Root canal treatment has picked up a scary reputation as a painful and dangerous procedure—but it doesn’t deserve the bad rep! Modern root canals are a straightforward, effective, and mostly painless procedure, akin to getting a filling, and they are the best course of treatment for saving a severely infected tooth. However, there are some specific root canal aftercare instructions you should be aware of, including things to avoid, and ways to manage any lasting discomfort and symptoms that could indicate you need to schedule a follow-up appointment with your endodontist.

What’s a Root Canal?

Root canal treatment is considered surgery, wherein your endodontic dentist removes infected material from the root of a tooth and then seals the resulting cavity so to stop the decay. Typically, patients will be anesthetized either locally or fully, depending on their preference, and the procedure usually takes around1-2 hours. Afterward, your dentist may place a cap or crown on the tooth, as teeth that have undergone root canal treatment tend to discolor with the root and blood supply removed. While root canals are more invasive than simple fillings, they allow patients to keep their natural teeth in instances where the only alternative is extraction.

What to Expect After the Procedure

Immediately after the procedure, your root canal aftercare begins! You should expect full root canal recovery time to last for a few days, during which you might experience some sensitivity and mild discomfort at the site as the anesthesia wears off and the body adjusts to the procedure. Certain foods and activities are best to avoid after root canal treatment, as they may aggravate any sensitivity you’re experiencing or prevent the affected tooth from healing properly. Otherwise, you should be back into your regular routine within a few days of your operation.

What to Eat After a Root Canal

It’s best to stick to soft foods for a day or two after your procedure, as these are less likely to irritate the sensitive tooth and allow you to recover. You may be hungry after your procedure, but it’s best to wait until you are no longer numb from the anesthesia before you eat as you could bite an area of your mouth you can’t properly feel. Some foods that are good to eat for root canal recovery include:

  • Eggs, yogurt, or a smoothie in the morning.
  • Mashed potatoes, meatloaf, or finely shredded meat.
  • Fruit that is not underripe or crunchy.
  • Pasta, quinoa, and other cooked grains, or couscous.
  • Vegetables that have been cooked until soft
  • Soups and stews with soft bread
  • Frozen yogurt or ice cream for dessert (the cold might also help any swelling or irritation!)

What Not to Eat After a Root Canal Treatment

Just as important for your root canal aftercare as eating the proper foods is avoiding the wrong kinds of food. Hard, sticky, or crunchy food can chip or even remove temporary crowns and require you to undergo retreatment—no snack is worth that! Stay away from taffy, gum, or other chewy candies, and avoid very crunchy foods like peanut brittle or ice cubes.

Instructions Following Root Canal Therapy

If you are about to undergo your procedure, here are some of the basic steps to ensure proper root canal recovery:

Do Not Eat or Drink for the First 30 Minutes After the Therapy

Eating, drinking, or applying too much pressure with your tongue can disrupt a temporary filling or crown as it hardens.

Follow the Prescriptions of Your Dentist

If you’ve been given any prescriptions, fill them as soon as you can and take them as directed. Ask your dentist before taking any over-the-counter or home remedies for pain or swelling as they may negatively interact with your prescribed medication.

Keep the Treated Area Clean

After the initial few hours post-operation, you can and should go back to your usual daily healthcare routine. Proper brushing and flossing is important for keeping the operation site clean and free of debris that could cause discomfort or even secondary infection.

When Should You See Your Dentist?

It is normal to experience soreness, discomfort, and pain around the operation site for a few days—even up to a couple of weeks in some cases—after root canal treatment. You can manage the pain with a cold compress applied to the outside of the face to control swelling, as well as with dentist-approved over-the-counter pain relief medication. However, there are certain instances when a follow-up appointment or even retreatment of the area may be necessary. In these cases, contact your endodontist right away you make an appointment and ask for further instructions. Contact your dentist if you experience:

Tooth Pain or Swelling in the Jaw

Severe tooth pain and swelling that won’t go away may be a symptom of complication. Your dentist will be able to diagnose the cause, treat the pain temporarily, and make a plan for retreatment.

An Infected or Abscessed Tooth

Infection at the operation site is possible and should be taken seriously as it may require a second operation and antibiotics to properly treat. Untreated tooth infection is dangerous to both the affected tooth and potentially other areas of the body.

General Discomfort

If after a few weeks your tooth still feels sensitivity, discomfort, or generally not like your other teeth, make an appointment with your endodontist for a follow-up appointment. They may be able to diagnose the source of your discomfort and offer retreatment.

Proper root canal aftercare is crucial to a successful recovery. While it can be daunting to keep all of this in mind after undergoing oral surgery, when you’re faced with the choice of root canal vs. extraction, it’s always better to keep your natural teeth if possible. The professionals at Advanced Endodontics of Nevada have years of experience in providing our patients with safe, effective root canal procedures and clear aftercare instructions to support their recovery. If you require a root canal or have questions about the procedure or what to do after root canal treatment, call our clinic today!