Dental Care

Understanding Tooth Pain after Root Canal

Tooth pain after root canal? It is amazing to learn just how many dental patients will actually opt for the procedure known as “extraction” (the removal of a tooth) instead of a “root canal”.

Usually this has a lot to do with the fear of pain and /or dental work. Unfortunately, a root canal is usually far less painful and much more beneficial than simply pulling out a damaged or infected tooth.

It is also the way to help preserve the jaw and the surrounding teeth because it leaves the roots intact and healthy.

Yes, a root canal is a bit complicated and lengthy as far as dental appointments are concerned, but it can permanently preserve a tooth and eliminate pain altogether.

This does not mean that there is no pain involved in the process, but it is normally minimal and predictable. There are times, however, when a patient might experience tooth pain after root canal work, and we will examine the symptoms and remedies a bit later.

Before we head into a discussion about tooth pain after root canal, however, let’s first quickly define the root canal treatment.

The Root Canal Procedure

Anyone having a root canal procedure will have all of the soft tissue inside of the infected or damaged tooth removed – though many people say that it is the nerves being removed, there is also some connective tissue, lymph vessels, arteries and veins, and nerve tissue contained within the pulp too.

The interior cavity is then treated to eliminate any bacteria, toxins or matter that could cause further decay and irritation. The entire space is then cleansed, filled, and permanently sealed.

When a tooth has a root canal, there may also be the need to install a crown to replace the natural crown, but that is not always the case.

Once the nerves, infectious matter, and tissue are removed the source of pain is gone too. This doesn’t mean that all pain disappears instantly, but most people are amazed at the immediate alleviation of the major pain.

So, how and why could there be tooth pain after root canal? There are some valid reasons that this might happen, and it is very important for the patient to pay close attention to how the tooth feels in the days and weeks following the procedure.

What is Tooth Pain After Root Canal Procedure?

Tooth pain after root canal can be experienced in several ways. These are:

  • Pain upon clenching or using teeth to chew;
  • Discomfort from swelling and lingering infection; and
  • Tooth sensitivity

The first two sensations of tooth pain after root canal procedure listed above are completely normal and acceptable. They can be easily treated and remedied, but the third on the list (tooth sensitivity) is very serious and a sign that the procedure may have been unsuccessful.

What this means is that you should speak with your dental professional before and after the procedure to find out exactly what you should expect.

For instance, some people have a great amount of infection in the tooth that is having the root canal work. Often during the procedure the dental professional will be unable to prevent some of the infected tissue from being forced out of the bottom of the tooth and into the bone. This is not uncommon, but it does lead to irritation and might cause the infection to linger for a length of time after the procedure.

This is often a cause of discomfort that is easily treatable.


As we already mentioned there are some common symptoms related to tooth pain after root canal. These can come from pre-existing problems as well as directly from the root canal work.

For instance, if you notice a dull ache in the days after the procedure you can talk to the dentist about it, but it is most likely related to inflammation arising from the pre-existing infection in the tooth or gum area, as well as the increased blood flow caused by the healing process.

Remember, gums can be extremely sore prior to the removal of the pulp of the tooth, and you may believe that you are feeling tooth pain after a root canal when what you are actually experiencing is irritation and inflammation of the nerves around the tooth or tenderness in the gums due to the manipulation of the tooth during the procedure.

When you have pain upon clenching or using the tooth it is usually attributable to the sensitivity of the nerve endings just outside of the roots of the tooth. A root canal does cause some movement and a lot of irritation, and the remaining nerve endings on the exterior of the tooth might react to all of this.

Thus, biting down can present pain, but this is not actually tooth pain after the root canal, and is instead sensitivity in the jaw and gums.

Now, if a patient experiences tooth sensitivity in the days and weeks after the root canal, there is usually a serious problem.

For example, if a patient takes a swig of icy cold water and the tooth responds to this extreme temperature it is a sign that the nerves are still present in that tooth – and this means that the dental professional may have not removed all of the tissue. This is a time to head to their office immediately!

Possible Remedies

What are some remedies for the most common and acceptable forms of tooth pain after root canal?

You can actually prevent some of the underlying causes of this pain through pre-emptive treatment. For example, if you want to reduce the amount of swelling and irritation that can lead to tooth pain after root canal, you can ask your dental professional to recommend an over the counter anti-inflammatory medication that is safe to take in advance of the procedure.

This can reduce the body’s natural reaction to irritation and keep inflammation and swelling to minimal levels.

If antibiotics are prescribed before and after the treatment, these are an essential remedy to pain because they destroy lingering infection that tends to be the primary factor in tooth pain after a root canal.

If the pain comes from clenching teeth or biting, it is possible to have the dentist reduce the size of the crown to prevent this bumping. This would be necessary because most patients would enter into a cycle of clenching, swelling, and pain that would be very difficult to bring to an end in any other way.

Generally, a patient can reduce their chances for pain after the root canal by avoiding using that side of their mouth for a few days afterward, using anti-inflammatory medications, relying on ice packs for swelling, and trying not to bite or grind the teeth together.


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