There are three words that your dentist can say that are guaranteed to make even the bravest of patients blanch with terror, and those are root canal treatment. For some reason, whenever we, dentists, mention this procedure, it seems to conjure up comic book images of swollen jaws, bandaged heads, and a long, painful recovery in the minds of our clients.
So in this blog, we would like to set the record straight about the procedure itself, and what to expect after a root canal treatment.
Root Canal Treatment Procedure
Root canal treatment is strongly associated with pain in the collective subconscious, and with good reason. This procedure is most commonly performed as emergency dental surgery when the patient is suffering from throbbing pain due to an infected tooth. In other words, the pain comes first, and the surgery relieves it.
A throbbing toothache is due to the soft, inner core of the tooth, the pulp, becoming exposed and infected. Root canal treatment involves cleaning out and disinfecting the infected area and then sealing the tooth to prevent further infection. It is performed using a local anesthetic, and sedation if required, and can take between one and two hours, depending on the accessibility of the tooth and the extent of the infection. Root canal treatment is usually performed in two separate phases:
- The tooth is cleaned of infected material, disinfected, and sealed with a temporary filling.
- After a few weeks, during which you will undergo one or two check-ups when the tooth has healed sufficiently, the temporary filling will be replaced by a permanent one. If the tooth in question is subjected to heavy biting pressure (back teeth and molars in particular), your dentist will cap it for added protection.
Root Canal Recovery
Both phases of the procedure are carried out under local anesthetic, so your mouth will be numb for a few hours following the procedures. Avoid eating or chewing gum during this period, as you may accidentally bite your tongue or cheek, or dislodge the temporary filling.
When recovering after the first phase of the procedure, it is important to be aware of the following:
You might experience some pain in the first few days, especially if there was swelling before the procedure. This can be treated with over-the-counter pain medication
Do not use that area of the mouth for chewing until the permanent filling is in place.
Flossing and brushing should be carried out as normal, to keep the area clean and avoid further infection.
After the second phase of the procedure, once the tooth has been capped, you should also avoid chewing with that part of the mouth for a few days. It is important to remember that a root canal is used to preserve a tooth that has lost its vitality, but is still functional.
The affected tooth will be more brittle than others and will also have lost all sensation, so it is important that you continue to exercise caution when eating, and do not subject it too excess pressure by, for example, chewing ice-cubes or hard candy. Although complications after root canal treatment are rare, they can occur, so if you start to experience pain at any stage of the treatment, contact your dentist immediately!
As you can see, root canal treatment and recovery are not as scary as our imaginations make out, but prevention is always better than cure. So, maintain a healthy oral hygiene regime, and if you think you are developing any issues, book an appointment with us, at Doral Sedation Dentistry, today.