Dentistry/Root canal


Dr. Backlund,
A few weeks ago I had to get a filling that was pretty deep. Before the procedure I never had problems with this particular tooth but now I do. It is extremely sensitive to cold and hot (pain lingers) and sometimes will randomly throb. When I told the dentist my problems she said I needed a root canal. The problem is I am on my parents insurance and they believe that I do not need anything done and that the tooth will adapt. Is it possible that the tooth is just disturbed from having work done and will eventually get used to the cold/heat? Is extreme sensitivity to hot/cold with lingering pain a sign of needing a root canal?

Hi Rachel,

I'm sorry you are going through all this....sort of stuck in the middle, huh? You ask a really great question and one I get asked frequently. It doesn't have an easy answer, but I'll try.

When a tooth has been worked on, what you are feeling is a result of the nerve of the tooth having been severely irritated. Sometimes, with time, that sensitivity will reduce and maybe even go away. In other cases, the nerve will eventually die, the sensitivity will go away, but sets you up for the next stage which is a full blown abscessed tooth. The problem is knowing which of these two scenarios is occurring since they both end up with no sensitivity to cold.

The fact that YOUR sensitivity lingers tells me you are most likely in a situation where the nerve will not heal but is in the early stages of dying. I suspect you will need a root canal in this tooth at some point.

From a very practical point of view, most patients want to try to give it time to heal, but when it gets to the stage where the pain affects their daily lives, they simple feel that waiting any longer is not worth the continual pain. It sounds like you are at that point or you probably would not have written to me.

I would suggest that you show this response to your parents and get scheduled to get the root canal done so you can get back to enjoying life without having to worry about this unrelenting pain every time you use your teeth.

Good luck Rachel!

Gary Backlund DMD, MSD


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Gary Backlund, DMD, MSD


I am an Endodontist ( root canal specialist ) and can answer questions about root canals and their treatment. I cannot diagnose or treat online, but can answer general questions. I have been a specialist for 25 years and am Past President of the Washington State Association of Endodontists.


25 years practicing as a specialist

American Association of Endodonists, Past President Washington State Association of Endodontists.

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