What to Expect After a Root Canal


Root canals have a negative reputation for being painful and causing other diseases like cancer. Neither of these claims is true.

An Opinion Research Corp. survey of 1,000 people found that those who had the procedure were more likely to describe it as painless than those who hadn’t. There is also no valid evidence that root canals cause any other disease.

The confusion and fear results from misinformation. Patients don’t fully understand what the procedure entails or what to expect after a root canal.

While temporary pain is common, the average root canal recovery time is only a few days and requires minimal lifestyle changes. Those who follow their dentist’s recommendations will find their pain subsiding. Patients with continued discomfort should go to the dentist for a follow-up. 

Read our handy guide to learn the facts about root canals and how to aid the process of root canal aftercare.

What to Expect During a Root Canal

A root canal is the part of a tooth that contains two essential elements, the nerve and the pulp chamber. If it gets inflamed or infected, the patient can experience severe pain.

Endodontists are dentists specializing in root canals, but 4 out of 5 people surveyed did not even know they exist. Any dentist can usually perform the procedure, but a specialist may be required for cases involving extreme damage.

Before a root canal, a dentist takes an x-ray to closely examine the affected tooth and surrounding area. This will help determine if the infection has spread to any other areas and how best to cure it.

Patients are anesthetized during a root canal and should not experience significant pain during the procedure.

A root canal is almost like a more complex version of a typical yearly teeth cleaning. The dentist removes any decayed tissue, pulp, and debris from the affected tooth’s root canal. 

An important part of the root canal procedure is sealing the tooth to prevent further infection. This can be done the same day or during a follow-up appointment.

Getting to the dentist at the first sign of any potential issues is necessary to prevent further damage and keep infections from spreading. Check this list of symptoms of root canals to determine if you need to see a dentist.

What to Expect After a Root Canal

The purpose of a root canal is to remove infection and reduce pain. The prognosis is positive, as most patients are back to normal within weeks.

Temporary pain that lasts for a few days is normal after a root canal procedure. Reasons this may occur include inflamed tissue, misuse of instruments, improperly placed fillings, and other factors.

Proper root canal recovery requires positive lifestyle choices like a diet of soft foods and proper oral care. Eating chewy candy or flossing too hard may damage even a permanent crown.

Root canal recovery time is usually fairly short, lasting no more than a few days. If pain persists for a long period of time, it’s best to return to the dentist.

Further appointments do not always mean the procedure has failed, as even the most successful root canal may require a follow-up. This could be for something as simple as replacing a temporary filling with a permanent one or as complex as additional restorative work.

Root canal recovery time is usually short and the process is relatively painless. It requires cooperation on the part of the patient, however, to care for the affected tooth properly.

Possible Complications

Despite their negative reputation and unfounded links to numerous diseases like cancer, root canals are generally safe procedures with a 95% success rate. There are possible complications that patients should know about. 

Pain after a root canal is not uncommon or a sign of further damage to the affected tooth. Patients should only be concerned if discomfort and/or sensitivity lasts for days after the procedure. This is a sign of issues such as further infection that usually require another trip to the dentist.

Certain factors can make a root canal procedure more difficult for a dentist to complete. These can become common causes of complications. Examples include extra root canals left uncleaned, undetected cracks, or a breakdown of sealant material.

Complications after a root canal procedure can lead to further issues like continued infection. These may require additional dental work to treat such as pulling the affected tooth.

Follow-Up Appointments

Many patients require more than one appointment for a completely successful root canal. Unexplained symptoms like persistent pain indicate the need for a follow-up.

There is one common reason that a patient may need another appointment even if there are no further issues. Sometimes the dentist places a temporary filling in the affected tooth during the initial root canal procedure. The patient has to return to have this removed and replaced with a more permanent form of protection like a crown.

Most teeth that require root canals are severely damaged, and further restorative work is sometimes necessary. This could mean a further cleaning or a full tooth extraction. 

Patients should not be frightened if they have to return to the dentist after a root canal. The best way to prevent any potential issues that require immediate attention is to continue proper oral care.

How to Aid Root Canal Recovery

Like any surgical procedure, there are ways that a patient can ease their pain and speed up root canal recovery time. They involve small lifestyle choices.

Since pain after root canals is not usually severe or long-lasting, special medications are not necessary. Typical over-the-counter pain relievers like Tylenol or Advil should be enough. Antibiotics may also be necessary to prevent or treat infections.

Proper oral hygiene helps prevent the need for a root canal, but it is also an important part of the recovery process. Patients should continue to brush and floss their teeth regularly and visit the dentist for cleanings. 

Stress and pain are closely related, and reducing one of these factors can help with the other. Relaxing practices like meditation or aromatherapy can ease any discomfort felt after a root canal.

What a patient eats is also an important part of root canal aftercare. The American Association of Endodontists recommends waiting to eat until the anesthetic wears off to avoid damaging the tooth or biting the inside of the mouth. The best types of foods are soft and not extremely hot or cold, like oatmeal, avocados, or pasta. 

Experiencing Tooth Pain?

Knowing what to expect after a root canal eases the fear associated with this procedure. It can result in temporary pain, but the recovery period is usually short and simple. 

Read the rest of our articles for more information, and don’t forget to come back to check for updates!

About Author

LaDonna Dennis

LaDonna Dennis is the founder and creator of Mom Blog Society. She wears many hats. She is a Homemaker*Blogger*Crafter*Reader*Pinner*Friend*Animal Lover* Former writer of Frost Illustrated and, Cancer...SURVIVOR! LaDonna is happily married to the love of her life, the mother of 3 grown children and "Grams" to 3 grandchildren. She adores animals and has four furbabies: Makia ( a German Shepherd, whose mission in life is to be her attached to her hip) and Hachie, (an OCD Alaskan Malamute, and Akia (An Alaskan Malamute) who is just sweet as can be. And Sassy, a four-month-old German Shepherd who has quickly stolen her heart and become the most precious fur baby of all times. Aside from the humans in her life, LaDonna's fur babies are her world.

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