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How to Protect Your Teeth After a Root Canal

Feb 08, 2024
Root canals are a way to treat infections in teeth by removing damaged tissue in the pulp. But how do you care for your teeth once the procedure is done? Read on to get important information about root canal aftercare.

While similar in appearance to bones, your teeth are actually unique in what they’re made of and how they work. The four different types of teeth you have (incisors, canines, premolars, and molars, generally 32 in the adult mouth) are essential for eating and speaking and are composed of enamel, dentin, cementum, and pulp. The enamel is the strongest material our body produces, but sadly, many things can wear it down over time and lead to dental problems that require treatments like root canals.

This process removes the infected tissue inside a tooth and helps keep your mouth healthy, but aftercare for a tooth that’s had it done can be tricky. Let’s examine how to manage it by looking at how root canals help teeth, the basics of the procedure, and some instructions on how to care for the affected tooth after it’s done.

If you live in the Sacramento, California, area and are either getting a root canal or have just had one, Dr. Peter Kim and his experienced medical staff at Sierra Oaks Dental can help you decide what to do next.

How root canals help teeth

There is a lot of anxiety for millions of patients when it comes to dental visits, and root canals are one of the reasons. Many people are more anxious about this procedure than public speaking and other common fears, but they are both necessary and nothing to fear. Whether you have dental problems like chronic tooth pain, pressure pain, swollen gums, gum pimples, swollen jaw, or a discolored or loose tooth, root canals help remove the infection in the tooth by removing the affected tissue. Infections can cause the signs mentioned, leading to cracked or broken teeth, and the damage can infect the gums and jaw. Root canals are important for dental health, and the process is not as painful as it is often made out to be.

Procedure basics

Before any work is done inside the mouth, you will be given antibiotics to reduce symptoms and treat infections before exposing teeth, gums, and other tissue to further the chances of infection. Once that‘s done, the process starts by applying a local anesthetic to the area to be treated, and a rubber dam is placed over your mouth. Next, a small hole is drilled into the pulp of the tooth, and then uses tiny files designed to remove nerves and infected tissue. Another x-ray may be necessary to determine the extent of the tooth root, which often makes the removal the longest part of the procedure. 

Once done, the tooth is dried, and gutta-percha (a rubber material) is placed inside it to seal it. Once any remaining decay is removed from the tooth, decisions are made on whether crown or other dental treatments need to be done. The entire process can take multiple visits, depending on how much work is being done and if multiple teeth are involved.

Aftercare instructions

After you get home, some tenderness is to be expected once the anesthetic wears off which can last a few days as everything heals. Here are the important things to remember about caring for the tooth after a root canal:

It needs unique care from other teeth

Whether the whole tooth has been removed or you're waiting for a crown or other dental help, you must deal with this area gently. This is especially important in the first few weeks while it’s healing up. Continue brushing and flossing, but take extra care when working near the tooth after a root canal.

Avoid certain foods and drink

Equally important is to avoid foods and drinks that will exacerbate tooth problems, such as hot or cold liquids or hard foods that force you to bite down near the tooth as it is still healing. Also, if you smoke, avoid doing it as your tooth heals, as it will only make problems worse.

Contact us if there are unusual symptoms

Normally, a tooth will take a few weeks to heal after a root canal before other steps are taken, but if you start experiencing severe pain, visible swelling, an uneven bite, losing a temporary crown, or allergic reactions to medications get help as soon as possible.

Root canals are important to dental health, but caring for the tooth afterward is also vital to preserving it as well. If you need help caring for a tooth after a root canal, make an appointment with Dr. Kim and his team at Sierra Oaks Dental today.