It's not uncommon for people to think that a root canal means pain. But, that's just one of the many myths about root canals. The goal of the treatment isn't to cause you pain, but to relieve any pain that's caused by advanced tooth decay and infection. That said, even if you followed the post-procedure instructions to a T, you may still experience severe pain after root canal. The pain could indicate that something has gone wrong with the tooth or the treatment. If you're in extreme pain after a root canal, it's a good idea to follow up with your dentist or endodontist to see what can be done to ease your discomfort.
How Much Pain Can You Expect After a Root Canal?
While severe pain after root canal isn't common, it is common to experience a bit of discomfort in the treated area. As your body heals, the area around the tooth might feel a bit sore and tender, explains the American Association of Endodontists. Some people also have a sore jaw after their root canals, since the procedure requires them to have their mouths open for a longer period of time.
If you have moderate pain, over-the-counter pain relievers may help. Your dentist might prescribe you a stronger pain reliever, which you can take as directed. Just remember that prescription pain relievers can make you drowsy and might interfere with your ability to work, drive or go about your day.
How you care for the tooth and the rest of your mouth after a root canal can play a role in how much discomfort you experience. It's common for a dentist to place a crown or restoration over the affected tooth after a root canal. You might not receive the restoration the same day, so be careful about chewing on the treated tooth until the crown is placed. When it's fine to brush your teeth again, consider brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush. It's also a good idea to wait until any anesthetic the dentist gave you during the root canal wears off before you resume eating and drinking. If you eat while your teeth and gums are still numb, you might accidentally bite your inner cheeks or tongue.
How Much Pain Is Too Much Pain?
If you can expect some discomfort as your body heals after a root canal, how do you know if you're experiencing too much pain? There are a few ways to tell. If the pain you're feeling is so severe that you can't go about your normal life, you should definitely contact your dentist. Sometimes, complications can develop after a root canal. You might be feeling extreme pain because the treatment didn't fully remove the bacteria or source of the infection. An issue with the filling or a small crack in the tooth may be causing the issue.
Contact your dentist or endodontist immediately if you are feeling severe pain several days after your root canal or if the pain went away, then visit your dentist a few days or the following week. Your dentist can examine your tooth and inform you of the next steps to get you feeling your best.
You might need endodontic retreatment to relieve the pain and preserve the tooth. Retreatment is enough to ease pain and discomfort in most cases, but there are instances when the best option is to remove the tooth. Your dentist can fully explain the pros and cons of each option and which one is the best choice for you.