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What To Do After You've Had A Root Canal

You just had a root canal and lived to tell the tale! Well done. We congratulate you on taking this necessary step to save your tooth from decay. You needed this procedure because bacteria inside your tooth was spreading decay and causing irritation. These issues would have only become more severe over time without treatment. Now, with proper care, you can look forward to using your restored tooth for decades to come.

During your root canal, we used a local anesthetic to numb the area. The pulp and nerve of the tooth were removed to stop the decay from spreading throughout your tooth from the inside. We also sterilized the canal, which previously contained the bacteria causing the problem. The tooth is now sealed with a permanent crown. For the next few days to a week, your mouth will heal and recover from the procedure.

So, what now? The good news is that root canals are not as painful as we often fear they will be. If you have experienced having your wisdom teeth removed, you will be relieved to know that in general, the recovery from that procedure is considerably more uncomfortable than recovering from a root canal.

For best results and to avoid future complications, you will want to make sure to take good care of your mouth throughout recovery and moving into the future. Here is a helpful guide on how to take care at home after your root canal and how to know if a call to our office is needed.

The Recovery Period: What To Expect

You can expect to be fully recovered from your root canal within three to seven days. You may experience some swelling and pain as you heal. Soreness and tenderness in the jaw is also common due to keeping it open over an extended period of time during the procedure. Normally, any discomfort associated with the root canal can be relieved with simple over-the-counter pain medication. We advise you to take two Tylenol and two ibuprofen every 6 hours until your discomfort subsides.

Dr. Belt may prescribe a stronger narcotic medication for pain. In this event, remember that such medications can make you drowsy, requiring you to take proper caution and perhaps make other arrangements for your safety when it comes to driving or operating heavy machinery.

Right after the procedure

Due to the local anesthetic we used during the root canal, your mouth will feel numb for the next few hours. Be sure not to drink anything hot or eat anything until the numbness wears off. This will ensure you do not accidentally burn your mouth or bite your cheek or tongue while you are still numb.

The next three to seven days

Over the course of your recovery period, continue to brush and floss as recommended by your dentist to keep your mouth healthy and clean. Practicing good oral hygiene will serve to protect your teeth and gums, including your newly crowned tooth that underwent the root canal. The bacteria that causes tooth decay is adequately managed by simply brushing and flossing regularly.

You may continue to experience some soreness, pain, and swelling throughout the week after your root canal. This is normal and not a cause for concern. Remember, it is important to carefully follow any medication instructions from your dentist. If you were given antibiotics for infection, you need to complete the prescribed course of treatment, even if you do not have any detectable signs of infection.

Another step you can take to reduce swelling and pain after your root canal is to rinse with warm salt water three times, daily. A recommended ratio is one teaspoon of salt in one cup of warm water. Gently swirl the water around in your mouth and rinse down the sink.

Foods To Avoid

As your mouth heals after the root canal, you will need to pay attention to the food you eat. If possible, try to chew mostly on the opposite side of your mouth from where you were treated. In general, it is best to eat softer foods during your recovery time. Avoid hard, crunchy, and sticky foods, especially around the root canal. Here is a list of some foods we recommend you steer clear of while your mouth recovers:

  • Nuts
  • Hard candy
  • Gum
  • Peanut butter
  • Chewy meat
  • Spicy food
  • Very hot or cold food
  • Raw vegetables

One Month After The Procedure

One month after the root canal procedure we will see you for a return visit to complete a crown. When a root canal procedure is completed, the tooth is very fragile. Most of the time, a crown is needed to protect your tooth from fracturing. Your permanent crown may feel a bit different from your other teeth for some time after completing this procedure. This is nothing to be concerned about. However, it should be comfortable and look natural. Let us know if your bite feels uneven.

Continue to have healthy, daily oral hygiene habits by brushing and flossing. Also be sure to come back for regular dental checkups, cleanings, and x-rays to ensure your continued health while addressing any issues that may arise. Your regular dentist visits enable us to catch any future decay or gum disease as early as possible before it becomes a bigger problem, so do not neglect these appointments.

When To Call Our Office

We do not anticipate a need for a follow-up visit for your root canal. Most patients recover fully within a week. However, there are some cases in which you should call us right away. Please contact us if you experience any of the following after your root canal:

  • Allergic reaction to the medication (may include rash, hives, or itching; nausea is not an allergic reaction)
  • Original symptoms return
  • Symptoms of infection (may include fever, heavy sweats, discharge from the site of root canal)

You are always welcome to visit our website where you will find our office and contact information as well as further details about our practice and the services we offer our patients.