make excellent options immediately after a root canal. The good news is that you’re only going to have to worry about it for a few days. Once your permanent filling and seal are in place, you’ll be free to eat whatever you feel comfortable with.
Think you may be experiencing root canal pain?
We hope we’ve given you a better idea of whether you’re experiencing root canal pain or other root canal symptoms and busted some of the myths around the treatment and recovery. If you have any further questions or think you may need to speak to a dentist about root canal treatment, get in touch and we’ll point you in the right direction.