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Do Root Canals Hurt?

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A woman holds a cold compress against her jaw due to tooth pain.

You don’t have to dread a root canal. You may have heard stories about the discomfort associated with root canal treatments, but root canals are not always as unpleasant as they may seem. In fact, the procedure is designed to alleviate pain caused by dental infections and restore the health of your tooth.

A root canal is typically not a painful procedure. Before your root canal, you’ll receive a local anesthetic to reduce the potential for you to feel pain. However, you may experience soreness or discomfort near the area where your procedure was performed after the root canal is complete.

Don’t avoid the dentist over the fear of a potential root canal. We can perform a thorough dental exam to determine whether a root canal is the proper treatment for you, and if it is, answer any questions you may have to help alleviate your apprehension about the procedure.

When Do You Need a Root Canal?

A root canal involves removing the infected or inflamed pulp tissue inside a tooth, and it’s a routine dental procedure that can treat several issues deep inside your teeth.

The deep structures of a tooth are just as important as the outer enamel. A root canal may be the right treatment when you’re experiencing problems beneath the surface. 

You should contact your dentist if you’re experiencing:

  • Chronic discomfort
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Tooth discolouration
  • Swollen gums
  • Pain when eating or chewing
  • Chipped or cracked teeth

These signs can indicate problems in the inner layers of a tooth that may require a root canal or other dental treatments.

Deep Decay

Deep decay is one of the most common reasons for a root canal. If a cavity is left untreated, bacteria can reach the deep structures of a tooth and infect the pulp of your tooth—the innermost layer containing nerves and blood vessels—which can cause pain and ultimately lead to an abscessed tooth or tooth loss.

During a root canal, your dentist will remove the infected pulp and seal the tooth to prevent further decay.

Trauma or Injury

If you have experienced trauma or an injury to your tooth, it may require a root canal. Even if there is no visible damage, the trauma can cause the pulp to become inflamed or infected, leading to pain and discomfort. 

Whether it’s a sports injury, a fall, or a car accident, if you have had a significant impact to your teeth, you should seek emergency dental care.

A young girl sitting in a dental chair, with her hand on her jaw due to tooth pain. She is talking to a dentist about her pain.

Cracked or Fractured Tooth

A tooth that is cracked or fractured may require a root canal if the damage has affected the pulp of the tooth. If left untreated, the crack or fracture can cause the tooth to become infected or lead to tooth loss. Some cracks are obvious, but others may be hidden where you can’t see them. 

You may have a cracked tooth if you’re experiencing symptoms such as:

  • Pain when chewing or under pressure
  • Increased sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweets
  • Intermittent pain
  • Swelling in the gums

During a root canal, your dentist will remove the damaged pulp and seal the tooth to prevent further damage.

Repeated Dental Procedures

Repeated dental procedures on the same tooth can cause damage to the pulp and lead to infection. If you have had multiple fillings or procedures on the same tooth, your dentist may recommend a root canal to prevent further damage and preserve the health of the tooth.

What Happens During a Root Canal?

Understanding root canals may help you overcome some of the anxiety commonly associated with the procedure. Generally, a root canal procedure will follow several steps, including the following:


Before starting this type of dental procedure, the first step is to numb the area. In the case of a root canal, your dentist will administer local anesthesia to numb the tooth and surrounding area. Sometimes, a sedative may also be given to help you relax during the procedure.


Once the anesthesia has taken effect, your dentist will drill a small hole in the top of the tooth to access the pulp. This allows them to reach and remove the infected pulp tissue inside your tooth.

Removal of Pulp Tissue

Your dentist will remove the infected or inflamed pulp tissue using specialized dental instruments, such as root canal files. They will work carefully and methodically to remove all the infected pulp tissue and shape the inside of your tooth.

Cleaning & Disinfecting

After removing the affected tissue, your dentist will clean and shape the inside of the tooth to remove any remaining debris or bacteria. They will also disinfect the area to ensure no bacteria are left behind.

Filling & Sealing

Once the tooth is clean and disinfected, your dentist will fill and seal your tooth to prevent further infection and protect the tooth from damage. The access point will then be filled to provide a strong seal.

Take Care of Your Teeth, Inside & Out

Regular dental checkups and cleanings and good oral hygiene can help reduce the need for root canals. However, when a root canal is necessary, it’s important to understand the procedure and what to expect. Root canal treatment may have a bad reputation, but the truth is that it’s a necessary procedure that can save your tooth and restore your oral health.

During a cleaning and dental exam, we can take a look at your teeth to determine whether a root canal may be needed to help maintain your oral health—and answer all your questions to help you prepare. 

Book an appointment with us in Calgary if you have any oral health concerns or if it’s time for your next cleaning. We’re here to support your smile. 

Written by Rockwood Dental

At Rockwood Dental, our goal is to help you achieve the healthy and beautiful smile you’ve always dreamed of.

Our team is committed to providing a personalized dental experience from beginning to end. To do this, we offer a range of dental services, including preventative dental care, restorative dental care, and cosmetic dental care.

Rockwood Dental is located at #102, 1032 17th ave., between 9th and 10th Street SW in Calgary.

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