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FAQ:  Root Canal Therapy RCT

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I think I have two teeth that are infected, both teeth that have had root canals. Upper and lower molar on the right side. The lower one was done a couple of years ago and has bothered me off and on ever since. But the pain was never severe, mostly achey and the gum would swell up great big.

The dentist would give me some antibiotic and it would be fine. But then he retired and I got a new dentist who said he thought the tooth might be fractured and would eventually have to come out. He told me to wait until it got bad so I could hang on to the tooth as long as possible.

A few weeks ago my upper root canaled tooth started giving me problems. The dentist suspected infection but couldn't see anything on an xray. He gave me some more penicillin and it settled down. Then I got achey, and the next day I was in the most horrible pain of my life, and it is still going on.

My glands are swollen, I was running a high fever and now it feels like my neck is closing off and I have a hard time breathing at times. But maybe that's because of the pain medication (hydrocodone), which is making me kind of woozy with no food (I can't eat, and haven't eaten anything for three days, plus have no appetite).
I'm very, very nauseus, and just feel so sick. Plus I'm in this horrible pain that goes from my tooth into my cheek and my lower jaw and back towards my ear. If I accidentally bite slightly down, where those two teeth come together, the upper tooth is VERY painful and sets off a firestorm of unbearable pain. The lower one is discomfort, but not excrutiating.

I guess it's time to have that lower one pulled...what about the upper one? I had that root canal done about 10 -12 years ago. I'm just feeling so sick, and don't feel like I'm getting any better with the penicillin. What should I do? ...Angela in MO

Angela, you need to see an endodontist or oral surgeon right away. With your symptoms you may need specialty care at this time. Your dentist should have diagnosed your problems and not be sitting on the sidelines while you go through all of this pain.

You are right about the medicines possibly making you more sick. Take Benadryl (25 mg) every 8 hours. It will help keep the swelling down and prevent some side effects. You may need to switch your medicines with help from a surgeon or root canal specialist. Put some ice on your face. Try to get someone to see you right away. Make sure you take your antibiotics religiously. Do NOT put anything hot on your face...only cold!

Followup Question:
Hi, I wrote over the weekend, and you gave excellent advice. Thank you! I saw my dentist today and he sent me to an endodontist who will see me on Wednesday. My dentist xrayed the two teeth (upper and lower molars) that are giving me problems, and the endodontist has looked at the xrays. He felt like he could save the upper with a retreatment, but would have to see the lower to know. Not optimistic (he thinks there's a fracture). Tonight, the pain seems to have shifted, unless I have NEW pain. I don't know, and am kind of freaking out. The pain is numbed because my dentist gave me new painkillers which are very effective (percocet). But I think it's that wisdom tooth. (There is one molar between the questionable molar and the wisdom tooth) I don't know if it was hurting all along and I thought it was the root canaled tooth, or if this is new. Painful to the touch, and when I drank some hot tea and accidentally let some get on that side, it caused pain from the heat. (That was when I started poking around) If I press on that tooth, I get great pain, but with the painkillers, nothing is hurting my jaw/cheek as before. I'm very scared right now, because I'm set to go with the endodontist, and am now questioning if this is even the right tooth. On xray, my dentist saw the root closest to the outer gum on both molars as being inflamed. Oh, and I think this wisdom tooth may be lose. (I'm not a teenager - I'm in my 40s and never had wisdom tooth problems in adolescence) Thank you for your service here and your kindness.

Followup Answer:
You're welcome, but you need to get a full set of x-rays and have your dentist look at the whole forest and not just the maple trees. You obviously have more than just a couple of problems. Do not take the Percocet before you go in for diagnosis because it makes it hard to see where the pain is coming from.

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