Back in the old days, having root canal therapy could be quite a traumatic experience, especially before the advent of anaesthetics. As a consequence, root canal treatment has had a bad rap ever since.
However, with technological advancements and new understandings in physiology and pharmacology, this kind of treatment is no longer traumatic. In fact, many root canal patients these days fall asleep during the treatment as there is minimal to no discomfort and they can rest their jaws on a small rubber bite block so they don’t have to consciously keep their mouth open throughout.
The sensations that most patients feel during today’s root canal treatment, even after the area is numbed, are those of pushing, pulling, pressure and vibration. These sensations are completely normal.
Not normal, however, is any feeling of sharp pain. If a patient does feel such pain, they are pre-warned to let their clinician know, as anaesthetic doses and the techniques required to achieve complete numbness vary between individual patients, stages of disease, tooth types and tooth locations. In some cases, adjustments need to be made accordingly throughout the treatment sessions.
Your endodontist is committed not only to providing the treatment you require but also to making you feel as comfortable as possible during that treatment.
While modern anaesthetics can control physiological manifestations of pain, they are unable to address psychological manifestations. If a patient is very anxious and tense, effective pain control can be difficult and may need to be managed via additional means. Any affected patient should tell their clinician during the initial consultation, so that extra precautions can be discussed and arranged before treatment begins.
What can we do to make you more comfortable during root canal therapy?
Your endodontist will usually start by addressing the psychological aspect of any discomfort you might experience. They will tell you what they are going to do and how you can expect to feel, so that you are mentally prepared for it. They will also assure you that you can stop the treatment at any time for any reason.
Generally, 80 to 90 per cent of patients need only this psychological reassurance. If, however, it proves to be inadequate, your endodontist will offer you anti-anxiety medication, to be taken before your appointment. If this is still inadequate, happy gas (nitrous oxide) can be used on top of a conventional anaesthetic to achieve a more pleasant and calming experience during treatment.
In the very low number of patients who do not respond well to any of these techniques, a specialist anaesthetist can be engaged to perform intravenous sedation. After IV sedation you will feel as if you were half sleep throughout the treatment.
As you can see, there are several approaches clinicians can take to ensure your comfort during root canal therapy. The management technique that will be suitable for you will depend on the level of anxiety you experience, as well as on many other factors, all of which are usually gauged and discussed during your consultation.
Please do not hesitate to let your clinician know about any concerns you have. That way, they will be able to ensure that your endodontic experience is as comfortable as possible.
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