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What Are the Most Common Root Canal Side Effects?

Dentists use a root canal to remove the nerve and pulp of a tooth that has become diseased or infected. Many people experience some pain after a root canal.
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  • Written By: Alicia Sparks
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 09 March 2014
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Some of the most common root canal side effects include pain or discomfort, stopped tooth growth, and the eventual discoloring and weakening of the tooth. Although some of these side effects require additional dental work, typically they are harmless and rarely ever indicative of root canal problems. Other side effects, though, can mean there were root canal complications. These side effects include severe pain, infection, and a cracked tooth. A dentist might be able to reverse these complications, or the patient might need surgery to save the tooth.

Probably the most common of root canal side effects is the mild to moderate discomfort or pain a patient can experience both during and after the procedure. Many patients describe the pain they experience while getting a root canal as being similar to the kind of pain common with getting a regular tooth filling. Since patients tend to experience a certain amount of tissue inflammation after getting a root canal, many will continue to experience this pain for the few days following the root canal. This is especially true if they already had pain or an infection before the procedure. Dentists usually recommend managing the pain with over-the-counter pain medication until it fades.

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Additional common and non-threatening side effects of a root canal can include oral and facial numbness or a tingling sensation. This is due to the anesthetic used to prevent the patient from feeling pain during the procedure, and will wear off a few hours after leaving the dentist’s office. If the patient is a child but the tooth is a permanent one, the tooth might stop growing for good. Some patients develop small sores or blisters on the gum near the tooth due to the bacteria that was previously in the infected tooth and pulp, but these should go away after a few days. Patients can also expect a certain level of tooth discoloration and weakness, though these root canal side effects might not manifest for years following the procedure.

There are more serious side effects that might be indicative of root canal complications. These include severe pain that doesn’t respond to OTC pain medication or fade over a few days, a crack in the tooth, or any other kind of painful or “off” feeling the patient might have related to the tooth that doesn’t go away. Any patient who experiences these kinds of side effects should see his dentist as soon as possible, because they could be symptoms of certain root canal problems such as a root canal infection. Some root canal problems can be fixed and the tooth can be saved by a second root canal or by endodontic surgery. If the problems are severe enough, the dentist might need to extract the tooth.

If the patient takes proper care of his tooth, it can last the rest of his life. Still, some root canal side effects, like tooth weakening and discoloration, require the dentist and patient to think about future dental work. For example, applying a permanent filling to the tooth can help keep it safe for a long while. Fitting a crown over the tooth can help the tooth last even longer, possibly forever, as well as hide the discoloration. Depending on the situation, these are considerations the patient and dentist might immediately discuss or might save for a later date.

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Discuss this Article

Ana1234
Post 3

@pleonasm - I think it depends on the individual case. It's not impossible that a root canal treatment could lead to a tooth extraction anyway, if something goes wrong. People sometimes develop cracks in the tooth or they have ongoing pain.

My father had to have a tooth extraction after his second root canal and he always said he wished he'd just done that in the first place.

pleonasm
Post 2

@Fas5t3r - My sister had a root canal a few years ago and she told me that the pain wasn't any worse than getting a filling. She decided to just have the dentist fill the tooth and put a crown on right away though, so that she wouldn't have to worry about it again.

If anything, she thinks it's better than her other teeth now because it doesn't react to hot and cold temperatures like her other teeth do. She's always had sensitive teeth, so this is actually a bonus, although it doesn't really make much difference in the long run, since the teeth around it are still sensitive.

She was offered the choice to have a tooth extraction instead of a root canal before they did it and I think she definitely made the right choice. Tooth extraction might have slightly less risk, but in the long run I think a root canal is probably better for you.

Fa5t3r
Post 1

I was actually surprised to find out how few side effects of the root canal procedure there are. I would have thought that the nerve of a tooth was important enough that the tooth wouldn't remain rooted without it.

But apparently they will pretty much last for the rest of the person's life, as long as nothing else goes wrong. It's possible for them to have side effects, of course, but it sounds to me like most of those are relatively rare, particularly if you opt to have a crown put onto the tooth.

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