Proper dental care is important and has an impact not only on how your teeth look but on your general health, too. If you have been told that a cavity is no longer treatable, it’s likely your endodontist suggests a root canal. Believe it or not, more than 15 million teeth are treated and saved each year with the root canal, or endodontic, treatment. Although this procedure can save teeth and prevent extractions, patients tend to approach this treatment with hesitation. But why? We know it’s due to misinformation regarding what level of pain to expect post-surgery. To help dispel some myths, discover below everything you need to know about root canal recovery and how you can get back to yourself in no time.
What is a Root Canal?
First thing you need to know is that a root canal is a very common endodontic procedure intent on saving the tooth and reducing overall pain. If your dentist or endodontist prescribes it, there’s no need to tremble in fear and run the other way.
Inside your tooth — beneath the enamel and dentin — is a soft tissue called pulp. This tissue contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue, which help grow the root of your tooth during its early development. If the pulp becomes inflamed or infected, it can cause a great deal of pain and potentially start to decay. A root canal describes the cavity within the center of the tooth, but is also used to describe the treatment of an infected root canal system.
During root canal treatment, an endodontist carefully removes the pulp inside the tooth, cleans, disinfects and shapes the root canals, and places a filling to seal the space.
How Do You Know if You Need a Root Canal?
There are various root canal symptoms to be aware of, and understanding what to look for is key in ensuring you receive timely treatment. There are a few symptoms that mean you might need a root canal:
- A chipped or cracked tooth
- Severe pain while biting or chewing
- Pimples on and around the gums
- Lingering sensitivity to hot or cold
- Swollen or tender gums
- Deep decay or darkening of the gums
While these symptoms in and of themselves don’t always indicate a root canal, it is wise to schedule an appointment with your endodontist to have these symptoms checked out.
How Does the Procedure Work?
Endodontists generally accomplish a root canal in four steps:
- Deliver anesthetic to the affected tooth and place a dental dam around it to isolate the area.
- Open the tooth at its crown to clean the infected pulp.
- Fill and seal the root canal with a biocompatible material.
- Cover the opening with a temporary filling. (A permanent filling will be implanted at the follow-up visit.)
Important Root Canal Recovery Tips
Anytime a more in-depth procedure has been done, especially on the mouth, it’s important to care and keep an eye on the affected area. This care will prevent re-infection or serious issues down the road and ensure the root canal treatment is effective.
Like with any procedure, the area surrounding your tooth will experience some numbness for 2-4 hours after the procedure and tenderness for a few days. However, this is normal, manageable, and well worth the results. Most people return to work or school with no issues within the same day.
How can you help the healing process though in order to prevent needing to go back, though?
1. Treat Your Mouth With Care
After you’ve had surgery, pay close attention to your mouth and how it feels. Wait until you’re no longer numb before attempting to eat anything. If you do, you risk biting your tongue or hurting yourself. Since swelling is common after a root canal, use an ice pack to keep swelling down to a minimum. When sleeping, it also helps to keep your head elevated with pillows so you can avoid irritation.
2. Plan Meals Carefully
Consider things that make it easier to get proper nutrition without a lot of chewing. Soups, smoothies, and soft foods are a good idea when recovering from a root canal.
3. Avoid Heavy Exercise
Exercising too soon can cause you to bleed again and cause unnecessary swelling. Remember during your recovery period, you want to take it as easy as possible so that you’re not dealing with a problem caused or worsened by exercise.
4. Get Plenty of Rest
Make an effort to get as much sleep as possible and rest on the couch or in bed. Even though you CAN go back to work after a root canal, it may be wise to rest for a bit. Sleeping and staying off your feet can help you speed up the recovery process and feel better. If you’re on medication that’s specifically for pain relief, it’s also better to stay away from driving for safety reasons.
5. Watch for Issues
If you notice swelling lasting longer than a day, rash or hives appear, or pain medication isn’t having an effect, it may be smart to ask your dentist or endodontist for assistance. Keep an eye on the crown as well. Often the crown is temporary, while a permanent one gets created. Because this crown isn’t permanent, make sure you’re watching for severe pain. The same applies for when you get your permanent crown.
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If you need treatment for a root canal, know that it’s an investment for your physical well-being, and can help maintain your smile for many years to come. While some people feel scared about root canal recovery, many do wonderfully with a little rest and relaxation.
To learn more about Endodontic Specialists root canal therapy or if you need an endodontist to help you maintain your beautiful smile, we’re also here to schedule an appointment and talk through any issues you may be experiencing. Contact us today at our Colorado Springs office or Pueblo location!