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Root Canals

Dental Pain

12/11/2009

Question:

Thank you for the reply to my last question. I went on Wednesday to the dentist to finish the root canal treatment. I am now in agony but don’t want to go back as I feel anxious. Could this settle in the next few days?

Answer:

Having some discomfort or pain 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.

Individuals vary greatly in the time it takes for the pain to dissipate after a root canal procedure. The length of time of discomfort can also vary greatly depending on the condition of the tooth at the time of the root canal.

Pain may be managed with over the counter or prescription medications. If you are having problems managing your pain, you should speak with your dentist or endodontist. If you continue to have pain longer than the normal range or you have a change in your pain or new symptoms develop, it would be best to be reevaluated to rule out any potential complications.

Depending on the case, it can be also be "common" to have swelling after having a root canal. There is approximately a 15% chance of swelling if the nerve of the tooth was dead and/or infected. The swelling is related to your immune system reacting to the infection that was in your tooth. The immune response to an infection is very complex even when there is no initial swelling.

Be sure to notify the dentist/endodontist who did the root canal that you now have swelling to discuss potential therapies to help resolve it. If the swelling continues to spread or get larger, you will need to see your dentist/endodontist immediately or go to the emergency room if you are having difficulty breathing or swallowing.

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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