Signs of Infection After Root Canal

Signs of Infection After Root Canal

For most people, a root canal is a straightforward procedure that, once completed, can be easily forgotten and left in the past. Unfortunately, however, some people find themselves in pain once again, or with other complications caused by infection after their root canal.  There are several reasons a person may develop an infection after a root canal, including:

  • Bacteria entering the soft tissue during the procedure
  • Leftover bacteria remaining in the canal
  • Crack or perforation of the tooth root
  • Defective filling allows bacteria to enter after the procedure
  • Decay of protective crown


After a root canal, you may not be interested in returning to the dentist right away, but ignoring an infection could have serious consequences, including tooth loss, gum disease, the need for more complex dental treatment, or even systemic illness from the spread of infection and inflammation. If you experience complications after root canal therapy, it’s important to alert your dentist and get treated right away.

So how do you know if you’ve developed an infection after a root canal? Here’s what you need to know.


Signs of infection after root canal

Infection after root canal is rare, but it does happen.  And when it does, it could be days, weeks, or even years later.  Regardless of how long it’s been since your root canal procedure, if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, contact your dentist to schedule an appointment.



Lingering or throbbing tooth pain, a throbbing toothache, or pain caused by chewing or other pressure on the treated tooth could be the sign of an infection.  If your tooth is extremely sensitive to heat or cold, this too could point to infection after a root canal.


Tooth discoloration

When bacteria enter the tooth interior, it infects the pulp, which is the living part of the tooth. This causes the tooth to lose its nutrient supply, killing the tooth nerve and often causing discoloration. If your original root canal involved a prosthetic crown, this won’t apply. But if you were able to keep your natural tooth crown and it becomes dark and discolored, it could mean bacteria have entered your canal and caused further infection.


Gum tenderness and swelling

Infection and inflammation often go together. If you’ve had a root canal and are experiencing tenderness and swelling anywhere near the treated tooth, it’s important to visit your dentist to have it examined and treated, as it could point to a reinfected root canal. The swelling may not remain localized around the treatment site; it could spread as far as your neck and face. Either way, see your dentist as soon as you can.


Dental abscess

A dental abscess is a pocket of pus caused by bacterial infection. It can form inside the tooth, the gums, or the jaw. You may be able to easily see the abscess (it might look like a pimple on your gums), or it may not be visible at all. An abscess can result in severe pain, tender lymph nodes, sensitivity to heat and cold, or a bad taste/smell in your mouth. Dental abscesses are a sign of infection, and they will not go away on their own. Whether your abscess is near your treated tooth or not, it’s important to get in touch with your dentist right away.


Persistent bad breath

Infection can create a foul smelling odor and a bitter taste that won’t go away even with brushing and flossing. Persistent bad breath is sometimes the only symptom of infection. If you’re practicing good oral hygiene and still can’t seem to eliminate the foul smelling odor, you may have an infection.


Looking for a root canal dentist? Experiencing complications after a root canal? We can help.

At Smile Designers in San Diego, we’re committed to providing every single patient with excellent dental care in a comfortable and nurturing environment. Whether you’re in need of a root canal, or you’re having complications after a root canal, we’re happy to help. Give us a call at (619) 222-6000 to schedule an appointment with a root canal dentist in San Diego Dr. Hage today.