Root Canal Pain – The Truth, The Whole Truth, And Nothing But The Truth

You may not know but Wednesday, 8th May 2024 is National Root Canal Appreciation Day, so what better time for us to post an article about the root canal procedure, and in particular, root canal pain?

If your dentist has told you that you need a root canal, you’re not alone. A systematic worldwide review published online in 2022 revealed that more than half of the studied population had at least one root-filled tooth. 

Root canals have a bad reputation with the majority of people fearing the treatment will hurt and worry about the level of pain they may experience. Fortunately, this is a common misconception.

Root canals are the good guys of dentistry

The main reason a dentist recommends a root canal procedure is to put an end to severe toothache and make you feel more comfortable. 

You need to know that the primary role of root canal therapy is to alleviate the pain rather than amplify it. But there is more ….

In addition to getting you out of pain, root canal treatment usually prevents tooth extraction and saves your smile. 

The truth about root canal pain

We want to be honest with you. While some individuals might experience slight discomfort during or after their treatment, it’s usually not severe pain. Occasionally, there might be some lingering discomfort after a root canal, but this varies from person to person, and in most cases, any discomfort should subside within a few days.

Thanks to advancements in technology and the use of local anaesthetic, undergoing a root canal procedure is typically quick, safe, and mostly painless. More importantly, it serves to preserve the affected tooth.

To prevent the need for root canal treatment, it’s crucial for anyone experiencing toothache to promptly seek dental care. This helps prevent any infection from worsening, forming an abscess, or spreading throughout the tooth’s root system.

Key points about post-root canal pain:

  • Root canal treatment addresses the diseased tissue (pulp) while maintaining the integrity of the tooth.
  • Patients receive anaesthesia before the procedure, making it generally no more uncomfortable than a standard dental filling.
  • In the event of a failed root canal, redoing the procedure can often resolve the issue.

Pain after a root canal – what’s normal?

It’s not uncommon for patients to feel a little tender or sensitive for a few days following root canal treatment. 

Here’s why:

Swollen or inflamed tissue around the gums: Despite the removal of the nerve root from the tooth, small nerves in the ligaments and surrounding tissue may still cause discomfort when inflamed, as is often the case after a dental procedure.

Instrumental damage: There’s a possibility that during the cleaning process of the root canal, dental instruments inadvertently damaged the sensitive surrounding tissue.

Elevated temporary filling: Sometimes, if the dentist doesn’t adequately smooth down the temporary filling, it may be slightly higher than the surrounding tooth. This slight elevation can lead to increased pressure on that area when biting down, resulting in soreness in the tooth.

Typically, any sensitivity or discomfort linked to a root canal should subside within a few days.

Home management of root canal discomfort

Over-the-counter or prescribed pain relievers such as Ibuprofen are typically effective in alleviating discomfort following a root canal procedure. Follow the dosage instructions and contact your dentist or endodontist if the pain persists despite medication.  

It’s crucial to refrain from chewing or biting down on the treated tooth until the final restoration is completed. The temporary filling is fragile and may fracture under pressure. Additionally, maintain good oral hygiene practices by brushing and flossing regularly. Various toothbrushes, toothpaste options, and dental floss are available for purchase online.

Unusual root canal pain

As we’ve already mentioned, it’s more common for a root canal procedure to alleviate pain rather than cause it. Moreover, it’s normal to experience mild to moderate discomfort for a few days following treatment. However, if the pain persists beyond this timeframe, it’s advisable to schedule a follow-up visit with your dentist.

Intense tooth pain occurring after the initial three to five days is considered abnormal. Several factors could contribute to lingering pain.

Typically, prolonged intense pain, lasting longer than a week post-root canal, suggests the persistence of infection, indicating an unsuccessful procedure. This may necessitate medication, further canal cleaning, or additional procedures.

While uncommon, infection in the bone or within the root canal itself are primary reasons for persistent post-root canal pain. These infections can manifest days, weeks, or even years after the initial procedure.

Regardless of the duration since your root canal, if you experience any of the following symptoms after a week, it’s essential to contact us for an appointment:

  • Continuous pain worsening upon biting down
  • Tooth discolouration
  • Gum tenderness or swelling
  • Formation of pus pockets (dental abscess)
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Unpleasant taste in the mouth
  • Swelling in the face, neck, or lymph nodes

In addition to infection, other factors such as missed canals, cement or air forced through the root tip, or oversized crowns or fillings could contribute to abnormal pain following a root canal, necessitating further evaluation and potential treatment.

Can a root canal fail?

Root canal treatments may not always succeed due to various factors. These include inadequate cleaning of the canals during the initial procedure, deterioration of the crown or its inner sealant, or any condition that permits the previously treated tooth to become infected at the root, potentially impacting neighbouring teeth.

If you’re experiencing abnormal pain

Seeking prompt evaluation from our dentist for any unusual pain is crucial for swift treatment and your prompt return to optimal comfort. We understand that experiencing any of the aforementioned issues causing abnormal pain can be uncomfortable and worrisome, but the reassuring news is that they are all manageable with appropriate treatment.

A tooth that becomes reinfected following a root canal isn’t a lost cause. Treatment may be as straightforward as a course of antibiotics. In the worst-case scenario, additional procedures such as another root canal, extraction, or apicoectomy (a minor surgical procedure involving the removal of the tooth root’s tip) may be necessary.

We understand that root canal procedures can be stressful, but if you encounter any difficulties post-procedure, please don’t hesitate to visit us. Call Foxbury Dental today on 01858 455 100 or use our online booking service.

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