Dental Education

Root Canal Treatment: A Before, During, And After Guide

Root Canal Treatment: A Before, During, And After Guide

Root Canal Treatment: A Before, During, And After Guide

Does your tooth ache often? Does it feel sensitive when eating cold or hot foods? If it does, the pulp inside your tooth might be infected by bacteria. This calls for root canal treatment. 

Root canal treatment is a common dental procedure that aims to eliminate the pain caused by tooth infection. This process involves three stages: infected pulp removal, surface cleaning and disinfection, and filling (sealant) application.

Most dentists recommend root canal treatment when mouth bacteria infiltrate the pulp of the tooth. A pulp infection may occur when a cavity worsens, a tooth becomes cracked, or a tooth suffers physical trauma.

If you think the pulp of your tooth is infected, you should visit a dentist as soon as possible to prevent the infection from spreading and getting worse. You may click here or visit your local dental clinics for more details.

If you want to know more about the procedure, you’re on the right page. This post will teach you what to do or expect before, during, and after the root canal treatment. 

What Should You Do Before The Root Canal Treatment?

Here’s a list of what you need to do before you undergo a root canal procedure:

  • Check If You Need A Root Canal Treatment

Do you need to undergo the treatment? Below are the signs and symptoms indicating the need for root canal treatment.

  • Being Sensitive To Hot And Cold: Does your tooth hurt when you drink hot chocolate or eat frozen yogurt? If you do, you might need a root canal treatment, especially if the pain persists for a few seconds longer.
  • Pain That Doesn’t Disappear On Its Own: Toothache is a common symptom of various dental problems. But if the pain feels deeper, you might need root canal treatment. Pain may spread throughout the surrounding teeth, jaw, and face.
  • Loosened Tooth: A pulp infection might be the culprit if a tooth feels looser than before. This produces pus that can soften the bone structure that supports the affected tooth, making it feel loose.
  • Swollen Gums: If a tooth becomes infected, it produces pus that may accumulate over time. This can make your gums swollen, tender, and puffy. That’s why root canal treatment is necessary.
  • Cracked Or Chipped Tooth: A cracked or chipped tooth may result from excessive tooth grinding (bruxism) or damage due to trauma (e.g., playing sports). This allows bacteria to penetrate the pulp of the tooth, causing infection.
  • Pimple Or Boil On The Gums: The pus produced by the infection may form a pimple or boil on your gums. This may burst on its own and release an unpleasant odor and taste. This can also cause pain when eating, so root canal treatment is a must.
  • Tooth Becomes Painful When Pressure Is Applied: Does it feel painful when food touches your tooth? If it does, that tooth might be infected. This allows food particles to press the nerves inside, causing pain. 

If any of these symptoms show up, visit a dentist immediately and have your mouth checked. This will help determine if you’re a good candidate for the procedure.

  • Check If You’re A Good Candidate For Root Canal Treatment

To determine whether you’re a good candidate for the procedure, the dentist will check the severity of your infection. If most of your tooth has been consumed by bacteria, your dentist might not recommend you to undergo root canal treatment.

If you’re not a good candidate for root canal treatment, your only option is to have the infected tooth extracted. Once the tooth has been removed, your dentist will recommend replacing it with an artificial tooth, such as an implant, bridge, or denture (partial).

  • Have A Good Night’s Sleep 

Sleep plays a crucial role in the human body. It helps repair the damage done throughout the day and is essential for muscle growth and maintenance. So, make sure to get enough sleep—around 7-9 hours—for a smooth recovery process after the surgery.

  • Take Medications As Prescribed

Your dentist may prescribe some medications a few days before the procedure to relieve pain, inflammation, and swelling, especially if the infection is much worse than expected. These may include anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., ibuprofen) and antibiotics.

  • Avoid Smoking And Drinking Alcohol 24 Hours Before The Procedure

Root canal treatment is often painful because it removes everything inside the tooth, including the infected pulp, damaged nerves, and other dirt particles. Your dentist will inject a local anesthetic into your gums to ensure you won’t feel pain throughout the procedure.

Since the treatment requires anesthesia, your dentist will advise you to avoid alcohol and cigarettes for at least 24 hours before the procedure. These substances may affect recovery and react with the anesthesia, producing unwanted effects (e.g., increased bleeding).

  • Eat A Healthy Meal Before The Procedure

The local anesthesia during the procedure will numb your gums for several hours, making eating difficult. So, make sure to eat a proper meal before you proceed with the treatment.

Also, eating before the procedure can make your recovery more comfortable afterward.

What Happens During Root Canal Treatment?

The main goal of the root canal is to get rid of the infected pulp that causes pain. Afterward, patients will be advised to wear a temporary crown to cover the affected area. This will help prevent reinfection before a dental filling is applied. 

But before you begin the root canal procedure, the dentist will take X-rays of the infected tooth to determine the severity of the infection and ensure that root canal treatment is the most appropriate procedure. 

Once your dentist has verified the results of the dental X-ray, the following steps will be completed during the root canal procedure:

  • Preparing The Affected Site

Before the infected pulp is removed, the dentist will prepare the affected site with local anesthesia. This will numb the infected area to ensure you won’t feel any pain throughout the procedure, especially in the most painful parts.

Your dentist may also use other medications to help you relax during root canal treatment, especially if you have moderate to severe dental anxiety. These include oral sedatives, nitrous oxide, and intravenous (IV) sedation.

