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Dealing with pain after a root canal can be challenging; however, pain control can be achieved by taking an over-the-counter analgesic. Pain medications that can help include anti-inflammatory medications such as naproxen sodium tablets, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen. These preparations also help bring down swelling that often accompanies a root canal. In cases of extreme pain, a dentist may prescribe stronger painkilling medications.
Applying an ice pack to the side of the face can help reduce the pain after a root canal as well. The coldness from the ice can also help relieve swelling, but the ice should not be directly placed against bare skin because of the risk of frostbite. Although some might seek relief from applying a heating pad to the jaw, it is not recommended. Heat can cause tissue to swell and sometimes worsen pain. In addition, the application of a heating pad to the affected area might even promote bleeding.
Acetaminophen can also be taken after a root canal. This pain-relief medication is often preferred by people who cannot take anti-inflammatory medications because of stomach irritation. In addition, acetaminophen is usually the analgesic of choice for people who are taking blood thinners. Ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory drugs can intensify the effect of blood thinners or anticoagulants and might cause heavy or abnormal bleeding.
When pain after a root canal becomes severe or intolerable, the dentist might recommend prescription medications. This is most common when over-the-counter medications are not helping to relieve the pain. Certain types of prescription painkillers for a root canal contain codeine, and although highly efficient against pain, these medications can have dangerous side effects. Side effects of prescription pain medications can include pronounced drowsiness, dizziness, constipation, and confusion.
Prescription medication that contains codeine should only be taken if the pain cannot be managed by other means. In addition, if side effects do occur, the dentist should be immediately notified so he can recommend alternative treatment. Codeine-based medications are narcotics, and if taken in excess, or for prolonged periods of time, can cause dependence.
If pain after a root canal persists, the patient needs to notify his dentist, because he might have an infection. A tooth infection can cause severe pain, and when this occurs, antibiotics might need to be prescribed. After antibiotic therapy has begun, the patient may notice that his pain has decreased significantly. Although pain relief might be noticed after only one day of treatment, all antibiotics need to be consumed to make sure the infection and pain do not return.