Is Pain After a Root Canal Normal? By Joe McIntyre, DDS on September 08, 2021

Closeup of a woman experiencing tooth pain and holding her cheekRoot canal therapy (RCT) ultimately relieves pain in a tooth with internal infection. As the infection grows, pressure is placed on the tooth’s nerve. This causes acute pain. Patients often experience some pain following root canal treatment, but is longer-term pain after a root canal normal?

Dr. Joe McIntyre, Dr. Dan Whiting, and Dr. Philipp Luschin at Smiles for Life serve patients in Harrisonburg, Bridgewater, and Staunton, VA. We help determine if the pain you are experiencing is normal or whether further treatment is necessary.

Is the Root Canal Procedure Painful?

Root canal therapy involves removing infected tissues from inside the canal, or inner chamber, of a tooth. Because of the nature of the procedure, mild to moderate pain in the tooth and surrounding tissues is common, but the pain should subside in three to five days. The goal of a root canal is to alleviate pain. 

For a tooth to retain structural integrity after RCT, the dentist inserts a manmade material into the tooth’s canals. A filling is placed over the entry hole, and usually the dentist also places a crown. At Smiles for Life, the crown can be fabricated on our CEREC machine for same-day placement.

Initial Recovery

Before root canal therapy begins, the dentist will apply a local anesthetic to numb the tooth. A patient may feel pressure and some discomfort during the procedure.

As the anesthetic wears off, pain and sensitivity are normal. While this period can be uncomfortable, it should last only a few days. Because post-surgical pain is usually mild, over-the-counter NSAIDs usually alleviate the discomfort. (Patients should check with their doctor to avoid potential adverse interactions with medications they are already taking.)

If pain does not subside with the use of over-the-counter medications, the tooth may require examination by a dentist. 

How Much Pain Is Too Much?

Pain from RCT should decrease over time. If pain lasts longer than five days, a patient should consult the dentist. The discomfort could be a sign of complications, such as:


Infection is one of the primary causes of pain after a root canal. If the infection has spread to the bone, it could continue to cause pain. Also, if the dentist fails to remove all of the bacteria at the root, pain can persist. It is also possible for a tooth to become reinfected if it was not sealed or restored properly.

Overlooked Canal

Molars have more than one canal running down the root from the core. If any nerves remain in a canal, the pain that precipitated the procedure can continue.

A Problem with the Restoration

A filling or a crown seals a tooth after a root canal is performed. A faulty filling or crown can allow bacteria to re-enter the tooth and cause new infection.

Contact Us with Any Questions

At Smiles for Life, we want patients to be informed about what to expect from treatments. Infected teeth can be quite painful, but our doctors use every means available to make root canal therapy as comfortable as possible. Call (540) 828-2312 or message our office online for a free consultation or second opinion.

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Dentists at Smiles for Life Dental Care

Smiles for Life Dental Care

The team of highly trained doctors at Smiles for Life wants to help you achieve and maintain a healthy smile for a lifetime. Because we want every patient to have access to the advanced treatments offered at our practice, we accept many insurance and financing options, including: 

  • Medicare 
  • Compassionate Finance™
  • CareCredit®
  • LendingClub®
  • Smile Rewards 

To get started, call our Bridgewater office at (540) 828-2312 or request an appointment online.

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