I had a root canal Tuesday and am now traveling and in pain. Any advice?
May 7, 2016 9:21 PM   Subscribe

I have a high pain tolerance and have had multiple root canals in the past with no problems. Tuesday I had a root canal with a temporary filling and on Thursday my jaw around that tooth started to hurt. I don't think it's infected (no swelling, no smell or visible problems, plus my endodontist said he packed the tooth with antibiotics). But it hurts, a lot. Help!

I'm experiencing a constant low buzz of pain, and although I'm only chewing on the unaffected side, if I accidentally bite down on the side where the root canal was done, it hurts like hell. The whole thing is super annoying and distracting. And I am working, and need to focus.

I'm currently traveling. I've left messages for my endodontist but don't expect to hear back from him until Monday. Meanwhile, I'm taking about 16 ibuprofen every day, plus four codeine tablets (alternating 4 then 1 then repeat, all day). Alcohol doesn't help, and I shouldn't mix it with painkillers anyway.

If my endodontist doesn't prescribe something Monday I'm screwed, because Monday night I leave for a week in another country. I don't want to seek emergency medical attention there, because it will be expensive. And I can't see anyone tomorrow, because I'll be in transit all day. Argh.

Any advice? What could this be, and how can I kill the pain?
posted by Susan PG to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Go to an emergency dentist. Look on Yelp for one.
posted by discopolo at 9:27 PM on May 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

This sounds like my root canal gone bad. The dentist drilled through the root and into the bone causing infection. The only symptoms I had were tenderness and a little oozy blood and fluid.

I think you should have this examined ASAP. For me, I had to have the root canal re-done by a specialist.

Infection in your jaw can get really serious quickly, go in right away.
posted by littlewater at 9:43 PM on May 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

Nthing above to get this looked at right away. I had a root canal and aside from a minor ache in my jaw for a day or so (most likely from keeping my mouth open a long time), there really wasn't any lingering pain. This is not normal.
posted by Aleyn at 10:30 PM on May 7, 2016

I would wait until Monday and talk to your Endodontist first thing. Then decide on next step. It could even be feeling a little better by then.
posted by AugustWest at 11:30 PM on May 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do not put this off. Call your Endodontist today, they either have an answering machine that they check, or an answering service. Be very clear what steps you have taken to alleviate the pain (how many ibuprofen, at what times).

An interesting thing about infected teeth is that the infection makes pain management really really extra difficult. If it is infected, the antibiotics will help with the pain.

You do not have to just wait and see.
posted by bilabial at 6:28 AM on May 8, 2016

Emergency dentist. I had a similar thing, and it was fine, but the airplane decides it-- you do not want to travel with an infected tooth. Trust me on this one. Call an emergency number.
posted by frumiousb at 6:29 AM on May 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Mr. gudrun was in your position a few months ago - pain with a root canal unlike any he had had previously (and he is pretty stoic about pain). He talked to his dentist, but because there was no swelling or other signs of infection (besides the pain), dentist did not prescribe antibiotics, just advised upping the advil. Well guess what? A week after the root canal we wind up in the emergency room late on a Friday night, because the swelling finally started, the infection was finally obvious, and the pain amped up even more as well (he ultimately got Percocet). While a wait and watch strategy might have been ok (I think he should have gotten antibiotics sooner, and argued for that and lost), the fact that you will be traveling out of the country I think argues for some antibiotics, especially if you still have the same level of pain on Monday. I would be taking action now, since you had the root canal last Tuesday.
posted by gudrun at 6:58 AM on May 8, 2016

you do not want to travel with an infected tooth. Trust me on this one.

My old dentist had a booming business treating tourists who flew here with pre-existing tooth problems and who were referred to him by their hotel.

Alcohol doesn't help, and I shouldn't mix it with painkillers anyway.

Please don't mix alcohol and painkillers.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:22 AM on May 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

This happened to me once years ago, find an emergency dentist and have it taken care of. DO NOT fly. Mine was so bad I was crying. The relief is amazing when the dentist opens it up again and fixes it. It will only get worse on its own.
posted by mermayd at 1:19 PM on May 8, 2016

Something similar happened to me - root canal, then severe pain when I was travelling a week later. I think I posted an Ask about it actually. I found an emergency dentist who was great. After an xray, he said the root canal looked good structurally and prescribed antibiotics - I had taken a week's worth already, but apparently that hadn't been enough to kill the infection. Within 24 hours of taking the antibiotics, the pain was gone. Go to the dentist!
posted by insectosaurus at 10:25 PM on May 8, 2016

Thank you all so much!

I saw an emergency endodontist while traveling: he confirmed the infection and prescribed antibiotics, which started killing the pain within about 12 hours, yay.

FWIW for future searchers: the endodontist told me that pain from infected root canals will often be super-strong for a few days and then will naturally recede. That's because the infection causes swelling which creates pressure on the tooth's supporting ligament: once the infection pushes past the ligament, the pressure is eased and the pain recedes. Point is: if you have severe post-root canal pain for a couple of days that then eases, it doesn't mean you're in the clear. So, as everyone here said: see an endodontist :)
posted by Susan PG at 10:44 AM on May 17, 2016

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