3-year Outcome of Patients with Persistent Pain after Root Canal Treatment: The National Dental Practice-Based Research Network

J Endod. 2020 May;46(5):619-626.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.joen.2020.01.018. Epub 2020 Mar 11.


Introduction: We measured the long-term outcomes of patients reporting persistent pain 6 months after root canal treatment (RCT) and assessed the characteristics differing patients with pain chronification from those with pain resolution.

Methods: Forty-five patients previously found to have persistent pain 6 months post-RCT from the National Dental Practice-Based Research Network were approached for a 3-year follow-up, and 27 participated in the survey. The frequency of self-reported pain, its impact on the ability to perform daily activities, and health care use were measured. The differences between patients whose persistent pain continued and those whose pain resolved were assessed.

Results: Five patients met criteria for pain at 3.4 years (range, 3.1-3.9 years) post-RCT, which was moderate in intensity, occurred for about 3 days in the preceding month, and kept 1 patient from usual activities. Additional health care was received by 4 of 5 patients whose pain continued compared with 7 of 22 patients whose pain resolved. A longer duration of preoperative pain and higher pain intensity and interference at 6 months were found among patients with pain chronification. Of 13 patients with specific diagnoses for the persistent pain derived at 65 ± 41 days (∼8 months) post-RCT, 10 improved regardless of the diagnosis or treatment, and 11 had a temporomandibular disorder and/or headache as comorbid diagnoses (6) or causes (6) of the persistent "tooth" pain.

Conclusions: Progression of persistent post-RCT pain occurred in 19% of patients. The majority (56%) of patients improved without additional interventions. Both the group that improved and the group that continued to experience pain had a mixture of odontogenic and nonodontogenic etiologies.

Keywords: Endodontics; health care use; observational study; patient outcome assessment; quality of life.

MeSH terms

  • Dental Pulp Cavity*
  • Humans
  • Pain Measurement
  • Root Canal Therapy*
  • Self Report
  • Toothache