Root canals are some of the most common, routine dental procedures. But you wouldn’t know it by the way they’re talked about in popular culture.

A root canal is used as a symbol of every unpleasant and painful experience. It’s held up as an example of terrible discomfort. But is it?

The fact of the matter is that root canals aren’t actually that painful—in fact, they’re more likely to relieve pain than cause it. And they heal up quickly.

What a root canal is

A root canal is a procedure used to salvage a tooth that has become damaged or infected. When the tooth pulp begins to die, it causes rot and infection that can lead to other, worse complications. The root canal procedure removes the infected pulp and replaces it with an inert substance, leaving the tooth intact with a cap over the top.

It’s been a regular dental practice for many years, and over time the methods have become more and more refined. Local anesthetic is all that’s necessary for most patients, but some may still worry about pain that persists after the numbing wears off.

The root canal recovery process

If the permanent filling and crown wasn’t put in place immediately, it’s wise to avoid chewing on top of the freshly-repaired tooth. During the first few days after the procedure, the tooth may feel sensitive.

The tissue around the tooth will probably have some inflammation, especially if there was infection in the area before the root canal. Usually regular ibuprofen or another over-the-counter anti-inflammatory can take care of it, and most patients return to their regular activities the very next day.

A few days of mild soreness and tenderness are about all that can be expected in a normal root canal procedure. If it’s more severe, there may be a narcotic prescription for additional numbing.

Once the crown is in place the procedure is complete—the tooth is completely intact, and since there’s no tissue in the tooth itself any more to heal the only issue might be with the area around it. If you experience pain or soreness much later than a few days, it’s time to contact the dentist again, as you may be experiencing complications that require additional work. This is very rare but does happen occasionally.

Root canals don’t have to be intimidating or scary. Pain is minimal, complications are unlikely and it’s one of the more common dental operations performed in any dentistry. If you think you may need a root canal or another dental procedure—or even if you just want a checkup—come visit our dentistry and we’ll get you taken care of.