Root canal aftercare is essential for an unimpeded healing of tooth suurounding structures after the treatment.
A root canal is a common outpatient treatment used to restore a deeply infected tooth. The procedure involves removing the infected inner soft pulp of the tooth, cleaning and sealing the canals (channels running into the roots of the teeth), and covering the tooth with a dental crown.
A root canal treatment is completed in one or more visits based on the spread of infection, the tooth involved and the cleaning kit used to clean the canals.
Proper awareness about the root canal aftercare is important to avoid any complications and accelerate the healing of the tooth surrounding structures between the appointments and after the treatment. Your dentist will instruct you about the post-operative care at the end of the appointment or treatment.
Here are the details of root canal aftercare you need to follow for the healing to occur.
Managing pain after a root canal – The most important root canal aftercare
It’s normal to experience mild discomfort, dull ache or tenderness around the treated tooth for several days after a root canal treatment, especially when chewing. The discomfort goes away within a week or so.
There is no need to worry about the pain because it arises due to the irritation of tissues outside the root during instrumentation or disinfection of the root canals.
Take the pain medication as prescribed by your dentist. If you are not prescribed any pain medication by your dentist but are experiencing pain after the appointment, it is recommended to take over-the-counter painkillers.
Call your dentist’s office if the pain doesn’t subside or swelling occurs. Ibuprofen and naproxen belong to the NSAID group of medicines and are not safe for children and pregnant women.
It is best to avoid medications during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester but if they are required, acetaminophen 500mg four times a day is the safest choice for pain relief.
For root canal treatment where you report to the dental office with the severe infection, abscess or sinus formation draining the pus is an indication that you need an antibiotic therapy.
Your dentist may prescribe you any one of the following regimen for the resolution of infection.
- Amoxicillin capsules – 500mg (in patients not allergic to penicillin) and Flagyl 400mg three or four times a day for 5 to 7 days.
- Augmentin tablets – 625 mg 8 hourly for 5 to 7 days.
- Clindamycin tablets (in patients allergic to penicillin) – 300mg four times a day for 5 to 7 days.
- For Azithromycin – an initial dose of 500 mg on day 1, followed by 250 mg for the next 4 to 6 days.
- Cephalexin tablets – 500 mg four times a day for 3 to 7 days.
Make sure to complete the antibiotic course with the dosage as instructed, even if the pain and other symptoms of infection subsides. Leaving the course halfway leads to antibiotic resistance.
Warm salt water rinses
A non-pharmacological way to soothe the tender and hurt areas of the mouth is to rinse three to four times a day with warm salt water. Dissolve a teaspoon of salt in a half cup of warm water, then rinse, swish, and spit.
Avoid hot drinks after treatment
Local anesthetic effect wears off in 2-3 hours and intake of any hot or cold food or drink soon after the appointment could damage or burn your numb soft tissues in the mouth such as the tongue or cheek.
Avoid chewing on the treated side
A temporary filling may be placed to seal the tooth until the next appointment if the root canal is attempted to complete in multiple visits. Be gentle on the treated tooth while eating until the final restoration is placed.
The tooth may be sensitive after the treatment. Avoid biting on the treated tooth for a couple of days.
Hard foods could be uncomfortable for you now. Therefore, eat a protein-rich soft diet like cooked vegetables, lentils, mashed potatoes, soups, rice, hummus, smoothies, soft cheese, scrambled eggs, and chicken.
Avoid refined foods
Avoid sugary and refined foods that stick to teeth like chips, chocolates, or candies. It may dislodge the temporary filling.
Keep the treated area clean
Brush and floss gently to keep the treated area and mouth clean.
When to call your dentist?
Contact your dentist immediately if you experience any of the following:
- A temporary filling placed between the appointments comes out. Neglecting it will recontaminate the cleaned root canals.
- A visible swelling in or out of your mouth.
- An allergic reaction to the medication (rash, hives or itching or difficulty in breathing).
- A return of original symptoms or the bite feels uneven.
Root canal treatment brings your tooth to full function and a proper root canal aftercare is essential to accelerate the healing of the treated tooth and its surrounding area.
Be gentle on the treated tooth, take pain medications and antibiotics as prescribed, use warm salt water rinses, and avoid chewing on hard food for the next couple of days till all the discomfort subsides.
The endodontic treatment makes the treated tooth more brittle and prone to breakage. Therefore, the dentist advises a crown to be placed to cover the weakened tooth and to prolong the longevity of the tooth.
Delay in getting a final restoration may result in fracture, possible loss of the tooth or require re-treatment of a root canal.