A root canal, also known as endodontic therapy, is one of the most carried out dental surgeries in the world today with about 24 million people in the United States alone undergoing the procedure every year. You’re not alone in wondering if a root canal is painful.

Most people associate undergoing a root canal with excruciating pain and discomfort. The fact is, for the vast majority of cases, the procedure should not hurt. If the pain is excessive, however, something might be going awry. If you are in pain, learn more about how Riverpoint Family, Cosmetic and Implant dentistry can provide root canal therapy to help get you out of pain.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at root canal and pain. 

The Truth About Root Canal Pain

When a dentist recommends a root canal treatment, many people become apprehensive, mainly due to the belief that the procedure is painful.

You should realize that the pain you feel is a result of an infection in your tooth. The root canal procedure does not cause it. This procedure helps to get rid of the pain.

Also, many people wrongly believe that root canals involve the removal of a tooth’s roots. The procedure treats the dental pulp, the tissue found inside the root, while keeping the root itself intact, thereby saving the tooth. If the pulp becomes infected or damaged, then you’ll need a root canal to remove it.

Once the affected tissue is eliminated, you won’t have to worry about the pain and discomfort caused by the infected pulp or about the infection worsening. There’s a strong chance that you’ll keep your natural tooth for the rest of your life unless you suffer other dental issues.

A rubber-like material known as gutta perch will be used to cover the space left by the infected pulp. A root canal procedure typically takes one or two appointments to complete.  Your tooth can then be restored with a crown or filling so you can continue using your mouth as usual.

Signs You Need a Root Canal

It’s worth noting that not all pain should be treated with a root canal. Nonetheless, these are signs that you may need a root canal:

  • Unbearable teeth pain when eating
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold, which remains a little long after the hot or cold substance has been removed
  • Darkening of the tooth
  • A small, pimple-like bump on the gums close to the affected teeth
  • Swelling in the gums near the affected teeth.

How Much Pain Can a Root Canal Cause?

You may feel somewhat sensitive or tender for a couple of days after undergoing a root canal. Here’s why:

  • Persistent swelling or inflammation of the gum tissue – Some small nerves in the ligaments and tissue around the tooth usually are left after removing the pulp. When the root canal area gets inflamed, these nerve endings may also experience discomfort.
  • Equipment-induced damaged – The dental instrument used to clean out the root canal may accidentally damage the sensitive surrounding tissue.
  • High temporary filling – Your dentist may have inserted the temporary filling and failed to smooth it down properly. If the filling is even negligibly higher than the adjacent teeth, it can cause your mouth to bite harder on that area, making the tooth sore.

Usually, you should expect the sensitivity and discomfort induced by a root canal to subside in a matter of days. If the pain persists, or becomes more intense, even with the use of home remedies, you should see your dentist or endodontist for an examination.

How to Manage Root Canal Pain at Home

You can use over-the-counter or prescription painkillers to manage the pain after having a root canal. It’s imperative that you follow instructions carefully when using pain relievers. If the pain relievers don’t seem to be effective, you should contact your endodontist.

You should also refrain from chewing or biting down on the affected tooth until your dentist completes the final restoration. Otherwise, you risk breaking the delicate temporary filling. Moreover, it’s essential that you practice proper oral hygiene by brushing and flossing on a regular basis.


The thought of a root canal may make you apprehensive or fearful if you’re not familiar with the procedure. One of the most common conceptions about root canals is that they cause a lot of pain and should be avoided at all costs. However, the exact opposite is true.

The procedure helps to eliminate pain that emanates from a tooth infection. The pain is eliminated by removing damaged tissues in the tooth through a root canal procedure. And thanks to modern technology and anesthetics, you won’t experience much pain. Moreover, endodontists have the tools and resources to manage pain.