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Root Canals

Pain and sensitivity after root canal

03/01/2007

Question:

Originally I did not have any sensitivity or pain in this tooth (the 2nd pre molar on the bottom left). When I did my yearly check up my dentist said that there is a cavity in this tooth so I had a filling treatment. After the filling the tooth started being sensitive to cold and also pressure. So I went back the the dentist and he says there`s nothing wrong with the filling but if I wanted to get rid of the sensitivity I should get a root canal done. I was afraid that the tooth may get worse so I agreed on doing the root canal. I did it last Friday (it was a single root canal) and after the treatment I was in more pain than I have ever been in. Sunday night was the worst as there were sharp shooting pain from time to time and I had no sleep. I went to the dentist early Monday morning, and he took several xrays but says that the root canal seems to be fine. He says there might be an infection that is causing the pain and prescribed me antibiotics.

Today (Tuesday) I am feeling much better as the sharp pain is gong but there is still a dull ach and when I tap the tooth slightly there is still pain. My sensitivity to cold seems to have gone away though. Why would a root canal cause infections? Was it because the procedure was done incorrectly? I am wondering how many canals are there usually in the pre molars? Is it possible that he missed one of the canals but can`t see it on the xrays? Also would I be subject to the tapping sensitivity forever or would it be gone once the tooth is free of the infection? Sorry for so many questions but I am very frustrated right now since I did not have any problems before the filling but now the problems seem to be cascading as I get more and more treatment and spending more and more money. My insurance money has also maxed out and I want to try to avoid going to see an endodontist right now if possible. Should I be worried and go to an endodontist right away or should I give the tooth some more time? Thank you so much.

Answer:

It is not unusual to have pain after a root canal especially in the first weeks time period. Your sensitivity to cold should be eliminated once the root canal has been done (there are no longer nerves inside the tooth to feel the cold). It isn't that a root canal causes infections. Root canals are done to eliminate infections or inflamed tissue. You have soreness after a root canal because it is in essence a microsurgery, and it is normal to have some postoperative discomfort.

I cannot comment directly on your treatment since I have not evaluated you. As far as how many canals there are, all teeth in the mouth are variable and have different numbers of canals from person to person. Once again, I would not be able to state the number specific to your case.

Eventually the percussion or tapping sensitivity should go away. It takes a different amount of time for every person. Some ways to combat this are to avoid chewing on the area to help let it settle down and to take antiinflammatory medication if you are able to. Endodontic specialists are always available for consultation if your symptoms are not resolving or if you have further questions or concerns.

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Response by:

Melissa McCartney Drum, DDS, MS Melissa McCartney Drum, DDS, MS
Assistant Professor of Endodontics
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University