When people are told that they need a root canal treatment, they usually think about pain. However, the pain they feel is caused by an infection in the tooth, not by root canal treatment. A root canal is done to eliminate that pain. The root canal procedure itself is painless. A local anesthetic numbs the tooth and the surrounding area. Many people may be afraid to have a root canal because they are anxious about having dental work done. Dentists can provide calming medicines, such as nitrous oxide.