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What Happens if You Need a Root Canal | Hawaii Family Dental

Getting a root canal can be nerve-wracking (no pun intended). But for all the discomfort, there’s still the consolation of relief. And for the most part, that is the case. People who usually get root canal treatment already suffered a long ordeal of pain following an infected dental pulp. But sometimes, the opposite is true. Instead of feeling better after getting their dental pulp removed, some people might experience signs of infection post-root canal, like a fever. But is getting a fever after a root canal normal?

Fevers usually happen when there’s a bacterial infection of some sort. When bacteria, viruses, and other foreign bodies enter your body, your immune system releases chemicals that signal more white blood cells to fend off the invaders. The same chemicals—called pyrogens—also signals the brain to raise your body temperature. Specific strains of bacteria and viruses are sensitive to heat, so at a particular temperature, they begin to die off. 

Diagnosing and Treating Pain

Fractured or cracked teeth, toothaches, and other oral pains can be complex to detect. Due to the wide network of nerves in the mouth, one might feel a tooth's discomfort with impairment or deterioration in another tooth, ear, neck, or head. If you have any of these symptoms or have had a traumatic injury leading to root and nerve damage, your dentist may refer you to an endodontist. 

Before Treatment: Before going through an endodontic treatment like a root canal, do not smoke or drink alcohol at least 12 hours before the procedure. Also, avoid eating before your appointment.

At Your Visit: Your endodontist will examine your X-rays and tooth. Afterward, he will administer a local anesthetic to numb the tooth. A small protective sheet called a dental dam is placed over the area, isolating the tooth and keeping it clean and free from saliva during the procedure.

The endodontist creates an opening in the tooth's crown and cleans the inflamed and infected pulp using specialized instruments. The insides of the root canal are shaped and filled using a biocompatible material like a gutta-percha. The gutta-percha is sealed in space with adhesive cement to ensure that the root canals are sealed. The next appointment will involve placing a crown or other restoration work to restore the tooth's full function.

If the cause for a visit was due to trauma, for example, something hit your child's secondary tooth, which is not wholly developed, it can cause the root to cease from developing. So, an endodontist will consider apexification to stimulate the bone that is to be deposited at the root's end.

After Your Visit: In the first few days, you may have some tooth sensitivity, which can be relieved with over-the-counter or prescription medicines. If the pain gets worse or lasts more than a few days, call your dentist or endodontist. Also, do not smoke or drink alcohol until your dentist says it's okay.

Lastly, watch what you eat. Avoid chewing or biting hard foods right after the root canal.

What if I Develop a Fever after my Root Canal?

Typically, with the right dental care, you shouldn’t feel too much discomfort after the root canal treatment. When you get a fever after a root canal, that’s usually a sign that you might’ve contracted an infection. The question, however, is why you got an illness in the first place. Here’s what you need to know if you get a fever after root canal treatment.

  • The bacteria might’ve gotten into your bloodstream

    If you toughened out your tooth pain for a while before getting a root canal treatment, there’s a high chance some of that bacteria already made it to your bloodstream. The dental pulp—which the bacteria infects—are, after all, a network of blood vessels and nerves. Left too long, and the blood vessels could carry the bodies into your bloodstream, where it can circulate into other parts of the body.

    As with all infections, it might take some time before your fever clears up. Fortunately, once all of the infected tissue has been scraped out, it’ll be a lot easier for your body to fight off the infection. In the meantime, your dentist might prescribe some antibiotics you can take to help your body recover. It would help if you also kept up with your dental care to prevent further infection. 

  • It might be an unrelated issue

    The post hoc fallacy occurs when two events coincide. When this happens, people might assume that one event might have caused the other. While you might have gotten a fever after root canal treatment, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the root canal was what caused it. However, it's hard to tell on your own whether this is really the case.

    To rule out whether the signs of infection after a root canal are caused by the root canal itself, you might need to get further medical advice from your dentist or doctor. The most significant sign that it’s an unrelated issue is if the area around your tooth canal looks and feels normal while you still have your fever.

  • You might have a post-operative infection

    Your typical root canal treatment, as with all operations, has post-operative procedures that help prevent disease and speed up recovery. Sometimes things happen, however, and your tooth might become infected again. Maybe there was still some dental pulp leftover. Or perhaps your dentist didn't place the crown soon enough. Regardless, if you start getting a fever after your root canal, and your tooth still hurts, it’s best to call your dentist. 

Are There Other Endodontic Treatment Options?

Besides a root canal, there are other endodontic treatments available you can get, especially when a root canal treatment is no longer an option. These treatments include endodontic retreatment, endodontic surgery, and dental implants.

  • Endodontic Retreatment. During endodontic retreatment, the tooth will be reopened to remove the filling materials that were initially placed during the first procedure. If there are new infections, the endodontist will remove them, clean and shape the root canals, and fill the space with new filling materials before sealing it with a temporary filling while waiting for the dental restoration. Afterward, a new crown or other dental restoration will be placed over the tooth to seal and protect it.
  • Endodontic Surgery. This procedure removes damaged root surfaces and the surrounding bone of the tooth or remove calcium deposits in the root canals.
  • Dental Implants. Another option is to get a dental implant. In this procedure, an artificial tooth root will be placed in the jawbone which will be capped off with a dental crown.

There are several procedures involved in a root canal. First, an endodontist or dentist will apply a local anesthetic to numb the tooth. Next, a protective sheet called a dental dam is placed over the area to keep the tooth clean during the procedure. A small opening is made on the crown of the tooth to remove the pulp from the chamber and root canal spaces. The root canal is cleaned and sealed with a rubber-like material as a temporary filling to prevent contamination of the hole. At your next visit, the endodontist will remove your temporary filling, and restore the tooth with a crown or filling.

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