What can I expect after a root canal?
So, you survived the dreaded root canal procedure and were relieved that it was not the nightmare you had imagined! Judging by the reactions of many of our patients, most are pleasantly surprised at just how routine the treatment is. Some patients are so relaxed they even fall asleep!
We believe that root canal therapy gets it’s bad reputation because of misinformation. It’s understandable why some people tend to remember the excruciating, pre-treatment pain more than the relief provided by the dentist. The discomfort that brought them to the dentist in the first place may have lasted for days and was probably, at times, very difficult to bear. Relief usually begins immediately after receiving dental freezing (anaesthetic), and the treatment is usually very routine with the subsequent healing period often uneventful.
Which part of the overall experience would you be likely to recall? What makes a better story?
It’s excusable when patients find it difficult to disassociate their painful days from the eventual dental relief. This reprieve from pain should mitigate the overall experience, but sometimes it doesn’t.
This type of dental infection involves the soft tissues in the root canal portion of the tooth and the symptoms can range from painless to annoying discomfort to severe, intolerable pain. Abscesses can go unnoticed and be symptomless, while others are accompanied by facial/neck/gum swelling, earaches, gum boils, even a general feeling of unwellness.
If root canal treatment has been recommended for your tooth, it is important to discuss with your dentist what outcome you can reasonably expect and what “specific-to-you instructions” you should follow.
Although the infected, inside part of the tooth has been removed, there is still a period of continued healing while the body repairs the area surrounding the tooth. In the vast majority of cases, the affected area of the mouth will continue to heal and symptoms will subside. If, in a week’s time, you have not experienced gradual, steady healing call your dentist.
Acute Infections – If left untreated, some infections can spread to surrounding head, neck, nasal and sinus areas that can progress to life-threatening complications. A much more guarded approach is taken during this healing period, and in some severe cases, hospitalization is required.
Following your treatment, you can resume your normal daily activities after the dental anaesthesia has worn off.
Once the anaesthesia wears off, you can eat and drink as usual. It is completely normal to still feel sensitivity after a root canal, especially when chewing. You may feel more comfortable chewing on the other side of your mouth while the tissues, nerves and ligaments surrounding the root canal tooth recovers.
During the healing period, it is not uncommon to feel some discomfort, but not to the degree of pre-treatment pain. Although there is no longer any nerve within the tooth, the nerves, ligaments and other surrounding tissues may still be healing. To help you manage any post-treatment tenderness, your dentist may recommend the use of an anti-inflammatory such as Advil or another type of pain reliever if you cannot take NSAIDs. If your healing is characterized by a degree of pain that is difficult to tolerate, do not hesitate to contact your dentist for further evaluation.
Sometimes, the ligaments that surround the tooth become irritated and swollen and can be sensitive to touch and pressure. Although not uncommon, this added aggravation can cause discomfort during chewing. The dentist can reduce the biting forces on the tooth to lessen the impact you feel while eating.
Not all infected teeth require antibiotics. In an effort to reduce the routine prescribing of antibiotics which can lead to drug-resistant bacteria, your dentist will only prescribe an antibiotic if the circumstances necessitate it.
In a perfect world, the body always responds favourably to treatment and the outcome is always successful. It is important to appreciate however, that infections of the body can be unpredictable and complications may still occur. In the small, confined areas surrounding the tooth, even relatively minor abscesses can be stubborn. With respect to teeth, our goal is to help you keep your teeth for life and if your tooth is not following a normal healing path, additional therapy can sometimes be recommended including re-treatment or other root end remedies.
Follow Up Treatment
After the root canal is complete, a permanent post and filling will be placed. With the soft tissue now removed, the tooth will tend to dry out and become brittle over time. Brittle teeth can fracture more easily. Your dentist will likely recommend the placement of a metal crown to add protection and strength to your tooth.
Of course, there are inherent risks that are involved with any surgical treatment, but attending to symptoms immediately is still the best ways to help reduce the likelihood that your root canal tooth will be fraught with future complications and aggravations. Maintaining regular check-ups will allow your dentist to monitor the healing of your root canal treated tooth and follow-up immediately if problems arise.
Root canal therapy has gotten a bad rap over the years. Certainly, there are teeth that are very hyper-sensitive during treatment and there are also cases where dental care was neglected to the point that a usually very routine root canal therapy becomes a much more complicated matter. We cannot emphasize enough the importance of regular dental visits. Early intervention can help you avoid root canal treatment. Dentists are trained to spot suspicious activity in your mouth early so that problems do not progress to the point of pain nor cause a relatively simple procedure to become an emergency.
If it has been a while since you’ve had a dental check-up, there’s no better time than now to book an appointment. We see many people who have not been to the dentist in a long time. We’re here to help – not to judge! At Your Smile Dental Care, our team of trained professionals have helped thousands of patients SMILE again! Call us today!
Yours in Better Health,
The Your Smile Dental Care Team