Cosmetic Dentistry Blog Cosmetic and General Dentistry Questions Answered

March 8, 2017

Delayed pain after a root canal treatment


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Dr. Hall,
I think your response to Patty from Kansas about increased post-root canal pain a few days following the procedure was somewhat misleading. It’s my understanding (and several resources suggest) that it is not uncommon to experience peak inflammation/pain 48-72 following a root canal, yet you advised: ‘The tooth being fine right after the second time doing the root canal but then the pain coming back a few days later, that is a particularly bad sign. This isn’t ordinary post-operative pain but a failed root canal.’
– Nan Anne from Chicago

Nan Anne,
I didn’t write what I wrote from reading research about it, but from actual extensive clinical experience and an understanding of the physiology involved. And I’m not sure that your reading is disagreeing with me. You didn’t say who these “several resources” were, but you did say they are suggesting that peak inflammation occurs 48-72 hours following the root canal. I think that may be true, if the pain is not treated by reducing the occlusion. The tooth hurts right after the novocain wears off but then, untreated, it feels worse the second day, maybe a little worse the third day, and then starts getting better. So the pain has peaked on the third day. That sounds about right. When there is postoperative pain after a root canal treatment that comes from simple inflammation, it will hurt right away and then get worse, and then get better.

But that is different from what Patty from Kansas reported to me. She said her tooth felt fine for 2-3 days after the procedure and then started to hurt again after that. That’s a typical pattern for post-operative infection. And then, to add further weight to this being an infection, she indicated that the pain continued after that and the root area is still tender.

Prodded by your comment, I did revise the blog post to make it more clear that when I said she had a failed root canal, I was talking about her particular case, and I don’t mean to imply that whenever a root canal tooth begins hurting a few days later it is a failed root canal. This was her second time around, so the root canal had already failed once. I’m confident that her renewed pain was not just a simple inflammatory reaction to the instrumentation of her tooth.

– Dr. Hall

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About David A. Hall

Dr. David Hall was one of the first 40 accredited cosmetic dentists in the world. He practiced cosmetic dentistry in Iowa, and in 1990 earned his accreditation with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is now president of Infinity Dental Web, a company in Mesa, Arizona that does complete Internet marketing for dentists.

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