A root canal is a dental procedure that is used to save a tooth that has become seriously decayed or severely infected. In this procedure, the pulp of the tooth as well as the damaged nerves and bacteria or other debris are removed from the tooth. Root canal recovery can vary from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the individual situation. Some of the best tips for recovery include closely following the instructions given by the dentist, using over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers, and avoiding chewing on the side of the mouth where the root canal was performed.
While it is possible to have a root canal performed in one dental visit, patients who have the most success with this form of treatment do not rush the dentist. Most root canals require at least two separate visits to the dentist. During the first visit, a temporary crown is usually applied in order to protect the tooth from additional injury until a permanent crown is custom made for the individual patient. Those who have this procedure performed in two or more visits often have a shorter root canal recovery time.
Once the anesthesia from the procedure wears off, many patients experience mild to moderate pain. For this reason, root canal recovery often involves the use of pain medications. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen are often sufficient, although stronger pain medications may sometimes be prescribed for the first couple of days following the procedure. If an antibiotic is prescribed, it is important to finish all of the medication, and it should be taken exactly as prescribed by the dentist.
Certain chewing precautions should be taken during the root canal recovery period. If a temporary filling or crown is used, it is important to avoid chewing on the side of the mouth of the affected tooth until after the permanent crown is placed. This helps to avoid possible complications such as a fractured tooth. The root canal procedure tends to cause the affected tooth to become more brittle than normal, thus making it relatively easy to cause further damage and increased pain.
Root canals have a rather high success rate, although possible complications may arise. In some cases, the dentist may accidentally damage the tooth during the procedure. In other cases, the root canal may fail. If the pain becomes severe or does not disappear within a few days of the procedure, the dentist should be consulted for further evaluation. If the tooth becomes unusually sensitive to cold temperatures, the tooth may need to be extracted.