Root canal treatment is typically needed when a large cavity or injury damages the root of a tooth. According to the American Association of Endodontists, more than 15 million root canals are performed each year. The recovery period for most root canal patients is uneventful, often consisting of a few days of manageable tenderness. Most post-treatment discomfort usually responds well to over-the-counter pain relief medications. If you’ve recently undergone a root canal, follow these tips to ensure a smooth recovery.
1. Take Prescribed Antibiotics
In some circumstances, a tooth that requires a root canal treatment is often infected to begin with. Known as an abscess, a tooth can become painful when an infection develops at the root or between the tooth and gum. Abscesses are most commonly caused by tooth decay. If your tooth was infected and antibiotics were prescribed, be sure to take them exactly as the label directs, and do not miss any doses.
2. Be Cautious When Eating
The area around the root canal site can be sensitive for a short while after the procedure. To minimize discomfort and the risk of damaging the weakened tooth, do not bite or chew on the treated tooth until it has been restored by your dentist. Directly after the procedure, do not eat until the numbness in your mouth has worn off. This will prevent you from biting your tongue or the soft tissue in your mouth.
3. Follow Proper Hygiene Habits
It’s crucial to follow proper oral hygiene habits following a root canal treatment to prevent the formation of decay and infection. Brush your teeth at least twice a day, preferably once in the morning and once before bed. Use a fluoride toothpaste and brush for a full two minutes. Follow up by gently flossing between each tooth to remove any built-up food in the gaps. A cavity-preventing mouthwash should also be used.
4. Avoid Hard and Crunch Foods
Most discomfort following a root canal procedure can be managed by watching what you eat. Avoid hard, crunchy, or tough foods that can cause pain when chewing. In the majority of cases, any sensitivity will be diminished after a few days. Stick with softer foods, such as mashed potatoes, apple sauce, and ice cream, and chew on the opposite side of the mouth.
5. Stay in Touch with Your Dentist
If you notice any unusual symptoms, or have serious complications following your root canal procedure, be sure to contact your dentist right away. Some of the primary reasons to contact your restorative dentist is if there is visible swelling outside or inside your mouth, your bite feels uneven, or if you have an allergic reaction to the medication. You should also contact your dentist if your original symptoms return.
Remember, root canal treatment is just the first step in the treatment of an injured or infected tooth. A final restoration of the tooth is required to ensure long-term success.