Contrary to popular belief, a modern root canal procedure gives little or no pain. The slight pain that may be experienced will be after the procedure when the effect of the anesthetic has worn off. A root canal is a canal that runs the length of the tooth where it is recessed in the gum.
The canal is filled with dental pulp which contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue. As a person grows older the canal diminishes in cross sectional area.
Decay of tooth enamel is the underlying cause of dental pulp infection in the root canal. Decay sets in to the dental pulp causing a condition called ischemia where the blood vessels shut down. This is a continuing process till all the pulp dies away. Meanwhile signals are sent to the brain through the nerves which accounts for the excruciating pain associated with tooth problems.
Frequently, though the pulp has died, the nerve fibers remain alive which leads to chronic pain. This pain is triggered off particularly with extreme cold and hot foods. Often the decayed pulp builds up pressure and leaks out in the form of pus through a dental abscess near the root. The accompanying pain when it is touched is intolerable.
Pain during a root canal procedure is usually controlled with a single dose of anesthesia. But in cases which are seriously inflamed, a lot more anesthetic is required. In certain cases where the nerve is completely dead no anesthetic may be required at all.
A measure of whether pain is likely to occur after the procedure is the amount of pain preceding it. Generally a normal analgesic is adequate to take care of it.
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