The fear of going to the dentist is prevalent throughout the United States – between 9 and 15 percent of Americans say they avoid going to the dentist because of anxiety or fear. One of the most fear-inducing procedures is a root canal treatment, during which the nerve and pulp of a tooth are removed, and the inside of the tooth is cleaned and sealed. The good news is that the fear of a painful root canal treatment is completely unfounded. To counter this myth, here are a few facts about pain and the root canal process.
Root canal treatments and pain – the facts
Fact #1: Root canal treatments don’t cause pain; they relieve it. Many people who come in to an endodontist for a root canal treatment are already experiencing pain from a damaged or infected tooth. The treatment eliminates the infection, and that typically removes the source of the pain. A recent survey indicated that patients who have actually had a root canal are six times more likely to describe it as “painless,” compared to those who had not had one.
Fact #2: Endodontists, the specialists in saving infected or damaged teeth, are experts in pain management. Endodontists have a triple advantage when performing a root canal – they perform many more root canals per week than general dentists, they have specialized equipment to help them perform complex or challenging treatments, and they have two extra years of specialized training beyond general dental school. They skillfully perform your root canal and are more likely to be able to identify the causes of any discomfort and will find ways to diminish it quickly.
Fact #3: You will be able to feel the sensation of pain around the treated tooth in the future, following a root canal. While a root canal removes nerves within a tooth as part of the treatment process, if the tooth becomes infected later, nerves in the area around the tooth may experience pain. If you feel pain near the site of your root canal, call your endodontist right away, as this may indicate that you need to be seen again.
“Root canals should no longer be associated with pain – indeed, it’s more accurate to associate a root canal treatment with significant pain relief,” says Dr. Susan L. Wood, who practices with the Phoenix Endodontic Group.