Out of all the questions your dentist or root canal specialist gets about root canals, probably this one is the most common: Does a root canal hurt? The answer, which may surprise you, is no. Root canals are generally performed in order to relieve tooth pain (although root canals may also be needed in teeth that are not causing pain), and pain after root canal treatment is not common.
While it’s best to keep up with dental health so that you never need a root canal, root canals are actually good procedures in that they’re used to save teeth that might otherwise need to be extracted. Despite recent advancements in securing dental prostheses -- dental implants are successful 98% of the time, according to scientific literature -- it’s important to reduce the numbers of missing or extracted teeth since these can cause further oral health concerns. Currently, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, people over the age of 65 have only 18.9 remaining teeth on average, and about 31% of people over the age of 75 have no remaining teeth at all. But root canals can remove the bacteria that attack decaying teeth so that they can be left intact.
Are you in need of a root canal? Trust the experts at Anchorage Midtown Dental Center! Our office is equipped with the latest technologies to ensure rapid, comfortable treatments. We're even open 7 days a week! Call us today to schedule your appointment.
While you shouldn’t experience pain after root canal treatment, there are a few things you should know in order to support the post-op success of your root canal:
- Wait for Numbness to Abate
You should find after the procedure that your symptoms have abated. But before you celebrate by eating a big, juicy steak, remember that you need to let your anesthetic wear off before eating. You could bite your cheek or otherwise damage your mouth unknowingly. Your dentist will also give you guidelines on what you can eat and when.
- Some Tenderness Is Normal
It’s completely normal after the treatment to feel tenderness around the tooth or when opening and closing your jaw. This should be easily treated with over-the-counter pain medication. If you have pain after root canal treatment that persists for more than a few days or you feel is too severe to be treated OTC, you should contact your dentist.
- Visible Swelling Is a Bad Sign
If you can actually see swelling in your mouth, call your dentist. You could have a post-root canal infection. Swelling, as well as itching or hives, can also be caused by an allergic reaction to an anesthetic or medication.
- Root Canals Require Follow-Up
Normally, a temporary barrier is put on your tooth after a root canal. But this needs to be replaced by a permanent filling or crown in order to preserve the health of the tooth. Before your procedure, make sure you’re clear on all the necessary follow-up appointments.
More Things to Expect After Your Root Canal
As mentioned, you should expect widespread mouth numbness directly after your root canal. The numbness will take at least a few hours to subside, but you will still want to be careful when chewing for the rest of the day. It's best to eat soft foods and chew on the opposite side of the root canal until you attend your follow-up appointment when a permanent crown is officially placed.
Also, some dentists offer sedation, such as laughing gas, oral conscious sedation, and IV sedation, to manage the anxiety levels of the patients during this procedure. While laughing gas has no significant after-effects, oral conscious sedation and IV sedation can impact your energy and mood levels for the rest of the day. If you opt for sedation, you will need a trusted caregiver to drive you to and from your appointment and monitor you for the rest of the day. It is best to rest at home once the procedure is finished.
Can I Brush My Teeth After a Root Canal?
The short answer is yes! It's very rare that any dentist will instruct you to not brush your teeth after a dental procedure. Once the numbing medication has completely worn off, you are free to brush your teeth as you normally would. That said, if you are still waiting to get your permanent crown (and your dentist has placed a temporary crown in the meantime), it's important that you brush and floss gently around the tooth so as not to disrupt the temporary restoration.
How Much Swelling is Normal After a Root Canal?
If you are getting a root canal, you should expect some swelling in the area after the treatment has been completed. You may experience gum soreness or tenderness in the area and the swelling may even spread to the cheek next to your tooth. Typically, the swelling takes at least 24 hours to subside, with most patients not experiencing a complete reduction in swelling for at least 72 hours.
To curb swelling, your dentist may recommend that you take ibuprofen as an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory option. If the swelling is painful and you need immediate relief, you may place a cold ice pack on the outside of your cheek for ten-minute intervals (10 minutes on, 10 minutes off), until you begin to feel better.