If a root canal is recommended by your dentist, no need to fear. Each year, millions of teeth are treated or saved with this recommendation, as it is an opportunity to restore health to an infected tooth.
The root canal procedure has come a long way over the past decade and, though it may have had a bad reputation, it is nowhere near as painful or traumatic as many people think it is.
In fact, depending in the level of tooth decay, the procedure itself is relatively painless and quick. With advances in technology, tools, and anesthetics, the experience has become smoother and more comfortable.
If you’re due for a root canal, here’s what you should know about root canal recovery to put your mind at ease…
What to Expect From a Root Canal Treatment
When is a root canal 100% necessary and not just a simple dental filling? Your dentist’s recommendation is based on the assessment of your tooth. The inside of the tooth contains a soft tissue called pulp, which is needed for the development of the root. In a fully developed tooth, the root and tooth no longer need the pulp, as the surrounding tissues provide enough nourishment to the tooth. Therefore, if bacteria invades and infects the pulp inside your tooth, a root canal procedure is performed to remove the infected pulp and restore health to the tooth.
An infection inside the tooth is usually characterized by:
- Intense toothache
- Swollen gums and cheeks
- Sensitivity to hot and cold
- Tooth discoloration
In addition to saving and restoring the health of the infected tooth, a root canal is performed to prevent the spread of bacteria down into your gum. During a root canal, all infected and decayed parts of a tooth are removed and restored with a dental material, such as a crown or filling.
The dentist uses an anesthetic to numb your mouth before starting the procedure so you remain comfortable during your root canal.
Root Canal Recovery: Healing Time
As with most medical or dental interventions that use anesthesia, when the anesthesia begins to wear off, some discomfort is expected.
However, the level of discomfort is generally quite mild and can be easily managed with over-the-counter medication and good oral hygiene.
In terms of healing time, it is typically recommended to set aside three full days of recovery and mild levels of discomfort and sensitivity. If you have pain that lasts longer than four to five days, you should contact your dentist’s office. A check-up appointment may be needed to ensure the tooth is healing as expected.
Normal Levels of Pain: What to Expect
A root canal procedure is often likened to the same level of discomfort as a dental filling. Thanks to modern-day dentistry, a root canal is minimally invasive, as well.
Your levels of pain post-procedure are generally caused by:
- Inflamed tissue around the gums
- Small nerve endings and ligament tissue surrounding the tooth registering discomfort and pain
- Sensitive tissue surrounding your tooth, inflamed by a dentist’s instrument
- A high temporary filling which has not been smoothed down enough, causing pain when biting down on that spot
Root canal pain that lasts for extended periods of time is not normal. This is important to remember during recovery because you should call your dentist for a check-up if you have pain that is not relieved by simple home measures.
How to Manage Root Canal Pain
Most dentists will recommend the use of over-the-counter pain medications such as Ibuprofen. These should be taken after you’ve eaten and, generally, are enough to manage any discomfort and sensitivity for three to four days post-procedure.
Another good way to manage any discomfort is to avoid chewing or biting down on the affected tooth until your mouth has had time to heal. The dental filling needs time to settle and heal, and may even break as a result of too much pressure.
As mentioned, if you’re struggling to manage your pain with simple at-home measures, reach out to your dentist for an evaluation.
Top Tips on Oral Health and Diet
Keeping up a good oral health regimen also helps to alleviate discomfort and sensitivity after a root canal. Additionally, good oral health will keep your crown or dental filling in good shape, while protecting your other teeth.
Some expert tips on maintaining good oral health include:
Brush your teeth twice a day, using gentle circular motions. Avoid being too aggressive, especially near your affected tooth.
Remember to floss once a day to remove bacteria from the teeth and gums and prevent infections.
Rinse your mouth with salted water to help with the healing of your tooth and overall health of your gums.
Maintain a regular schedule of dental check-ups for infection-free oral health.
In addition to these basic tips on oral hygiene, your diet can play a big role in the health of your teeth and gums. When recovering from a root canal, there are foods you should avoid eating while your tooth heals:
Gum, candy, and taffy which is hard and sticky and can break, remove or displace your filling or crown
Especially hard or chewy foods that could chip the restoration of your tooth
Hot or freezing cold beverages which trigger sensitivity and inflammation around your affected tooth
Ice cubes which can cause extra sensitivity and damage to a restored tooth
Try to keep food and drink at a mild temperature for the first week during your root canal recovery
Some of the best types of food to eat during this time include the likes of oatmeal, vegetable soup, fruit smoothies, avocado, tofu, pasta, and noodles.
At the end of the day, a root canal is a procedure that is designed to save an infected tooth and promote better oral health. With the right dentist on your side, you have absolutely nothing to fear!
Find Local Expertise with Area Dental Clinic
If you have questions and concerns about your root canal recovery, our team at Area Dental Clinic is here to put your mind at ease.
We provide services in orthodontics, oral surgery, crowns, implants, teeth whitening, and more. We would love to provide you reasons to smile at your next dental appointment!