Monday, August 26, 2013

Does a Root Canal Hurt?

I wanted to post this entry for random people on the internet who are Googling that exact wording:

"Does a root canal hurt?"

So there comes a time in someone's life where they might need a root canal. That time came for me earlier this month. I didn't realize I had lost a filling because a bit of decay was moving up my tooth from the site of the filling. Then my tooth started to hurt. Gross!

All of this could have perhaps been prevented had I actually gone to the dentist in the past seven years. Yes, my wedding day came, I moved away from home and I started putting off the dentist. For years.

The answer to the question "does a root canal hurt" depends a lot on 1) your endodontist 2) the extent of your infection.

I had to have three shots in my mouth for my root canal. I didn't feel the first two hardly at all, and the third one was in the roof of my mouth, which doesn't sound fun at all. My endodontist was so gentle and careful that the shot to the roof of my mouth felt like a tiny pinch.

Do I have a low pain tolerance? Yes. I got a tattoo that took 5 minutes and I wanted to cry. However, I always have pain in my mouth because I am prone to lots of canker sores. I also didn't think my cleaning, which was very aggressive after 7 years of not having any cleanings, hurt. Perhaps canker sores, which sometimes are so painful you can't eat, have toughened me a bit when it comes to oral trauma.

So far, the answer to the question is: it could hurt just a little if you feel the needles that the endodontist gives you. However, as soon as the medicine starts moving from the needle to your gums, you immediately stop feeling it.

I was told that my root canal would be simple and straightforward which lead me to believe that the extent of my infection in my tooth was not very great. I talked to two people who said their root canals were painful due to the needles, and their affected teeth had very deep infections. I wonder if the affected tooth also has an impact on the amount of pain you may or may not experience. My root canal was in my top left molar. Just FYI.

The actual procedure was worse than the needles because it was very scary. There was a lot of drilling. Drilling is terrifying to me because I know it's supposed to hurt. Let me reiterate that nothing hurt. However, feeling the vibration of the drill against my tooth and also hearing the terrible sound it made was just awful. My friend asked me why I couldn't listen to headphones. Because I am jumpy. If something touches me and I don't know what it's going to sound or feel like, I will jump. That can't be good for precise dental work, so I had to just bear hearing all of what was happening.

The other part that kind of stinks is having your mouth being held open by a bite guard. Because my affected tooth was far back, it was uncomfortable keeping my mouth so open wide. My jaw started to feel sore and swallowing was weird.

So for the first procedure, I'll summarize: the needles don't really hurt, but the actual procedure is unpleasant because of the drilling and loud scary noises.

The second procedure involved getting a crown on the affected tooth. There was SO MUCH DRILLING for that because the dentist had to basically wear my tooth down so the crown could be put over it. That was not fun because of the above reasons. The needles I had to get for the crown and a filling on my bottom tooth were slightly more uncomfortable but again, I just describe them as little pinches. I'd rather have those than get another tattoo.

The materials that went into my mouth for the crown tasted funny, and there were a lot more breaks during the crown where I could relax and close my mouth. All in all, a less scary visit than the root canal. My crown feels awesome and my tooth pain is GONE!

I learned the importance of 1) getting regular cleanings, 2) brushing after every meal or snack, or at least staying hydrated after snacks so food doesn't just sit on your teeth all day and 3) taking ibuprofen before both procedures. Trust me, it helps.

Again, in summary. Root canals/crowns do not hurt if you have a great dentist and endodontist. How you choose to react to the terrifying, murderous noises going on close to your head is entirely up to you.


  1. I had to get a tooth pulled once and even though I was all shot up with Novocaine I still screamed when they pulled the tooth because it made a terrifying murderous noise. Scared the crap out of my dentist who thought I could feel it. Served him right, he was a crappy dentist!

  2. root canal really hurts cos i got it also before that i almost collapsed when the endodontist pulled my tooth out.

  3. This is definitely good news to all! Once the dentist said root canal, pain will be the first thing that comes to mind. But just like you said, it always depends on the stage of infection and on how the dentist will deliver the treatment. In my opinion, the more experienced the dentist is, the higher the chance that it will be painless.

    Stormy @

  4. Hi Alicia! It's nice of you to share your experience. Undergoing a root canal treatment really sounds painful, but reading your post makes it sound lighter to endure, well depending on the case. Congratulations for the good results and I hope that they work out for you. Cheers. :)

  5. I would say that root canal really does not hurt. If you approach an experience and good dentist, you will lose your dental phobia forever.

  6. Thanks for sharing your experience it was pretty simple to understand with experienced doctor and right treatment, root canal is not that painful process, Once again good post cheers.

  7. Thanks for sharing the process of how a root canal works. I didn't know what they did to fix teeth. I'm glad that you've shared your experiences because you never know when you might have a root canal done.

  8. Great post! Been reading a lot about getting a root canal. Thanks for the info here!

  9. A friend of mine got a root canal recently and she said that the root canal didn't hurt so much. In fact it was a relief compared to the pain she had been feeling prior to the root canal. I agree though that it's scary to feel things in your mouth and not know where they are or what they're doing. I was conscious for my wisdom teeth removal and felt the exact same way.
    Claudia Rosenburg |

  10. I think the idea that root canals are very painful is a myth. They used to a long time ago when dentists could not properly anesthetize their patients. Now, dentists can completely numb the area. You may feel some pressure and hear some strange noises, but it should not be painful if you have a good dentist.

    Clare Reynolds ||

  11. Root canal is mostly a painful procedure but you can save a tooth is the procedure.

  12. It is funny that a lot of people Google that question. Granted a lot of the TV and movies make it sound like a scary experience. Those are some god points you bring up about the variables.

  13. Thanks for sharing your experience. I haven't needed a root canal yet, but I get cavities easily, so I'm paranoid that a root canal is in my future. Of course I've heard all the rumors about how painful it is, so it's nice to know that those are probably exaggerations. I can totally see where you're coming from when you talk about the drilling making you nervous, but like I said, I get cavities really easily. I'm used to having the dentist drill my teeth, so that probably wouldn't be a problem for me.

  14. I agree that it depends on a variety of factors. It can be dependent on your dentist. It might also depend on how big of a procedure this ends up being for you.

  15. Thank you for being so upfront and honest about what you experienced as you got a root canal! I've always been nervous that I'll need one and the name sounds a little terrifying. I've gotten crowns before and plenty of shots in my mouth. My mom recently got a root canal and said she couldn't feel a thing. The noises bother me too, but my dentist will let me watch movies sometimes if it's going to be a long procedure.

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  17. I recently got a root canal and felt absolutely nothing during the procedure. My tooth was in so much pain before the procedure that I knew I had to go in. I was so nervous because I have heard all of the horror stories. However, the only thing that pinched was getting the shot of anesthesia before the operation. Once I was numb, I didn't feel a thing! I was so happy that I didn't have to restrain myself from screaming or anything.

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  19. My sister had a root canal done, and similar to you, it was due to a filling going bad. She said it didn't really hurt, but I don't know if I believe her. It does seem like she was in more pain before the procedure, than after. So the only thing it really did, was get rid of the pain. That, and drain her wallet.