If you are experiencing a pulsating feeling after root canal treatment, you are probably worried about what the reason might be, and what you can do about it.
In this article, we are going to lay out the potential reasons why some patients experience a pulsating, throbbing pain following their root canal. We will also be looking at what you can do to alleviate the pain, until it subsides. Additionally, we are also going to discuss the rare scenarios where the tooth pain is a sign that the initial root canal treatment has failed, and where the only solution is a second root canal.
Without further ado, here we go.
Why some patients experience throbbing pain after a root canal procedure
Most patients experience very little pain and discomfort in the wake of their root canal therapy. This is certainly true when contacted with the tooth pain that results from having an infected root canal – everyone who has had the misfortune of experiencing it knows exactly how painful it can be.
Although a minor procedure in the grand scheme of things, a root canal procedure is still surgery, and any surgery is attended by some potential risks and some discomfort. Here are the top reasons why your newly treated tooth hurts following your root canal therapy.
Irritated and inflamed bones and tissues
When the dentist performs a root canal, it is not at all unusual for the tissues, ligaments and bone surrounding the treated tooth to become irritated and inflamed by all of the poking around. This is also what causes swelling and redness following a root canal.
The good news about this is that inflamed and irritated bones and tissues tend to settle down within days, if not hours.
Sharp dental instruments are used to perform root canals, so naturally there is a risk of some damage being sustained by the tissues surrounding the tooth that is being treated. Minor cuts and abrasions might be contributing to making your tooth hurt even after you have had your root canal.
Much like irritated tissue, tissue that has sustained minor trauma during the root canal procedure can take a little while to heal properly.
Root canal failed
In rare cases, a continued throbbing sensation in the tooth that has been treated can be a sign that the initial treatment has failed.
If your root canal has failed, this is not an indication that your dentist has not performed the surgery well. Instead, there might be a hidden root canal that your dentist did not get to, or the tooth may become reinfected before the dentist has removed the temporary filling and performed a permanent restoration.
In these cases, an additional treatment may be necessary.
What to do if you experiencing pain following your root canal treatment
No-one likes to be reminded of this evergreen fact, but patience is key. If you are one of the relatively few patients who unfortunately experience pain and discomfort following your root canal procedure, the issue usually resolves itself within a few hours or a few days. In the meantime, this is what you can do.
Use OTC medications
Over the counter medications such as Ibuprofen and Panodil are usually sufficient for dealing with the pain and swelling that can follow in the wake of a root canal treatment.
In more severe cases, you may ask your dentist to prescribe you a stronger pain medication.
Be mindful of what and how you eat
When you have just had a root canal therapy treatment, be very mindful of what you eat, and how you eat.
It is best to avoid chewing on the affected side of your mouth for at least a few days, and if you can, avoid any hard foods such as crisps, nuts and popcorn, as well as hot and spicy foods. You should also try to avoid alcohol and hot drinks, such as tea and coffee.
Avoid working out
It is best to avoid strenuous activity soon after you have had a root canal procedure.
The reason for this slice of advice is that intense physical activity tends to make you clench your jaw and teeth, which can prolong the healing process.
Keep your head elevated
Keeping your head elevated is a simple but effective way of alleviating minor pain and discomfort in the immediate wake of a root canal therapy treatment. Use extra pillows to prop yourself up, and try to sleep with your head in a more elevated position than you normally would.
What to do if the pain persists
In the vast majority of cases, any sharp or throbbing pain following a root canal recedes on its own and disappears completely within 1-2 weeks following the procedure. A 1-2 week timeframe is usually all it takes for any inflamed and traumatised tissues in the mouth to settle down.
If the throbbing pain does not recede and vanish on its own within the first 1-2 weeks following your root canal procedure, you should contact your dentist and schedule an appointment to have your newly treated tooth looked at. It is highly likely that you will need a second root canal, to uncover any hidden and still infected tooth roots.
Experiencing pain and discomfort right after you leave the dental office following a root canal treatment is both completely normal and expected. A root canal procedure is never a picnic, but in the majority of cases, any pain you experience is quick to fade.
While you are waiting for the pain to subside on its own, there are plenty of things you can do to alleviate it; keep your head elevated, avoid working out and other strenuous physical activity, eat and drink mindfully, take over the counter medications to alleviate the pain and reduce any inflammation, and give it time.
In the event that the pain does not go away as expected, contact your dentist and book a new appointment.