Pain After Root Canal: Causes and Treatment

It’s normal to experience mild to moderate pain for a few days after a root canal. Any pain beyond a few days is not normal and this may warrant additional treatment or procedures from your dentist.

What Is Root Canal Treatment?

A root canal is a very common procedure that dentists use to try to save a dying tooth. During the procedure, your dentist will carefully remove infected and damaged pulp from the inside of the affected tooth.

Reasons for Pain After A Root Canal

1. Post-Procedure Inflammation

One of the most common causes of pain after a root canal is inflammation caused by the procedure itself or because the infection caused the tissues surrounding the tooth to become swollen.

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2. Infection

After a root canal, it’s possible for some bacteria to still be present in the canal. This usually occurs if the canal is not properly cleaned and disinfected during the procedure leading to tissue re-infection and more pain.

An infection can also occur when the filling that was placed leaks, allowing bacteria from your saliva to work their way around the filling. Once inside, the bacteria can cause an infection within just a few days.

3. Too Large Fillings or Crowns

After your dentist removes the pulp from inside your tooth, the empty pulp space is filled with root filling material.

If the filling material used is too much or too high, it will cause the tooth to sit higher than the other teeth in the mouth causing pain anytime you bite down on food.

4. Missed Root Canal

Some teeth, especially the molars, can have multiple canals.

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This makes it possible for your dentist to miss one or more of these during the procedure leaving a bit of pulp tissue inside the tooth or a small pocket for bacteria that can form an infection.

If pulp tissue is left behind, your tooth will remain sensitive to hot and cold food and drinks.

5. Damage to the Surrounding Tissue

During the procedure, tissue damage can occur if the instrument used to clean the inside of the tooth slips beyond the root tip, poking the tissue below.

6. Bone Infection

If there is still bacteria in the bone around the root after the procedure, there might be continuous pain.

When To See Your Dentist

Pain after a root canal should decrease over time. If you still experience pain or swelling even after taking analgesics, you should see your dentist.

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Most people need more than one session for a root canal to be successful. In some cases, you may need more than two sessions.

Recurrent pain could also be an indicator of treatment failure and in this case, the procedure needs to be repeated.

Treatment of Pain After Root Canal

Pain after a root canal is normal but should improve a little bit each day.

However, when it persists it becomes a cause for concern. The management of pain is dependent on the cause.

  • If the pain is as a result of inflammation after the procedure, no need to worry as the pain would resolve after some days. Your dentist will prescribe painkillers to take care of the pain.
  • If the pain is a result of infection due to bacteria still present in the canal, the problem should resolve itself once your immune system attacks and kills the bacteria. If the problem persists, your doctor or dentist may recommend antibiotics and painkillers.
  • If the pain is due to a high or large filling, this problem won’t resolve on its own. The issue can be fixed easily by your dentist adjusting the filling. If as a result of a defective filling, the filling has to be replaced.
  • In cases of pain due to damage to surrounding tissues, the pain would resolve as soon as the damaged tissue heals.
  • If the pain is due to infection of the surrounding bone, antibiotics and analgesics will help relieve the pain and heal the infection.

Home Remedies for Pain Management

Apart from taking medications, there are other things you can do to manage pain after a root canal.

  • Taking care of your teeth by brushing twice daily and flossing once a day.
  • Avoid eating hard and crunchy foods until your pain improves.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Rinsing with a warm saltwater solution.
  • Placing an ice pack on the affected area.

Summary

A root canal is an effective method for treating tooth problems caused by damaged or infected pulp.

In most cases, the tooth pain is mild and will resolve on its own, but if the pain is excessive or continues for more than a few days, consult your dentist as soon as possible.

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