When a tooth becomes infected, a root canal is often the treatment of choice to save it. Root canals have a very high success rate; however, sometimes challenges develop after the treatment that can indicate that the healing process is not proceeding as it should.
According to Dr. Jaqueline Allen, an endodontist with the Phoenix Endodontic Group, “Root canal healing is identified by the elimination of symptoms either immediately or over time, the elimination of swelling, and bone growth over the next six months to two years, in areas where abcesses have eliminated bone.”
Dr. Susan Wood, who also practices with the Phoenix Endodontic Group, discussed several reasons that improper healing can occur after a root canal.
“If the tooth is not properly restored after the root canal treatment, either by your dentist or the specialist, it may begin leaking into the root canal space and become re-contaminated by bacteria,” she said. “If a patient’s overall health causes them to heal more slowly – if they have uncontrolled diabetes, for instance – that may affect healing as well.”
Identifying improper healing
After your root canal treatment, you will partner with your endodontist and/or dentist to be on alert for symptoms of two conditions that can signal improper healing is occuring: inflammation and infection.
Prolonged pain is a key indicator of improper root canal healing, with or without swelling. If you experience pain that continues (or re-develops) after the first few days after your root canal treatment, contact your endodontist immediately.
Other post-treatment symptoms that should prompt a call to the endodontist include a visible swelling inside or outside of your mouth, your bite feeling uneven, an allergic reaction (hives, rash, itching) to any medication you’re prescribed, or a return of the symptoms that led to the root canal being performed in the first place.
Dr. Wood advises patients, “Any continued pain after a root canal procedure should be addressed as soon as possible. This is true even though some teeth that have had root canal treatment may heal more slowly, so that there can be minor discomfort for even months following treatment.”