Just last week a patient came in after a trip to Chennai complaining of pain. She hadn't slept all night. My clinical examination showed that the pain was coming mostly the area around lower back tooth , which had previously had a root canal, post and crown. The mesial papilla of the tooth was swollen and painful. It had a pocket of 5-7 mm, and No drainage. Clearly her pain could be due to a failing root canal or a fracture of one of her roots or also because of side teeth fillings. The x-rays taken were non conclusive.
To make the diagnosis more complicated the Patient had a bad cold and throat infection and fever. So the pain could have been worsened by Sinusitis or general malaise of the patient, which would definitely get better within 2-3 days with medication.
I placed the patient on Antibiotics and it was decided that the best course of treatment was to do nothing more for the present but to speak with her in the following week to see if she was experiencing any improvement. If there was no improvement he could then check her again to see whether there was an actual tooth problem that required treatment.
Although patients in pain often want immediate relief, sometimes the best way to handle a problem is to do nothing. This is especially true when the dentist is not sure what is causing the problem and there is a possibility that the symptoms will go away if the patient is given enough time. If the problem persists for more than a week or two , the patient should come back to the dentist in order to have him better diagnose the cause of the symptoms and often the source of the problem may become more apparent if given additional time.