Root canals are a fairly common dental procedure, essential for patients with a tooth infection, decay and subsequent pain. How does the process work?
After administering anesthesia, a dentist removes the infected tissue, seals the tooth and provides instructions for post-surgical care. A follow-up visit will be scheduled for a crown to be added, so the tooth remains protected.
Once the anesthesia wears off, patients may experience some discomfort. At-home care can address the pain, while helping to prevent infection and the need for future root canals.
What to Expect During a Root Canal
Root canals are an outpatient surgical procedure performed in a dental office. Generally, your dentist recommends a root canal when decay has passed into your tooth’s pulp, the root is infected or the tooth has experienced a visible degree of damage.
Following the procedure when the anesthetic wears off, patients may feel tenderness around their tooth or gums and a sore jaw.
Following Your Dentist’s Recommendations
Your dentist will provide you with instructions for cleaning and caring for your teeth following a root canal and may recommend an over-the-counter or prescription medication for pain relief. Patients may also be prescribed an antibiotic to control the risk of infection.
In the first few days after a root canal:
- Fill and take the medications as prescribed
- Watch for signs of infection, including pain and swelling
- Pay attention to any side effects. For instance, if you could become drowsy after taking a prescription pain reliever, avoid driving and operating heavy machinery.
At-Home Dental Care
For certain patients, a lack of at-home dental care may have contributed to the infection requiring a root canal. As such, you’re recommended to pay attention to your dental habits immediately following the procedure and moving forward to prevent reoccurrences:
- Brush your teeth twice per day
- Floss at least once per day
- Use an antiseptic mouthwash
After a root canal, your dentist will schedule a follow-up appointment to see how well the area has healed and may recommend future cleanings. As you recover:
- Avoid pressing down hard as you brush, as this can irritate your teeth and gums
- Use a toothpaste containing fluoride
- Take care when you floss to avoid detaching the seal and crown
Be Alert to Pain
Following a root canal, pain can be a sign of infection or complications, including a root that was not removed fully. Pain may also indicate:
- A seal broke, causing bacteria to form inside the tooth
- A cracked tooth root
Contact your dentist right away if:
- The symptoms you had prior to the root canal continue or return
- You feel pressure or pain lasting multiple days after the surgery
- You spot noticeable swelling in your mouth
- The seal becomes loose
- You can’t bite down evenly
Watch What You Eat
Right after a root canal, your mouth will feel numb. Because you risk biting down too hard, burning your mouth or chewing your cheek by accident, refrain from eating or drinking until the anesthetic has fully worn off.
Once you can eat, your dentist has likely recommended you avoid certain types of foods, including anything:
- That can get caught between or irritate your teeth, including nuts, chips and anything else hard, as these can place additional pressure on your recovering tooth.
- Sweet, as sugar can exacerbate the infection.
- Sticky, oily or fried foods, which can leave a residue on your teeth and contribute to future damage.
Patients should eat starchy items over the next few days, including bananas, pasta, mashed potatoes, soup and cooked vegetables.
To learn more about what to expect during a root canal, contact our Shelton office today.