The Nerve of this Tooth!!!
Most people know that root canal treatment involves treating the “nerve” centre of the tooth, so it is understandable when patients are surprised to feel post treatment sensations after a root canal.
They are also surprised, however, to learn that, although root canal treatment (endodontics) is time-consuming, it is no where near the horror stories they have heard. In fact, so routine and uneventful are most procedures that some of our patients have actually fallen sleep. The confusion, we believe, comes from the excruciating pain that some people experience before seeking the relieving treatment provided by a dentist. Perhaps, it’s what stands out most in their mind.
A root canal is a procedure that involves treatment to the inside, pulpal area of a tooth. Although we tend to think of our teeth as hard, rigid structures, the inside is fleshy and is made up of nerves, lymphatic tissue and blood supply that enter into the tooth through a hole at the end of each tooth. Usually this fleshy “pulpal tissue” needs to be removed once it becomes infected or tooth decay is deep enough to reach this area of the tooth.
Even though the nerves of the tooth that allowed you to feel hot and cold sensations have been removed, there are other tissues and ligaments that are typically damaged by the presence of infection. These tissues need healing time and tenderness is not uncommon after treatment. How sensitive your tooth will be after root canal treatment depends on how severe the damage to the pulp and how involved the treatment was. The aim during the procedure is to remove all of the infected tissue and bacteria from within the chamber and root portion of the tooth, clean and disinfect the inside of the canals, then seal the end of each root.
“I can’t believe I was going to have the tooth removed!”
Most people who have been experiencing a lot of discomfort prior to treatment find much needed relief after the root canal has been completed, but like the cleaning out of any wound, it typically takes a few days for a tooth to “settle down” and recover. During this time, residual infection outside the tooth is clearing up and affected ligaments are healing. Your dentist will usually recommend that you take a pain reliever that is also an anti-inflammatory to help reduce any pain and swelling.
Sometimes, depending on how severe the infection was, it can take a few weeks for infection to clear up. The blood vessels in the jaws are tiny and do their best to take away infection and bacteria. You can discuss the need for antibiotics with your dentist to help things along.
However, If the pain you are experiencing is like a toothache and happens only when you are biting down then it is likely that your bite is high. A simple and quick bite adjustment usually brings immediate relief to this type of sensitivity.
Typically, any pain or discomfort that is felt after a successful root canal should be mild to moderate and get progressively better as healing continues. If, however, you are still experiencing discomfort after a few weeks or the pain is increasing in intensity, contact your dentist and set up an appointment for a re-evaluation.
Complications that can arise:
If your root canal treatment was successful, your tooth should recover within a week to ten days. However, the tooth, like any other part of the body, can have residual issues and post treatment complications can arise after the root canal has been completed. A tooth with complicated anatomy can be a challenge for example.
If your tooth becomes re-infected, your dentist may suggest that the tooth be re-treated. There are a number of treatment options to retreat a root-canal to still save your tooth from extraction. Your dentist will re-evaluate your tooth and discuss the “specific to you” circumstances with you.
Although it is understandable that a patient may be disappointed and even dubious when treatment has failed, it is important to remember that just like other medical procedures, there is a certain percentage of cases that require additional therapy. A patient, in consultation with their dentist, will discuss the long term success of further treatment and consider all pertinent factors before deciding the lengths that each are willing to go in order to save a tooth.
Nobody wants to lose a tooth. A root canal helps to preserve your tooth in the jaw and allows it to function, but without sensation from within the tooth. Always keep you dentist informed of anything that you may consider to be unusual during your healing period.
Yours in Better Dental Health,