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Dental and Oral Health Center

Prolonged discomfort after root canal

05/12/2008

Question:

I had a root canal done on Tooth #18 (lower left, next to wisdom tooth) ten days ago by an endodontist. There was no evidence of infection. I was offered a prescription painkiller, but had no need to fill the prescription as I was able to get by on two ibuprofen a day for the first five or six days. However, now the pain has not let up and the ibuprofen are not working as well as they did at the start. I am not comfortable taking pills and I am trying to take as few as possible. I am not running a fever. My temperature in the morning was 97.5 (normal for me) and in the afternoon 98.5.

If the ibuprofen wears off, I have extreme and highly variable discomfort. My lower lip hurts, other teeth randomly hurt on that side (top and bottom, with no evidence of damage), my ear hurts, inside my jaw hurts, and the side of my tongue and root of my tongue hurt, all randomly. The pain moves from one place to another all through the area that was anesthetized. I had to have four different shots of anesthetic at the procedure because I am hard to anesthesize. It took at least 7 hours to wear off afterward.

I am afraid this will continue indefinitely, and the usefulness of the ibuprofen will continue to decrease until it is ineffective. When it is at its worst, the pains are so overwhelming I would be foolish to drive a car and I cannot concentrate on the simplest activity. Yesterday I tried taking two ibuprofen at once instead of the one I have been taking, but it didn`t make any difference. If anything, it did LESS good.

I am a highly anxious patient, but never had anything like this happen before. Now I am terrified. Thank you for any help.

Answer:

I'm sorry to hear that you are terrified. Having some discomfort after a root canal is not uncommon. This is due to an inflammatory process necessary for healing. Discomfort within the first couple of weeks can be well within the normal range. Ibuprofen is often recommended not only to control any discomfort, but to also help combat the inflammation leading to the discomfort. I would recommend that you speak with the endodontist that treated you. He/she can speak to your particular situation and would like to know how you are doing. She/he can help you manage any postoperative discomfort and help alleviate your fears.

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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