If your dentist told you that you need a root canal, chances are you have questions and maybe even a few concerns. Most patients want to know, “how long does a root canal take to heal?” We hope that providing some basic information helps you prepare mentally and physically for your upcoming root canal procedure.
When many people hear the words “root canal,” they immediately have questions. People expect the procedure to be uncomfortable, but we’re here to put you at ease! The good news is dental science has progressed, and today’s root canals are not as painful as those of previous generations. Root canals are not the same as those you may have heard your grandparents complain about!
Some patients feel the pain of a root canal is pretty similar to having a cavity filled. In most cases, the discomfort occurs before the procedure due to the impacted tooth rather than the procedure itself. We find in our office, the percentage of patients who experience pain is very low. Our approach is so delicate we have many patients fall asleep in the chair during their procedure!
Why Root Canals Are Necessary
Root canals are among the most common dental procedures. Each year, dental professionals perform over 14 million root canals (WOW — that’s a lot of teeth!). Given these numbers, an experienced Endodontist will have plenty of success stories. Also, they have the expertise to identify whether alternative treatments might be even more effective in your circumstances.
Sometimes tooth decay gets in the inner layers of a tooth, including the pulp and root. That area is sensitive since it contains a network of blood vessels and nerves. Injury caused by trauma, cracks, and chips in the teeth may contribute to deep decay that requires an intervention like a root canal.
During the procedure, a specialist will create a small opening in the tooth’s crown and then clean the damaged or decayed pulp from the inner layers of the tooth.
Depending on the severity, some patients require more than one appointment. Root canals performed at Ballantyne Endodontics are usually completed in one treatment, but if you need a second visit, we will put a temporary filling in between sessions.
Once the root canal procedure is complete, a crown will be placed over the tooth to protect the root canal, as well as provide a seal to make sure further bacteria don’t get in.
Thanks to root canals, many patients can keep their natural teeth that they may have otherwise lost to extraction. While removing the tooth is sometimes the only option, preserving natural teeth is often most beneficial. In the hands of a skilled professional, root canals allow many patients to keep their natural teeth while relieving the pain.
Alternately, many patients are great candidates for the new GentleWave® procedure. This deep cleaning treatment is an alternative to a traditional root canal involving a state-of-the-art mix of sound waves and fluid dynamics. Ask your dental specialist team at Ballantyne Endodontics if it may be a good option for you.
Before your root canal, your dentist will apply a local anesthetic. Once the anesthetic wears off, you will feel some soreness due to the cleaning process or the newly placed crown. Dr. Chopra likes to explain it like this: Imagine your fingernail. If we cleaned under it for an hour and a half, it would be a little sore after, right? This is the same type of soreness that will set in after a root canal and could last a few days. However, if you chew on the opposite side of your mouth from your treated tooth, you should remain pretty comfortable.
Most people find that over the counter pain relievers like Tylenol or generic acetaminophen, and ibuprofen like Advil, alleviate the discomfort. We tend to recommend ibuprofen as its purpose is to relieve inflammation. Most people can immediately resume many of their regular activities shortly after the procedure. In fact, many of our patients leave our office and go right back to work.
While recovering, avoid stressing your teeth by chewing gum or eating hard foods. Doing so increases the discomfort, so be gentle with your teeth over the first few days after your procedure. Your endodontic specialist and their team will give you detailed guidance for your recovery period. Be sure to follow their advice.
If you experience any unusual swelling, pain, or concerning symptoms that do not go away with over the counter medication, contact your dental team or doctor.
Most patients recover from their root canal after a few days. In rare cases, some patients experience complications and may take a week or even two to recover. Again, this is rare.
How to Keep Your Teeth Healthy Following Your Root Canal
Try the following tips to minimize the risk of needing another root canal and keeping your crown in place.
- Follow recommended oral hygiene techniques, including brushing twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Use a gentle circling motion when you brush. If unsure, ask your dentist or hygienist to show you how.
- Floss daily to prevent gum inflammation and infection.
- Avoid hard foods in the first few days immediately after your root canal. In the future, also avoid unnecessary risks like chewing ice, hard candies, etc.
- Reduce acidic and sugary foods and drinks.
- Follow your recommended professional cleaning and examination schedule.
How Do You Know if You Need a Root Canal?
Sometimes when patients ask, “How Long Does a Root Canal Take to Heal?” when they really should ask whether they need one. The only way to know is to visit your dentist for a thorough examination.
The main clue that you may need a root canal is persistent discomfort. Sometimes that discomfort is around the affected tooth and other times it may be in the form of referred pain in other areas of your jaw and face.
Secondary symptoms to watch for include discomfort when biting down, sensitivity to temperature and even tooth discoloration.
If you are experiencing these symptoms or any pain, contact your dentist to schedule an appointment.
In some cases, your dentist may refer you to an endodontic specialist. These specialists focus on the health of the pulp within the teeth and tissues surrounding the teeth.
If you are a Charlotte-area resident in need of an endodontic specialist, contact Ballantyne Endodontics today for more information.