If you've recently undergone a root canal procedure and are still experiencing pain, sensitivity to heat or cold, or other discomfort, you may be tempted to simply wait until your symptoms subside rather than making another dentist appointment. However, experiencing these symptoms after a completed root canal can indicate problems with the procedure that need to be corrected. Read on to learn more about what can cause post-root canal pain and sensitivity, as well as what you should do to alleviate your symptoms.
What can cause you to experience pain after a root canal?
A root canal involves the complete removal of the nerves and sensitive pulp of a tooth. After the canal has been completed, an amalgam or ceramic filling is inserted into the hole through which these nerves are removed. For extensive root canals (particularly those involving molars) a crown may be installed over the tooth's surface to provide additional protection.
In most cases, the delicate tissue in the interior of your tooth that remains after the root canal has completed may be sore for a few days as the swelling subsides. This is a normal outcome and can be treated by taking over-the-counter medications and avoiding hard food or extremely hot or cold drinks.
However, in some cases, a small piece of nerve structure may be left behind after the root canal. This nerve can continue to cause pain and sensitivity even though the majority of the nerve is gone, and will not resolve itself without medical intervention.
In other cases, pain may be caused by a small amount of bacteria trapped inside the tooth after the filling or crown has been placed. This bacteria can begin to multiply and cause pain, swelling, and infection in the tooth and surrounding tissue. As with a remaining nerve, this issue will generally not resolve itself without some sort of intervention.
When should you seek treatment for a painful post-root-canal tooth?
If you've waited a few days and your pain continues (or becomes worse), you should contact a dentist or endodontist like Rick Chavez DDS as soon as possible for diagnosis. If your pain is due to a remaining nerve or an overgrowth of bacteria, your dentist will likely re-open the area to remove the nerve or contamination and ensure sterility before it is again capped.
In other situations, your dentist may need to re-open the entire gum structure surrounding the tooth to ensure that all infection and remaining tissue is eradicated.