Caring for Your Mouth after a Root Canal

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Root canal therapy is a fairly straightforward procedure, and you shouldn’t experience any problems after. However, it is important to properly care for your mouth following your root canal in order to achieve the fastest possible healing and to prevent future problems.

Dealing with Soreness and Discomfort

For the first few days following your root canal, it is entirely possible that you might feel some soreness or discomfort, so you shouldn’t be alarmed. This is simply part of your body’s natural healing process. Your jaw might also feel sore because of keeping your mouth open for an extended period of time during the procedure. These symptoms are all temporary and will go away on their own after a few days, but if you need a little help, try some over-the-counter pain medication. If your dentist does prescribe narcotic painkillers, be sure to use them as directed, and remember that they might make you drowsy.

Do’s and Don’ts of Post-Treatment Care

If you recently went through a root canal procedure, or if you have one scheduled in the near future, keep these following guidelines in mind:

• Do brush and floss your teeth well after your procedure, and keep up with your normal oral hygiene routine.
• Don’t bite or chew on the treated tooth until the permanent restoration has been put into place by your dentist. You should get instructions for what you cannot eat before you leave the appointment.
• Don’t eat anything until the anesthesia wears off and you can feel your mouth again. This will help to ensure that you don’t bite your tongue or cheek.
• Don’t panic if some of your temporary filling materials wear off between your appointments. However, do be sure to call your dental office if the entire filling falls out.
• Do be sure to contact your dentist if you develop visible swelling, an allergic reaction to your medications, or a return of your original symptoms.
• Do be sure to let your dentist know if your bite feels uneven.
• Do rinse your mouth out with warm salt water for the first two days following your procedure.
• Don’t smoke for the first 24 hours after your root canal. Smoking can prolong and disrupt the healing process.
• Do sleep with your head elevated for the first few nights following your dental procedure.
• Do use an ice pack to minimize swelling by placing the pack over the cheek in the area in which the procedure was completed.

What to Do in the Event of Non-Healing

Fortunately, root canals are highly effective, and the success rate is somewhere around 95%. When a root canal doesn’t heal, this is generally referred to as “non-healing.” Like all medical procedures, there will be scenarios in which root canals don’t heal, and you can determine non-healing by experiencing mild to severe pain longer than anticipated. In other cases, you might not experience any symptoms, but the changes indicated on your dental X-rays will suggest non-healing.

Non-healing is typically caused by one of two factors:
• Infection. Infection in the tooth can stem from a variety of causes, including a crack in the tooth, continuation of the original infection, or leakage through the filling that re-infects the root canal.
• Inflammation. Inflammation could be due to a tooth that is inflamed prior to treatment, or the root canal itself could cause more inflammation. Typically steroids, medications like ibuprofen, and time can resolve this concern.

In the event of non-healing, your dentist will likely wait to see what happens, and if medication and time fails to resolve the problem, a repeat root canal, surgical cleaning of the bone near the root tip, or extraction will be recommended.

Please contact us if you have any questions about root canals.

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