Pain after root canal treatment: is it a sign of complications ?

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16 Aug 2018

After a tooth has become damaged or diseased, a root canal treatment is often necessary to save the tooth and put a stop to the pain. During this procedure, your dentist removes infected pulp from within your tooth and the area is sealed to prevent future bacterial infections. While this treatment can go a long way in alleviating pain and preventing further dental health problems, some patients still experience pain after root canal treatment.

But is this pain normal, or is it a cause for concern? Here’s what you should know as you manage your post-treatment needs.

Normal Pain

While experiencing pain after your root canal treatment isn’t pleasant, in most cases, it is no cause for alarm. A root canal is one of the most invasive dental care procedures you can experience — this is why your dentist applies an anesthetic to the area prior to providing treatment.

Once the anesthetic wears off, it is quite normal to feel mild pain, swelling, and extra sensitivity in this area, similar to what you might experience after getting a cavity filled. However, because root canal treatment is more intensive, don’t be surprised if the pain lingers for a few days.

For most patients, the use of an over the counter pain medication like Advil or Tylenol will typically be enough to alleviate symptoms. Most dentists also recommend that you avoid chewing hard foods during the initial period after your treatment, as this could aggravate feelings of discomfort.

Over the course of a few days, your symptoms should gradually diminish until you don’t feel any pain at all. You’ll be able to chew like normal, without any of the discomfort you experienced prior to undergoing your root canal treatment.

Causes for Concern

Though it is perfectly normal to experience some pain in the days following your root canal treatment, there are some situations that indicate potential complications. If you experience severe pain that can’t be managed by over the counter medications or you have pain that doesn’t get better after three days, you should speak to your dentist.

Though root canal failures are rare, this severe pain could be a sign of a failed procedure. Root canal failures can occur when a tooth has an additional canal that the dentist did not notice, or when a dentist failed to fully remove all pulp from a treated area.

Cracks in the tooth, or leaks in the restoration/sealing materials can also contribute to this pain and inflammation. Consulting with your dentist will allow you to determine the exact cause of your symptoms.

When these problems exist, you will likely need to receive additional dental treatment. If the problem is related to additional pulp that was left in the tooth, a follow-up root canal procedure can fully eliminate the remaining materials. Alternatively, the sealing materials may need to be replaced. Only in extreme situations will the tooth need to be removed altogether.

Stay Pain-Free

While you might be worried when you experience pain following a root canal procedure, it is important to remember that the “extreme” complications that can occur are very rare and only experienced by a tiny fraction of individuals. Modern dental technology has made this procedure more efficient and less painful than ever, allowing patients to be completely pain-free in a matter of days.

Remember, in the long run, undergoing root canal treatment will allow you to experience less pain on a daily basis than if you were to avoid this important procedure. By taking action to fight back against infections, inflammations, and decay, you’ll be able to eliminate severe pain and further health complications. As you follow up your root canal treatment by practicing sound oral hygiene, you’ll keep such problems at bay for years to come.


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