Root canal aftercare – 8 measures you need to take

Root canal aftercare

Root canal aftercare is essential for unimpeded healing of the tooth’s supporting structures after a root canal treatment. The recovery of tooth-supporting structures is necessary for the longevity and success of a root canal treatment (RCT).

A root canal is a standard dental procedure to restore a deep cavity involving the tooth’s nerves. The process involves removing the infected inner soft pulp of the tooth, cleaning and sealing the canals (thin channels running in the roots of the tooth). A crown is placed at the end of the root canal to cover the tooth and to avoid any further damage.

A root canal treatment is completed in one or more visits based on the spread of infection, the involved tooth, and the cleaning technique used to disinfect the canals. 

Aftercare of a root canal is essential to avoid complications and promote the healing of the tooth-supporting structures between the appointments and after the treatment. Your dentist will instruct you about the root canal aftercare instructions at the end of the appointment.

8 Aftercare instructions for a root canal 

Here are the details of RCT aftercare you need to follow for the healing to occur.

Managing Pain After a Root Canal 

It’s normal to experience mild discomfort, dull ache, or tenderness around the treated tooth, especially while chewing for several days after the root canal treatment. The pain resolves in 7-10 days.

The pain may be felt due to tissue irritation outside the canal during canal disinfection as a result of accidental expulsion of the instrument (file) or disinfectant solution outside the canal.

Take the pain medication as prescribed by your dentist. The pain medications resolve the inflammation and will give you relief.

Recommended medication and dosage for root canal pain

It is advised to take ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, Nuprin) 200 or 400mg or naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox) 200-225mg every 6 hours for the first 24 hours or when the tooth hurts.

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 unsafe for children and pregnant women. 

It is best to avoid medications during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. However, if necessary, 500 mg of paracetamol four times daily is the safest choice for pain relief.

Antibiotic Therapy

Most root canal therapies don’t require antibiotic therapy because the tooth-supporting structures heal after removing the infected pulp. However, root canal infections reported to the dental office with severe pain, tooth abscess, or sinus require antibiotic therapy. You may also need antibiotics if you have uncontrolled diabetes or immune dysfunction. 

The following antibiotics help to eliminate the infection and are prescribed according to the patient’s health, allergies, and affordability. 

  • Amoxicillin capsules – 500mg (in patients not allergic to penicillin) with Flagyl 400mg three or four times daily for 5 to 7 days. This combo is the most cost-effective antibiotic you can get. 
  • Augmentin tablets – 625 mg 8 hourly for 5 to 7 days.
  • Clindamycin is prescribed if you’re allergic to penicillin. 300mg clindamycin 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 daily for 3 to 7 days.

Don’t self-medicate with antibiotics, as it can lead to antibiotic resistance. Please ensure to complete the antibiotic course with the dosage as instructed, even if the pain and other symptoms subside. Moreover, missing a dose or leaving the course halfway leads to antibiotic resistance.

Warm Saline Rinses

Warm saline rinses are made with salt and water and can be done at home without any adverse effects. They soothe and expedite the wound healing in the mouth. 

For saline rinses, dissolve a teaspoon of sea salt in a half cup of warm water. Sip, swish it around the mouth for a few seconds and spit. It is recommended to use it three to four times daily for 4-5 days after a root canal. 

Avoid Hot Drinks After Treatment

Stay away from hot or cold drinks for 1-2 hours after the appointment. Ingestion of hot drinks could damage or burn your numb soft tissues in the mouth. The local anesthetic effect wears off 1-2 hours after the surgery. Nerve block takes longer to reverse than local infiltration injections. 

Avoid Chewing on the Treated Side

A temporary filling is placed to close the tooth opening and to seal it 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 filling is in place.

The tooth may be sensitive after the treatment. Avoid biting on the treated tooth for a few days. Avoid hard foods as they could be uncomfortable for you and can abrade the wound.

Dietary requirements

Switch to a protein-rich soft diet like cooked vegetables, sandwiches, lentils, mashed potatoes, soups, rice, hummus, smoothies, soft cheese, scrambled eggs, and chicken.

Avoid refined foods

Avoid sugary and refined foods that stick to the 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.
  • Visible swelling in or out of your mouth.
  • An allergic reaction to the medication, such as rash, hives, itching, or difficulty in breathing.
  • A return of original symptoms or the bite feels uneven.

Conclusion

Root canal treatment saves your tooth, and therefore, root canal aftercare is essential to accelerate the healing of the tooth’s surrounding area.

Be gentle on the treated tooth, take pain medications and antibiotics as prescribed, use warm salt water rinses, and avoid chewing hard food for the next few days until all the discomfort subsides.

The endodontic treatment makes the treated tooth more brittle and prone to breakage. Therefore, your dentist advises a crown to be placed to cover the weakened tooth for the success and longevity of the root canal.

Delay in getting the final restoration may result in fracture, tooth loss, or may require re-treatment of a root canal.

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