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What Should I Do after a Root Canal?

Dentists use a root canal to remove the nerve and pulp of a tooth that has become diseased or infected. It's necessary to be careful with the tooth after the procedure.
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  • Written By: Alicia Sparks
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 06 July 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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In most situations, the root canal recovery period lasts only a few days following the root canal. Despite the short time period, there are certain steps a patient should take to prevent additional damage and protect the tooth and dental work. Typically, root canal aftercare consists of managing the pain or discomfort, practicing safe brushing and flossing habits, and being careful with the tooth for the first several days. Many patients will need to see their dentists at least once after the initial appointment to complete a filling or crown associated with the root canal. If the patient experiences severe swelling or pain after a root canal, though, he should make an appointment with his dentist as soon as possible, as the pain could be indicative of root canal complications.

Most patients experience only a mild to moderate discomfort or pain after a root canal. Usually, dentists recommend taking an over-the-counter pain medication including ibuprofen or naproxen until the pain subsides. Since there might be pain, the patient will need to be careful chewing food or altogether avoid using that tooth to chew. Other reasons it’s important to be careful when chewing include any additional dental work, such as a filling or crown, the patient received. Dentists typically recommend letting those rest for at least a day after the procedure.

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After a root canal, the patient might need to take certain precautions when caring for his teeth. He should continue his regular schedule of brushing, but he might need to be careful when brushing the tooth that had the root canal. This is because a tooth can experience sensitivity and even mild to moderate discomfort in the few days after getting a root canal. Also, if the root canal included a filling or crown, the patient’s dentist might suggest he wait a day or two after a root canal before he begins flossing again. If the patient wants to use any products with whitening or bleaching agents, he should ask his dentist how long to wait after getting a root canal.

Most patients need to see their dentist again after a root canal. This is because these patients need either a permanent filling or a crown to cover the tooth. Several factors determine how long after the root canal the dentist and patient wait to complete these additional procedures, but because the filling or crown helps protect the weakening tooth and hide discoloration, some patients prefer to have them done as soon as possible.

Of course, there are times when a patient might need to revisit his dentist after a root canal because of complications. The majority of root canals are successful, but it is possible for a dentist to make a mistake. For example, he might overlook a crack in the tooth, which lets in new bacteria and causes infection after a root canal. Alternatively, the dentist might fail to remove all of the tooth’s original decay and infection, which will allow it to continue to spread despite the root canal. To save the tooth in situations like this, the dentist might perform a second root canal or the patient might need to have endodontic surgery.

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