I had a root canal two years ago on my left upper molar. For the past month or so, the tooth has been making my breath smell bad. It also leaks pus. I think there is some swelling in the jawbone because when I woke up this morning, my cheek was puffy. You know I’ve been putting this off because of fear of coronavirus. This afternoon I started feeling dizzy. I’m terrified. The worse part about it that I decided not to return to the dentist who did the root canal because he wasn’t careful. Although he used local anesthetic, I could feel him digging through my tooth roots. I feel stuck. Is there something I can do at home to control the infection, or am I forced to find a new dentist?
– Turner from Alpharetta, GA
Although a dentist would to examine and x-ray a tooth for accurate diagnosis, it sounds like your root canal failed. If your dentist doesn’t have a lot of expertise in doing root canal treatments, you will need to see an endodontist—or root canal specialist. If you have dental insurance that requires you to be referred by your general dentist, you can call the office and ask for a referral. If you’re uncomfortable with that, ask trusted friends or family members if their dentist is careful and patient friendly.
What Happened to Your Tooth After Root Canal Treatment?
The infection – Despite your discomfort during root canal treatment, your dentist didn’t totally clear away the infection inside the tooth. The infection is now spilling out into your bone, producing toxins in your bloodstream, and affecting your body. In time, it can spread to your brain. When an infection from a hole in the bone leaks in your mouth, you’ll have a nasty taste that can cause bad breath.
It sounds like this infection is serious, so I wouldn’t mess around with it. Get to a dentist right away. If not today, tomorrow. He or she will probably start by giving you antibiotics. Since the tooth already has a root canal treatment, there is no easy way to create an opening to the infection to get drainage, so antibiotics will be the quickest way to begin to get it under control. But this will need to be followed up within a few days with treatment to eliminate the source of the infection or it will just come back later.
You will need an appointment for an examination and x-rays.
Treatment options – After examining your tooth and taking digital x-rays, an endodontist will discuss your options. Usually the first step after a root canal treatment is re-treatment. If there is some reason re-treatment isn’t feasible or if it won’t work, you may need another type of root canal surgery, such as an apicoectomy. Although some general dentists perform advanced root canal treatment procedures, they usually refer these procedures to an endodontist.
If you need a second-opinion dentist before you see an endodontist, schedule an appointment right away. There is nothing you can do at home to stop the infection.
Sugar Land dentist Dr. Siny Thomas sponsors this blog.