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May 8, 2014 8:49 PM   Subscribe

Had some fillings done on bottom molars a month and a half ago, have had some intermittent pain on that side ever since, and now in the last few days I've had shooting pains in one tooth. Am I looking at a big expensive (and terrifying) root canal or could it be related to nerve damage from trauma to the mouth?

I am a pain-in-the-ass dental patient. Weird nerve pain and referred pain from trauma to the mouth as a kid. Biggest wimp ever when it comes to rubber dams and drilling sounds etc, so my very sympathetic and skilled dentist did these first composite fillings without a rubber dam. I was in excruciating pain for a week afterwards, with swollen gums from the tooth clamps (?) and probably again the weird nerve damage. The bite was off a bit on the affected tooth so she tried to adjust it for me when I went for my second set of fillings (top teeth) but she was unable to file it because even trying to file the filling on that tooth gave me shooting pains. She tried to compensate by filing the top filling down a little. Everything settled down after a while, and actually I had little to no pain from the fillings she did on my top teeth 3 weeks ago. The bottom ones still hurt a bit but I thought it was just because the bite needs further adjustment.
Now in the last few days I've had a lot of pain from the bottom tooth where the bite is off, but I'm pretty sure it's not from the bite itself because I'll get shooting pains just from breathing in cold air over the tooth or brushing my tongue against the edge of the filling. My toddler accidentally smashed the bottom of my chin a few days ago, and bruised it nicely. Could be possible that injury flared up some nerve issue? I have a hard time believing I'm the only person ever who has strange referred dental pain, but every dentist I've been to is baffled by my experience.
Oh, and my dentist is far, far away from me -- a 4 hour drive, in fact. I have an appointment booked in a month's time and will be calling tomorrow to ask her about this, but I will be so unbelievably busy with work for the next 3 weeks that I can't just go to her office for a check-up on this tooth.
TL;DR: Shooting tooth pain 6 weeks after getting a filling, and a few days after a minor bash to the chin. What do you think: possible root canal or weird nerve pain thing?
posted by bluebelle to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It could be those things, it could be something else. I was just diagnosed with a gum issue next to a tooth on which I have had several root canals. I was convinced it would be that they finally were going to pull that tooth but nope, I just have to floss with a special thing now.

The point is: you have to see your dentist. Sooner rather than later. It could be a weird gum thing, but it could also be an abscess or a burgeoning infection that could spread to your brain and kill you. That actually can happen. My point is that you're going to need to go to see the dentist and get a diagnostic exam if you want the answer to your question.
posted by sockermom at 8:57 PM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had six fillings done (brush and floss and go see the dentist more than every three years, ladies and gentlemen, especially if you have insurance and no excuse) a little over a month ago, three on the top left, two on the bottom right and one on the top right. Left and right sides done on different days about two weeks apart.

Both sides are still sensitive to what I can only call sharp food - crackers, chips, cereal, etc. I actually called my dentist about this, and the answer I got was "it happens". I had so many teeth and nerves messed with at one time that it isn't surprising that everything is irritated. I wouldn't characterize the pain as "shooting" but it is irritating, and makes me cautious about what I eat. But it is getting better with time, and at no point has it caused as much pain as I had before either of my two root canals.

So, call the dentist. Explain what you're experiencing. Ask if there's anything you can/should be doing in the time before you see the dentist again. If it's really bad and you just can't get to her, ask if there's someone in your immediate vicinity that she'd recommend you see to make sure there isn't anything catastrophic going on. If you've got an infection of some sort, three weeks to a month is far too long to wait.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 9:47 PM on May 8, 2014

I also had tooth pain after a filling was placed between two molars. The pain started a few days later. It was so bad I would see stars if food touched the tooth while chewing. If I clenched my jaw while sleeping, the jolt of pain would wake me up. The end result was the dental student had put too much composite filling causing pressure on one of the molars.
posted by JujuB at 9:47 PM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Referred pain, infected root, pulp stones, cracked enamel in addition to any of those - only your dentist (or a local referral) can say.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:12 PM on May 8, 2014

I had a filling give me awful shooting pains a while after it was done, and I really wound myself up worrying that it was something dreadful - turned out it was just a bit of filling that stuck up a bit and hurt when I bit down on it. A few seconds worth of buffing smoothed it out and I was fine. You'll just have to get your dentist to have a look, there's no way of knowing until then.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:17 PM on May 8, 2014

I asked my frentist (she's my friend/dentist) and she said if you just had these done recently and x-rays were involved, she doubts it's a dying tooth which would need a root canal because your dentist would have seen the problem.

She says more likely your bite is off and you're probably grinding. A dentist needs to look and flatten the bite.

But even if it IS a root canal, those are really nothing these days. Completely not terrifying. They're just laborious because they take a while. But you can bite a bitey-thing to hold your mouth open, you listen to music and the whole thing is over within an hour or two. And then you get awesome painkillers which you don't really need.

I say this as someone who has had 8 root canals. Seriously, it's just like a really long appointment but never pain because the tooth is actually dead and so, no danger of the doctor hitting a live nerve. They're just boring but I've never once had pain during a procedure.

Your best bet is to find another dentist that's closer to you because a 4-hour drive is...yikes. It's probably just the bite is off. Get is smoothed over and you'll be fine.
posted by kinetic at 3:12 AM on May 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Only your dentist knows for sure. Either make time to see her ASAP or find a dentist locally who can help you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:38 AM on May 9, 2014

I was eating a seedy bread and bit into a surprisingly hard grain or bit of gravel — I have no idea which. Thought I’d cracked my tooth. Hurt like dickens. Sensitive for months after. Finally went to the dentist to have it repaired. There was no crack at all, no evidence of anything wrong with my very healthy teeth.

Turned out that it’s possible to bruise the socket and root.

You say you took it to the chin. If that smashed your teeth together and the high-filled filling provided the main contact, focusing the force into one tooth… well, I bet that could have bruised the socket.
posted by davidpriest.ca at 8:11 AM on May 9, 2014

Yikes! I talked to my dentist, and she suspects the tooth will need a root canal but recommended I get it checked out locally. I'm booked for an "emergency" check-up at a local dentist on Monday, and we'll see what they say. Thanks for the kick in the butt to reach out to dentists; I needed that.

I can't even tank up on Ativan before my check-up, though (no ride to and from dentist), and my previous experiences with thermal testing and pressure testing have been disastrous ... incredibly painful from referred nerve pain I guess -- I'm usually plastered to the ceiling in pain and the dentist and hygienist are scratching their heads, telling me I couldn't possibly feel anything because the tooth is dead. Go figure!
posted by bluebelle at 2:00 PM on May 9, 2014

Ask them to first check and make sure it's not an air bubble under the filling. That happened to me once. It's an easy fix, but MAN is it painful while it's there! There are specific bite-and- release tests to determine if this is the case.
posted by ananci at 2:32 PM on May 10, 2014

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