Why Does a Root Canal Hurt So Much?

Are you suffering with a serious toothache? You might have an abscess. If your dentist says you need a root canal, don’t worry that it will hurt. In fact, the pain of a toothache is much worse.

If you are experiencing pain and pressure while chewing, can see any discoloration on your tooth or gums, or notice swelling and tenderness surrounding the area of the tooth in question—you may have an abscess that will require a root canal. Read on to find out what an abscess is, what to expect from a root canal procedure and why some root canals are painful.

Why Would Someone Need a Root Canal?

An abscess forms when a tooth decays or a nerve is traumatized and dies. Both decay and trauma can cause the pulp inside your tooth to die. When this happens a breeding ground of bacteria forms inside your tooth. The pulp serves as nourishment to bacteria and infection quickly begins to spread throughout the dead tooth.

The human body is unable to fight the bacteria because it has no way of getting blood to the tooth. Once the bacteria has overpopulated the dead tooth, it has nowhere to go but out into an area between the jawbone and teeth. Now the bacteria is exposed and the body’s immune system is able to invade and attack.

However, it can never get to the source of the problem, the actual tooth—causing this infection and battle to linger until something more drastic is done. Ultimately, an abscess can only be solved through a total tooth extraction or a root canal.

How Is a Root Canal Performed and What Does it Feel Like?

A root canal is where a dentist tries to save the tooth while eliminating an abscess. They will clear out the inside area of a tooth where the dead nerve is and sterilize the infected area. Once this is done, they fill the gap below the gums, where the nerve once was with a substance called gutta percha and the tooth with a regular composite filling.

Usually a patient is not put under during a root canal. The entire procedure can take place after numbing the gums. Many patients prefer additional sedation due to the anxiety of having a root canal.

Our dentist which serves Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and surrounding areas would typically numb the area and let it take effect, they may ask that you wear safety goggles or protective eyewear. This is a good precaution to take, ensuring nothing will get into your eyes, but it also helps the patient relax, limiting their visibility—sometimes the site of blood is scary for patients.

Before drilling, the dentist might use something like a bite block to make holding your mouth open more comfortable. They will also likely use a clamp and rubber dam to isolate the area that they are working on and keep it free from saliva or debris.

Most patients that experience a root canal report the procedure as fairly non-invasive. There is not typically any pain associated with the procedure itself. Most who have had one would describe it as a lot of pressure applied to the area and a general feeling of being uncomfortable.

Having a crown is a good additional measure some dentists will take to ensure that your tooth will not break or develop any further issues. Once a tooth has had an abscess and a root canal, it is no longer as strong as it once was, making it very susceptible to becoming a problem again. A crown is a good way to properly protect a tooth that has suffered an abscess and needed a root canal.

Why Have I Heard that a Root Canal is Painful?

Although it is pretty rare, a root canal is potentially more painful for someone who is suffering from an acute abscess, also referred to as a “hot tooth”. The reason is that their body will have a difficult time accepting anaesthetic. An acute abscess means the infection is raging, the patient’s gums are probably in extreme pain, feel hot and are very swollen.

Imagine how effective it would be to take 1 low-dose pain reliever after breaking your arm. This is an extreme version of the same concept. The typical amount of numbing agent required to perform a perfectly painless root canal doesn’t work as well with an acute abscess.

However, there are solutions to this problem. Sometimes a patient will be prescribed antibiotics to gain control over the infection before having the root canal. It’s also important that the patient be completely transparent with their dentist. They should tell them the extremity of the pain they are in and not say they are numb unless they are.

It is okay to ask for more anaesthetic, our dentists will not give you more than is safe, although you might have to pay for any additional expenses.

For more information on root canals in Port Coquitlam, contact Coquitlam Centre Dental at 604.464.1511.