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Post-Treatment Care: What To Do After A Root Canal In Houston, TX

What do you do after a root canal? Learn the do’s and don’ts of your root canal recovery.

By Jennifer
Photography by Pete

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Your dentist may recommend a root canal if you have a painful cavity or a severely fractured or broken tooth. As dentists, we understand that root canals can sound intimidating on the surface. However, with a talented and experienced endodontic team on your side, the entire process is smooth, painless, and nothing to worry about.

What Is A Root Canal?

Also known as endodontic therapy, a root canal is a dental procedure that becomes necessary once tooth decay, chips, and breaks reach the tooth’s central dental pulp. The pulp is the tooth’s heart keeping everything alive. In it are the vital blood vessels and nerves, so once this layer is reached, it often reveals itself as a persistent and even excruciating toothache.

A standard dental filling or crown only deals with the tooth layers above the pulp, the enamel and the dentin. Since these parts of the tooth are much less sensitive and vital for your tooth’s life, they don’t require as much specialized care. However, a root canal procedure is often done by an endodontist, a dental specialist with years of experience performing expert root canals and keeping the dental pulp healthy. They ensure that only the damaged and decayed tissues are painstakingly removed, and they are skilled in guaranteeing there’s no follow-up irritation or complications. Once the damaged tissues have been removed, the tooth is reinforced with either a filling or crown.

Some people may find that their injured tooth doesn’t hurt at all, even when they know that there is extensive damage. “Do I need a root canal if there is no pain?” they ask. Yes. While toothaches and dental pain are your tooth’s system to warn you of danger, this system only works if the tooth has enough healthy pulp left to sound the alarm. If too much of the nerve has been damaged, the tooth can suddenly go numb. It’s at this point that the tooth is in danger of dying. Your only option for saving the tooth is for an emergency root canal.

Root canals are often a dentist’s last defense against cavities and dental damage, and they can prevent the need for a tooth extraction. Avoiding tooth removal and preserving your smile whenever possible is always a dentist’s goal. As great as some replacement teeth options can be, like bridges and implants, your grin will always be healthiest with natural teeth.

How Long Does A Root Canal Take?

Your treatment timeline depends on the severity of your tooth decay or dental trauma. If your toothache has appeared and the damage extends only to the pulp’s edges, you might require a single 30 to 60-minute appointment. Single visits are often expected with front teeth, too, since these teeth aren’t as complex as molars and have only a single root. In these cases, only a dental filling is needed to restore and reinforce the tooth.

More complex teeth and dental infections can take a single 90-minute visit. Still, more often, your endodontist will need two appointments to complete your root canal. Two visits are required if you need a dental crown. During the first visit, your tooth is sealed with a temporary crown prepared that day in the office. Once your final, permanent crown has been crafted, you’ll come in for your second visit to remove the remaining dental decay and seal your tooth for good.

Root Canal After Care: Do’s and Don’ts

In most cases, it only takes a handful of days for your mouth to recover after a root canal. During this time, you should follow your dentist’s aftercare instructions to the letter to ensure your mouth heals quickly. Otherwise, complications such as infection can slow down the healing process by a couple of weeks. To prevent any bumps in the road for your recovery, please keep these do’s and don’ts in mind:

DO

  • Take any medications as prescribed to help with any post root canal pain and discomfort
  • Have a friend or family member drive you home if you’ve been given moderate dental sedation
  • Eat softer foods and liquids for the first day or two—scrambled eggs, smoothies, pasta, soups, hummus, etc.
  • Use an ice pack or cold compress to reduce swelling that may occur in the first day or two
  • Brush and floss your teeth normally to keep your smile healthy, but ensure that you’re gentle enough not to aggravate your healing tooth
  • Immediately call your dentist if any complications arise

DON’T

  • Eat on the root canal side of your mouth
  • Have hot or cold foods and drinks until the local anesthetic wears off
  • Eat sticky, hard, chewy, or crunchy foods, especially if you only have your temporary crown in place
  • Drive for 24 hours if you use either oral or IV sedation
  • Miss your follow-up appointments, especially when replacing a temporary crown with a permanent one

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Go To Work After A Root Canal?

Whether you can return to work or school on the same day as your root canal appointments depends solely on your discretion. There will be some amount of discomfort or pain in the days following your appointment. When the pulp and root are removed, your remaining tooth nerve endings will be incredibly sensitive until they have time to heal. Some patients find that they can return to work immediately as long as they follow their endodontist’s instructions and take pain relievers as recommended. However, many patients end up taking the day off to allow them time to rest and recover before working the next day.

The type of dental anesthetic used can also affect this timeline. Patients who request oral and IV dental sedation should take the day off since these medications can affect your mind for the rest of the day. You also shouldn’t operate any machinery during this time until the sedative wears off in 24 hours. Patients that only use a local anesthetic or laughing gas can drive immediately after their appointment and return to their normal activities.

How Do You Know If You Need A Root Canal?

When you have a fractured or broken tooth or a cavity, you may wonder whether your dentist will recommend either a dental filling, crown, or root canal. Since root canals are needed once dental decay or trauma reaches the central pulp, several warning signs are unique to this level of damage. Common root canal symptoms to look out for include:

  • Persistent toothache
  • Pimples or bumps on the gums
  • Sensitivity to hot, cold, and sweets
  • Gums that are swollen or tender to the touch
  • Dark tooth discoloration
  • Tooth pain suddenly disappearing
  • Dental abscess forming

How Much Does Endodontic Treatment Cost?

There’s no single price for endodontic therapy. When calculating a patient’s root canal cost, our endodontist considers several factors:

Tooth Location and Complexity

Some teeth may only need a small portion of the dental pulp removed, while others require clearing out an entire tooth canal or two. Front teeth tend to be less costly as they only have a single root compared to molars’ two or three. As such, they’re much quicker and easier to treat.

Type of Restoration

Whether you need a dental filling or crown to seal and reinforce your hollowed tooth can also affect the price. Composite fillings cost less than crowns since they don’t require both a temporary and permanent version. Additionally, your type of crown—porcelain, silver metal, or gold—can also impact your treatment’s cost.

Dental Insurance

Root canals are also typically covered by dental insurance, usually between 50 and 80%. Here at Nu Dentistry, our dental office accepts all PPO dental insurance plans. However, we want to be flexible to our patients’ specific needs, including their treatment’s affordability. As such, we also offer financing options like CareCredit Dental and in-house membership programs to make managing payments on your budget simple. These options are compatible with your insurance plans, too, so you have nothing to worry about.

If you have any questions about your root canal procedure or aftercare, please don’t hesitate to give our Houston dental office a call. We can schedule a consultation with our endodontics team to ensure you have the best experience possible, both in and out of the dental chair.

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