“Does a Root Canal Hurt?” A Common Question Answered

“Does a root canal hurt?” The short answer to this common question is no; getting this procedure done should not hurt.

Despite popular beliefs, modern day techniques and equipment mean that in the vast majority of cases, root canal treatment is not painful. The major downside is that it is often a time-consuming procedure, involving several visits. Your dentist/endodontist should ensure that you remain pain-free throughout.


Why Root Canal Shouldn’t Hurt

Knowing what’s involved with the treatment should help demonstrate why it doesn’t hurt. The procedure is explained in more detail here. But to summarise, the tooth is:

  • Numbed up before any work is started. In fact, many teeth that need endodontics are already ‘dead’ (more on that here) in that the nerve tissue has been destroyed by infection or inflammation.
  • Then opened up to get access to the pulp, cleaned out and shaped.
  • Once it is fully clean, the pulp and root canals are filled.
  • The tooth itself is then filled. Alternatively, it may need a crown.

So, all this is none under anesthetic, meaning you feel nothing as a patient. The work can be time-consuming, however.

woman afraid of dental root canal

Afraid of the procedure hurting? Well fear not…

Why Pain Is Associated With Endodontics

Pain is often associated with root canal. Mention the phrase and many people will often wince!

Why is this? To answer, I will break this association into three categories:

  1. The symptoms before treatment. The pain before root canal is that which makes the treatment necessary. It can range from sensitivity to heat/cold, to severe pain which keeps you awake all night. See here for more on root canal symptoms. Of course, a tooth may be causing no symptoms and still require RCT.
  2. Pain when on the dental chair. Does root canal hurt? The short answer is no, as you have read above. It should not hurt more than a filling, but does take longer.
  3. Problems lingering after it is done.Does a root canal hurt afterwards? How long does it hurt after the procedure? Some pain following RCT will often occur, particularly in the few days after the work. This is a normal response and can be helped by taking pain-killers and avoiding the area when eating. Your dentist will advise you on what analgesic is best for you, typically ibuprofen and aspirin are used after dental treatment. You should only take any medications when you know they are safe for you. If the symptoms do not begin to ease after a few days or is severe at any stage, you should contact your dentist. See the following page for advice on pain after having root canal.


A dental x-ray showing a completed root canal

So pain is associated with endodontics. This is more-so because of the toothache before the procedure and some lingering pain after as the pain settles. But does a root canal hurt much?- No; not with modern dental care techniques.

A look through the procedure article will help explain why the treatment should not hurt, by giving a run-through of what’s involved and how long it should take.


Return here to our main page on root canal treatment.

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