Since the process requires anesthetics or sedation, it’s best to ask someone to drive you home after the procedure. You might feel groggy and lethargic due to the effects of the local anesthesia and sedation.

Root Canal

Root Canal

  • Placing The Dental Dam 

After receiving local anesthetics and sedation, your dentist will place a small rubber dam over the site. This will isolate the affected tooth and keep it moist-free during the process.

  • Accessing The Roots

After placing the dental dam, your dentist may start accessing the root canals and the infected pulp. This can be done by drilling through the affected tooth.

Once done, your dentist will start to remove the infected pulp, nerves, and blood vessels inside the tooth. Then, they will disinfect the canals to prevent reinfection with an antiseptic or antibacterial solution. This kills the bacteria and relieves the infection inside the tooth.

  • Shaping The Root Canals

After removing the infected pulp, the dentist will shape the canals with tiny instruments. This prepares the tooth for the filling material. 

Once shaped, the canals will be cleaned for the second time around.

  • Filling The Root Canals

After shaping the canals, the dentist will fill the empty spaces using gutta-percha—a plastic substance from the Percha tree and a permanent filling in root canal treatment. 

Once the filling has been poured out, the dentist will try to compress it as much as possible to ensure it fits tightly against the tooth wall. Then, adhesive cement will be added to seal the canals perfectly, keeping bacteria and other harmful microorganisms out.

  • Filling The Point Of Entry

Aside from filling the canals, the dentist should also apply filling to the hole that allows them to access the canals. This prevents bacteria from entering the site.

Your dentist might also add a post in the canals to strengthen the tooth structure. Note that this is only needed when the affected tooth is seriously damaged and cannot support its recovery process.

  • Going Home And Medications

After sealing the point of entry, your dentist might advise you to go home and provide a prescription for antibiotics. The role of antibiotics is to eliminate the remaining bacteria that may cause reinfection. 

Your dentist will also give you post-care instructions about what to do during the recovery process. This is to ensure that your wounds will heal at the right time.

Furthermore, you might feel slight discomfort a few days after the treatment. But don’t worry; it’s normal. Your dentist may prescribe over-the-counter (OTC) medications to help alleviate the pain and discomfort.

  • Adding The Crown

If the affected tooth is severely damaged, dental fillers might not be enough to cover the surface of your tooth. You might need to come back in the following days for dental crowns. 

Your dentist may recommend a dental crown if there’s significant tooth damage or the root canal is located at the molars. It’ll be placed above the affected tooth, adding stability and strength. 

Dental crowns are permanent and are created to match the size and color of your tooth. So, you don’t have to worry about how your tooth will look after the treatment. Once placed, you may start eating once again.

What To Expect After The Root Canal Procedure?

The root canal procedure can be painful because it deep cleans the insides of the tooth, but that pain shouldn’t last forever. After all, the process is meant to get rid of all the pain related to a fractured or decaying tooth.

Experiencing mild to moderate pain and discomfort is normal after the procedure and may last a few days. However, if the pain persists and worsens, you might need to visit your dentist for further cleaning or additional dental procedures.

  • What Happens During The Initial Recovery Period?

Since there will be mild to moderate pain after root canal treatment, you might need to take OTC pain relievers. These include ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol). 

But before you buy some pain medications, make sure to consult your doctor first, especially if you’re taking other medicines and supplements. 

Aside from the discomfort following the treatment, try to be mindful of what you chew. Avoid eating hard foods as much as possible to prevent causing more pain to the treated site.

  • Is It Okay To Drive After Root Canal Treatment?

Most root canal patients can drive themselves after the procedure because the treatment doesn’t require deep sedation. But those who will be under deep sedation, especially people with severe dental anxiety, might need someone to drive them home.

  • Is It Okay To Brush Your Teeth After Root Canal Treatment?

Yes, you can brush and floss your teeth after the procedure. However, consider waiting at least 30 minutes to ensure the filling is cured before brushing or flossing.

  • When Should You Seek Help?

The pain after the root canal treatment should decrease gradually. Visit your dentist if you still experience swelling or discomfort. 

Most root canal patients require two sessions of the procedure to be successful. But you might need more if the pain lingers a few days after the treatment. 

As mentioned earlier, you may take OTC pain relievers to reduce the pain and discomfort following the treatment. But if they don’t relieve the pain you experience, visit your dentist for more potent pain medications (e.g., narcotic pain relievers). 

  • Will Your Tooth Be Sensitive After Root Canal Treatment?

You might feel a dull aching sensation for a few days following the root canal. OTC pain medications like naproxen sodium, aspirin, and ibuprofen may help relieve the discomfort. You don’t need strong pain relievers or narcotics to alleviate temporary tooth sensitivity.

Final Thoughts

Root canal treatment removes the infected pulp inside the tooth, which causes pain, discomfort, and sensitivity to cold and hot foods. Before the procedure, prepare yourself by avoiding alcohol and tobacco, eating a healthy meal, and getting a good night’s sleep. This will help ensure a smooth recovery process.

During the procedure, you’ll be given an anesthetic so you won’t feel any pain. After root canal treatment, rest and take OTC medications to relieve the pain. If the pain persists or worsens, visit a dentist for additional cleaning or more potent pain medications.