I had a root canal over 20 years ago. A couple weeks ago I thought the molar with the root canal was hurting, it was very sensitive to hot and cold. My dentist took a couple xrays and said she saw nothing and referred me to an Endodontist. I went to him and he said there was a crack in the molar behind the one that had the root canal, so he did a root canal on that one. It did nothing for the pain and sensitivity — its just as bad. There was no infection. I still feel that it is the old root canal tooth but they’re not listening. Even mouthwash is too cold for it. What do you think I should do next?
– Karen from Minnesota

First, it’s not very likely that it’s your old root canal tooth that is hurting, and that’s because you’re having pain to hot and cold. When you get tooth pain from hot and cold, the tissue inside the tooth is alive and inflamed. It would be very usual to have live tissue inside a tooth with a twenty-year-old root canal treatment. Possible, but very unusual.

Second, it appears that the endodontist did the wrong tooth, and that’s because your pain didn’t go away. But it’s not unusual for you to have pain that feels like it’s in one tooth but it’s really coming from another. I’ve even seen cases where there’s a problem upper tooth and it feels like a lower, or vice versa.

What to do now? I’d be inclined to try another endodontist who will be more careful. I don’t know all the circumstances, and maybe it was disclosed to you that the diagnosis wasn’t certain, but if that wasn’t made clear, I’d be inclined to try someone else. Having said that, sometimes these diagnoses can be tricky. It may even be necessary to wait for a period of time before you know for sure which tooth it is that has the problem.

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