Are root canals really all that painful?

When it comes to dental treatments, there are a few that seem to strike fear into the hearts of patients, and one with a reputation for pain is the root canal. Just the words can make grown men faint and yet there really is no need for fear, because this minor bit of dental surgery can help you hang onto your teeth for many years, instead of losing them to infection.

Root Canals in EssexPulp fact

The tooth is made up of 3 layers. On the outside is the hard, protective layer called enamel. This stops bad things getting in and also acts as a chewing or biting surface.

Inside that is a softer, more yellow layer called dentin, and inside that is the soft pulp of the tooth. It is made up of connective tissue, nerves and blood vessels. The pulp is inside the crown of the tooth and also goes down to the tip of the roots. Your front teeth have one root, but your back teeth have 3.

The pulp makes dentin, should any need to be replaced and also brings nutrients to the tooth in the blood vessels. The nerves are there to give feeling and let you know about any pain.

Infected pulp

A severe infection of the pulp is known as pulpitis, and it can happen if decay gets into the tooth, often following an injury. It hurts a lot.

If you get a tooth infection that goes into the pulp, it’s not good news. You have 2 options: you can either have the tooth extracted or you can have a root canal.

What is a root canal?

Root canals allow you to hang onto your tooth. We clean out all the pulp, including right down into the roots. Once it is all cleared out, we fill the roots and the crown, and then to make the whole tooth strong and to protect it from further infection, we put a crown made of dental porcelain over the top of it.

At Crofts Dental Practice in Essex, root canals are performed under local anaesthetic, so there is no pain during the procedure.

Do I need a root canal?

There are several reasons for the need for root canals in Essex at Crofts Dental Practice. The over-riding reason is that the nerve in the centre of the tooth is either creating dental problems, or is at risk of developing problems in the future.

Decay

Root Canals in EssexOnce tooth decay becomes extensive, the bacteria that cause the decay can infect the nerve. This causes inflammation and pressure to build up inside the tooth. This pressure cuts of the blood supply to the nerve and the nerve will die.

The throbbing sensation often felt by our patients with an infected root is the increased blood pressure from each heartbeat. That is why the pain can feel worse with any exertion. It can also get worse whilst lying down, as the blood pressure to the head is increased.

Broken teeth

If you have an accident, or break a tooth biting into something hard, you can expose the tooth to outside infection. If this is simply a tiny spot, we can try simple fillings. But, if bigger, it may be wise to have a root canal, as it is likely to cause problems.

The symptoms

The symptoms felt by our patients who may need a root canal vary considerably and if you are in doubt, you should consult your dentist at Crofts Dental Practice. The symptoms of a tooth needing a root canal can include sensitivity to hot and cold. If the sensitivity only lasts a few seconds and is a sharp pain, you will probably just need a filling, but if the pain lasts more than a couple of minutes, you may need a root canal.

Another symptom can be pain when biting. If there is an abscess under a tooth, biting on the tooth puts pressure on the abscess, causing pain.

Swelling around a tooth is also common and most frequently associated with an infection. This infection can be from a root canal related infection, although there are other types of infection which your dentist can diagnose.

Sometimes, the nerve can die and you may not suffer any pain at all. This is one of the reasons why it is important to visit your dentist regularly.