When a tooth dies, it becomes a ticking time bomb. The once vital pulp that supplied the tooth with nourishment and oxygen begins to decay inside the tooth. Since there is nowhere for the infected material to go, it drains into the root of the infected tooth, creating an abscess. Root canal treatment must be undertaken in order to remove the infection and seal the tooth.

However, during root canal therapy, and for some time afterwards, patients may experience a foul taste in their mouth. There are several reasons for this. It is important that you know the difference so you can explain what you are experiencing to your dentist over the phone if need be.

Sodium Hypochlorite Leaves a Lingering Taste

Once an endodontist has accessed a tooth and cleaned out all the infected tissue, they then need to disinfect the root canal. Some teeth, such as upper molars, have two root canals. To disinfect a tooth, the endodontist fills its root canal with a mixture of sodium hypochlorite, water and a thickening agent to help the disinfectant adhere to the walls of the root canal.

If a tooth is badly infected, the endodontist may place a temporary filling over the tooth and send the patient home. Later, the disinfectant will be removed so that the tooth can be filled. Sometimes patients may be able to taste the sodium hypochlorite both during and after its application. Gargling with saltwater can help to remove this chemical aftertaste.

Bacteria Leave an Unpleasant Smell

The site of an infection, no matter where it is on your body, will give off an unpleasant odour. Bad odour of this kind can occur both during and after a root canal, with each case requiring a different a different course of action.

Bad Odour During a Root Canal

This is considered normal since during the removal of the infected pulp, the endodontist must drill into the tooth to expose the infected area. Since the infection is a mass of dead tissue, bacteria and white blood cells, it gives off a foul odour of decay. This should recede once the area has been cleaned.

Bad Odour After a Root Canal

If the odour of decay remains even after you return home, this could mean that the infection was not fully removed and is still leaking into your mouth. Bear in mind that the odour will be of decay, smelling something like rotten eggs or even faecal matter—not of a chemical nature.

If your tooth still smells bad, even after a root canal, don't take any chances. Call your dentist and describe the smell and its location to your dentist. If any infection remains, they will be able to clean it out before it can get out of hand.