A root canal is a common dental procedure. It’s performed when tooth decay is so deep it has reached the innermost part of your tooth. This can lead to infections that can be quite painful — and will eventually lead to an abscess.
A root canal allows us to preserve your tooth by first removing all signs of decay and infection, and then filling the tooth. In many cases, we might also use a cap when the decay and damage of the tooth are severe.
Due to the deep cleaning required, it is not uncommon to feel discomfort following the procedure. However, the pain suffered prior to the procedure is usually far worse, which means you will feel a sense of relief after your root canal. Root canals are an excellent option as they help you maintain your root and natural tooth, which is far more preferable to losing your tooth.
If you have an appointment for a root canal, it is important to take proper care of your tooth to allow your gums and the surrounding area to heal. Here are some important root canal recovery tips to help you reduce discomfort and avoid infection.
What to Expect Following a Root Canal
Your root canal procedure is safe, and although it will lead to tenderness and discomfort, you can expect to be relieved of the often-unbearable pain caused by the infection.
You will first be provided with a local anesthetic to keep you comfortable during the treatment. As we proceed, you can expect to feel some pressure but no pain. It will take anywhere from an hour to 90 minutes for us to complete your treatment.
Following the procedure, you will experience mild pain as the anesthetic wears off. This can last from 1-3 days but will get better each day. If pain lasts longer than 2 weeks, or at any time becomes unmanageable with over the counter pain medication, you can contact our office.
Avoid Eating for an Hour Following a Root Canal
Following treatment, you should avoid eating anything for at least an hour once the numbness is gone. You will want to avoid cold and hot foods, and drinks as your tooth and gums will be sensitive. Once you do have food or drink, stick to foods that are not too hot or cold to avoid damage and to help speed up the recovery process.
Elevate Your Head
You will want to rest after your root canal, but you should keep your head elevated. This will reduce pain and swelling. At bed-time for the next few days, you should sleep with extra pillows until you see the swelling has subsided.
Anti-Inflammatories for Pain
Once the numbness from the anesthetic wears off, you can expect to feel mild to moderate pain in the area, as well as in your jaw during your root canal recovery. You can manage discomfort using an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Ensure you are following the instructions on the bottle and discuss any other medications you are taking with your doctor for advice on the safest anti-inflammatory for you.
Choose the Right Foods and Drinks
As mentioned, the day of your root canal, you will want to avoid hot and cold food and beverages. To speed up your recovery and avoid further pain during your root canal recovery, you should continue to avoid the following:
- Hot beverages
- Tobacco for chewing and smoking
- Hard foods
- Foods that require sucking, such as lollipops
Do not drink using a straw as this can worsen the pain. If you avoid these foods and drinks, you will help avoid gum inflammation and adding to pain and swelling.
Use a Cold Compress
If you are feeling discomfort and experiencing swelling, you can apply a cold compress to the area for 10-15 minutes every couple of hours or so to reduce swelling and pain.
Rest for 2-3 Days
You will need a few days of downtime following your procedure. As part of your root canal recovery, you should avoid strenuous physical activity during this time, including any heavy lifting of any kind, playing sports, or participating in activities, including running and swimming.
If you are expected to do lifting at work, either request alternative duties for 2-3 days, or take some time off to recover. This is very important as heavy physical activity can increase your recovery time as it can make the inflammation and swelling worse.
Rinse with Warm Salt Water
Rinsing and gargling with warm salt water can help keep your gums clean to avoid infection while reducing inflammation and pain. Infection is possible during your root canal recovery, so this is an important step to keep the area clean. You can do this a few times a day. We can also recommend a mouthwash to use if you prefer this to saltwater.
Signs to Call Your Dentist
As long as you follow our root canal recovery tips, you should feel better each day. Within 2-3 days, you should be pain-free; however, sometimes you might have pain and swelling for as long as 2 weeks.
Depending on the condition of your tooth and root, sometimes it is a two-treatment procedure. Some signs that you should call our office during your root canal recovery would include:
- If you are finding the pain is unmanageable the days following your treatment, you might require stronger medication.
- After 2 weeks, if you are still experiencing pain, there is a chance you are experiencing complications such as infection and should return to our office as soon as possible.
Although root canals are generally successful without too much discomfort or risk of infection, you can expect some discomfort for at least a few days.
The important thing to remember is that the pain will be greatly reduced compared to the pain caused by the infection and that your dental and overall health will be managed more effectively by preserving your natural root and tooth.
If you have been suffering from tooth pain, it is always best to call our office as soon as possible so we can examine the area and recommend treatment.