What To Expect After A Root Canal Posted on November 12, 2013

You’ve completed root canal therapy. Now what should you expect?

I’m Still Numb!
After your root canal is completed, you can expect to be numb for a one to two hours after you leave the endodontist’s office. The amount of time will vary depending on the anesthetic used during the treatment. It’s important to be careful about chewing until all the numbness goes away so you do not bite your tongue or cheek—If you do, you may not be able to feel it, even if you draw blood.

If the root canal was done on lower tooth, then half your lip and your tongue are usually numb. On an upper tooth, however, this is a little more difficult to determine, as only the area directly next to the tooth that was treated will be numb.

What’s Different Now?
After the root canal, several things will be different.

  • If your tooth was sensitive to hot and cold, once the anesthesia wears off, you won’t have that problem anymore.
  • The tooth may be sore to bite on or chew with for several days. This usually lasts around one to three days and will get better each day, although some patients experience soreness for 3-5 days.
  • Part of how much pain you will have also depends on how much pain the tooth was causing you before treatment. The more pain you were having before treatment, the more pain you’ll have after treatment. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a tooth treated when it is not causing a lot of pain.

How Do I Treat the Pain?
Most pain can be handled with the use of over-the-counter pain medications such as Advil or Aleve. With Advil or similar products, take 2 to 4 tablets every 6 hours. With Aleve, you use two tablets every 8 to 12 hours. Sometimes a codeine-based pain medication is needed for pain. This will usually be prescribed by your endodontist at the end of your appointment.

The Next Step
When you leave your endodontist’s office, you will have a temporary restoration on your tooth. Your general dentist will permanently restore the tooth. This maybe with a simple filling in the access opening or a crown (sometimes referred to as a cap). A general rule of thumb for when a crown may be needed is if the tooth becomes more than 50% filling to 50% natural tooth. Back teeth, molars and bicuspids, sometimes have crowns placed on them sooner because of the harder biting forces applied to them.

Minor Complications
In some cases, usually less than 10 percent of those who receive root canal therapy, an inflammatory reaction or a flare-up

can develop. This reaction occurs when a vital or live nerve is very irritated and is removed, and the body over reacts to this. It usually starts within 24 hours of treatment and is characterized by an increasing sensitivity to biting. This is easily treated with medication that your endodontist can call in to your pharmacy for you.

Sometimes, a flare-up occurs when the treated tooth had a dead or necrotic nerve with a long-standing infection that had no symptoms. Usually this happens within 24 hours of treatment and is characterized by a large, rapid swelling in the area. This is easily resolved with the use of an antibiotic. Neither of these problems affects the long-term prognosis for the tooth that is treated.