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Dentistry/question about sensitvity in crowned tooth


QUESTION: Hello. I am having a problem that I wondering if it is safe to wait a few days to see what happens (as today as Saturday) or if it is something that I need to take care of immediately. I had a crown placed on a tooth two months ago. This molar did not have a root canal. It did not have any sensitivity. It just had a very old large silver filling from when I was a kid that my dentist felt really needed to be replaced with a crown. (I am now 42.) Everything was fine (no pain or sensitivity) for the two months since I got this crown. About a week ago I got something (probably food of some kind) stuck between the crowned tooth and the molar next to it, and I had to do a lot of digging to get it out and finally got it out with floss and a waterpik. Anyway, I do not know if this is related to that incident or is just a coincidence in timing, but since a day or two after that I have had a lot of sensitivity (sometimes very painful) in the crowned tooth to cold beverages. The sensitivity lingers and lasts a few minutes afterward.It is also sensitive to hot beverages, but it is much worse with cold. I was trying to give it time thinking maybe I just inflamed something but it is getting worse this weekend.(The sensitivity has been going on about 4 days now I estimate.) Do you think this means I will need a root canal or that it might be something minor or even something that will calm down and go away on its own? Is it OK to wait or could this turn into an abscess?

Thank you so much in advance for any advice you can share with me. I am very nervous!! (And a very nervous dental patient in general.)

ANSWER: Dear Michelle,

Immediate bouts of traumatic sensitivity like yours usually go away within one week, with the sensitivity slowly quieting down over that time.  For now, I suggest you take two Advil every 4 hours (if you can take Advil), and remain on a soft diet.  See if this doesn't help calm the nerve in your tooth.  If the pain persists longer than a few more days, contact your dentist.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you so much for the response. I saw my dentist, and am now more confused (and of course now panicking even more)!! I am a very nervous person in general, but for some reason it kicks into high gear when it comes to dental work.

So anyway, I visited my dentists office on Thursday morning (it is now Sunday). They x-rayed the tooth and poked around, etc. The dentist said he did not see anything wrong with the tooth and that I should relax and give it another week and baby the tooth and see how things went. However, he said the only thing that concerned him is that the margins on the crown may not be perfect, and that if the margins were not good, that could be causing the symptoms I am having. However, he said that usually those symptoms would happen right away, and I've had this crown for two months and the symptoms only just started now so that confused him a little. He left a note for the other dentist in the office, since he was the one who did the crown and he said he wanted him to look at the x-ray since it was his work. The next day, on Friday, the nurse called. She said the dentist who did the crown looked at my x-ray and did not see any issues with the tooth or the crown, and that the margins were fine. But she said he wanted to see me sometime next week because he wanted to do a clinical exam because sometimes something is wrong you cannot see on the xray. So since the other dentist to give it a week I made the appointment for next Friday (Feb. 27). She said that if I didn't have anymore symptoms by next Friday I could cancel the appointment. This weekend I think my tooth is doing a little better. It is not tender to chew on, the cold sensitivity is sooo much better that it is only there slightly. However, my concern is that my heat sensitivity has seemed to have gotten worse. (I actually swished a very hot drink in that area myself to test it, and it was painful, and the pain lingered for a while. Maybe I shouldn't have done that.) Since then, I have not had anything hot and I haven't had any pain. I did some research online about this (which I know can be dangerous) and I read in several places that lingering pain to heat is a definite sign that the nerve is dying and I need to a root canal or can get an abscess that can get into my bloodstream and can be very dangerous. So of course now I am very scared.

Again, I have no pain from chewing, my gum is not swollen, I have slight sensitivity to cold, and sensitivity to heat that lingers. I do not have spontaneous pain that wakes me or anything. Do you think this can still be from inflammation from the minor trauma I had to the area, or does that heat issue mean without-a-doubt that the nerve is dying? Also is it true that if the nerve does die, even heat wont seem to hurt it anymore, giving me the false sense of security that everything is now fine, when it fact a dangerous infection is actually brewing? Is this OK to wait and see what happens? I am very nervous now about the infection information I keep reading about. (I probably should be staying away from the Internet.:) ) I am considering skipping going back to my dentist for now, and just going to the endodontist for an opinion. Any advice you can share with me would be GREATLY appreciated! (sorry this was so long).

With only the information you have provided, I would advise you to wait a little longer, baby the tooth for another week, continue taking Advil unless it begins to upset your tummy.  If you tend to clench or grind your teeth, stop clenching and grinding.  Heat sensitivity at this stage can mean the nerve is healing OR getting worse.  I prefer wait and see to immediate intervention by root canal.  If the nerve is becoming infected, it will most likely let you know.  

It seems to be getting better.  Let it.


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Howard Finnk, D.D.S., P.A., CEO


I am a Family, Implant and Cosmetic dentist. I will answer questions on any aspect of dentistry and matters relating to the smile, gums, jaws and lower face. Member American Dental Association, Florida Dental Association, Broward County Dental Association, and Atlantic Coast District Dental Association. I have served as District Council Member of Alpha Omega, as well as serving for one term as its President. I am also a member of The Vedder Honors Society, Broward Dental Research Clinic, and Mount Sinai Hospital Guild. I have served as a Volunteer for Project Dental Health and The Tri-County Dental Health Council.


Having attained over 30 years of clinical experience in private practice in Michigan, in 2001 I was re-certified by taking and passing the Florida State Dental Board Examination. After moving to Florida, I spent nearly 10 years re-honing my skills while working as an Associate Dentist for several large dental groups. In September, 2004, I was appointed Adjunct Clinical Professor at Nova University's College of Dental Medicine. I am certified in placement of Mini Dental Implants, and I am Director of The Florida Implant Center ( On March 1, 2010, at the age of 62, I began all over again by buying a dental practice near my home in the Fort Lauderdale area. As sole owner and Chief Dental Officer of the new Nob Hill Dental Center (, I can now carefully provide dental care to patients who care, all within a caring, joyful environment. Over my career lifetime, I have provided thousands of diagnoses, fillings, crowns, bridges, root canals, periodontal treatments, TMJ therapies, partials, dentures and extractions, and dozens of implants for my patients. The only aspect of dentistry with which I have very little experience is orthodontics.

American Dental Association, Florida Dental Association, Broward County Dental Association, Atlantic Coast District Dental Society, Vedder Honors Society, Broward Dental Research Clinic, Alpha Omega Alumni Association, and American Association of Dental Implantologists. Formerly, American Academy of General Dentistry, Michigan Dental Association, Macomb Dental Society, Detroit District Dental Society, Tri-County Dental Health Council (a charitable dental care organization)

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Bachelor of Arts and Sciences in Psychology from Wayne State University Doctor of Dental Surgery from University of Detroit College of Dentistry Adjunct Clinical Professor, Special Needs Department, Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

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