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No relief yet. Like you, I've been on antibiotics (twice), medrol dose pack (twice) and OTC and prescription pain meds, though nothing really stops the pain and discomfort. Just had to cancel a vacation because of it. Even flossing and brushing hurt. I'm sorry you're going through this too. Have they ruled out a fracture of your root? Adjusted your bite? Do you grind your teeth? Did your tooth hurt before the root canal? I feel like there's an infection in my tooth that keeps coming back. Very frustrating. Please let me know if they discover anything in your case, and I'll do the same.
Wow, I can’t believe I’ve finally found the thread that seems to outline everything I’ve been struggling with – I thought I had read and re-read every online thread about root canals that don’t heal until I found this. Warning: Overly LONG reply coming…

I had my first root canal in mid-July on tooth #2 which is the way-back molar on the upper right. Lesson #1: I had been too long in between dental visits since I moved from out of state – my fault and a mistake I will never ever repeat again – hello regular flossing, check-ups and cleaning every 6 months (maybe even every four months!).

I had no pain whatsoever before the root canal, just a rotten taste in my mouth from time to time (yuck) that was not helped by flossing, so I knew something was wrong.
I cried when the dentist told me I needed a root canal since it had been my biggest fear at the time, and they thought I was overreacting since about 90% of people do fine. I guess I did not overreact after all, since I have not chewed on the right side since July and it’ now late September (and I’m worried it might permanently mess up my bite alignment). The only upshot is that I can now squeeze into a dress size 6 – though I’d go back to being a happy size 10 any day!

I did not do any research on the best endodontist and simply went to the place I was referred to by my new dentist which was in my HMO (lesson #2 – research your doctors online in advance and try to go with the best, even if you make a modest income like me). So I had the initial root canal, even took my first Xanax before, which had no effect, and it was done in 70 minutes. Scary, but I made it through, and assumed I’d get the crown in a few weeks and that would be that. But it just did not get better so they put me on antibiotics. About a week and a half later I had a bad reaction to one of the antibiotics (Flagyl combined with Augmentin) and had to go to the ER. The ER doctor did a blood test and found no infection in my blood, but did see an abscess or trauma on my gums (and I wonder if the endo had been too harsh on my mouth and caused this trauma, since I hear some dentists can “over-instrumentize.”) Anyway, after many weeks, and a full course of steroid drugs, the gums healed, but the tooth did not – I still could not bite down without pain and it really hurt when they tapped on it.

Ultimately, after 7 kinds of meds (painkillers and antibiotics), the original place told me that they didn’t know what was wrong, but that X-rays of their work “look great” and that they could not improve upon it, even though I asked twice about re-treatment, and asked if they missed anything like a hidden canal. They said there was no point in re-treating, and also said there was a 50/50 chance that the tooth was cracked but that they had no way of knowing if a crack was there (really??). They said to stick a temp crown on it and hope for the best. They literally shook my hand and said good luck. I was very devastated and then angry. It’s not OK to be just the doctor for the easy 90%! You have to be the doctor for everyone, especially the complicated cases. Even though I could have tried to insist that they re-treat for free, I just didn’t trust them anymore.

So I did some research and found the best-rated endo in the city for a second opinion. It cost me nearly $1500 out of pocket because he was out of network (lesson#3 – next time get a PPO and not an HMO so you have so many more choices of doctors). He said re-treatment was another conservative option but also a bit of a gamble, because the tooth might be cracked, but it could work. So last month, right before Labor Day I rolled the dice and paid the price (incidentally, I also have cancelled two vacations this summer).

He did the first re-treatment and found a lot of decay that the first place missed – he showed me the dark spots in the old vs. new x-rays. He even showed me digital images of the tooth from his microscopic camera (which I will pass on seeing next time). Unfortunately, my back molar is so curved and it was hard to keep my mouth open, and a tiny piece of the tiniest drilling needle fell off in the tooth and probably cannot be removed – I’m not angry about this because I’ve done a lot of reading on this and it just happens sometimes, despite the skill of the dentist. I do wonder about all my bad luck though (especially because after my visiting friend dropped me off at my appointment in my own car she crashed my car into a parked car and scraped it up…and the night before I nearly broke my big toe. And oh, did I mention I got robbed two weeks before the first root canal? But I digress…). Anyway, about the fallen piece, though it sucks when it happens, my dentist is not overly concerned because it’s a tiny piece of surgical grade titanium that usually gets absorbed into the filling materials.

During the 2nd re-treatment visit, a week ago, he found a hidden 4th canal and thinks he got to the end of it, and he felt pretty optimistic. Towards the end I was squirming, so he ended the treatment after about an hour because he thought I had had enough for the day, and said to come back a third time in two weeks (ugh) and said the last treatment would be quicker and easier.

He has only charged me once and subsequent visits are included in the original price I paid. But this will equal 4 times someone has gone into the same tooth! After the 3rd day I was starting to feel better, and was getting my hopes up. Unfortunately, I seem to have TMJ and felt sore on the 4th day ever since, since I seem to biting down on the tooth in the dawn hours before I wake (I just ordered a dental guard), so I seem to be most sore in the mornings after I wake up, from the involuntary biting down while I’m in a pre-waking half-sleep. I think it is interesting that several of us have TMJ. And I am VERY curious about this sore ligament issue, and I wonder if that’s what is wrong with me, or if there is a microscopic crack. I am considering getting a 3-D scan, which this new endo mentioned and said that his colleague has.

I forgot exactly what he proposes to do on retreatment #3, but I do wonder if all this treatment is too much trauma on my tooth and gums. He does talk to me at length, unlike the first place, and despite the tiny piece falling off, I do trust that if it can be fixed he is the guy to do it, and wish I had gone to him in the first place. I do know that if the third time is NOT a charm, he seems to be leaning towards extraction (and if it comes to it, he will send me to his oral surgeon) so I can finally get relief. I don’t think I will go with an apicoectomy, which sounds nightmarish and which I have serious doubts about. This new endo is still hopeful about my tooth for some reason, but I am definitely losing hope.

But the cost of an implant will cost me between 3-4K, and I hear it can be a 6-12 month process from start to finish! I am also TERRIFIED of getting a tooth pulled and feeling the yanking, etc. I also need to get some bone grafting, ugh! I am considering getting general anesthesia but that will add about $1100 to a procedure which costs only $500 for the extraction and graft. Since tooth #2 is in the back, some people forgo the implant but I hate to think I'll have a missing tooth, and I know some complications can ensue from leaving a gap there.

One thing that has really resonated with me in this thread is when Sadie said that her newest dentist “concluded that some people just have trouble with root canals (curvature of roots, hidden canals, etc.), and I guess it looks like I am one of those people.” Unless my first endo botched something, I guess that I am one of those people too. But I also have a lot of stress, and wonder if this is affecting my immune system and adding to inflammation – and stress definitely is a factor in TMJ, so I need to deal with that as well.
Anyway, I’m at least grateful to find a few other people who are experiencing the same mysterious problem I am, so I feel a little less alone. I know one thing, I won’t be able to go 10 months, as I am already getting depressed after 2 months of this, which seems never-ending.
I do hope we all find relief soon!

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