Patient Instructions

Overview

If you are in need of a root canal it is important to read through these patient instructions so you can set yourself up for a successful procedure and recovery. The most important thing for you to do is to make sure that your endodontist is a board-certified endodontist. A root canal is a very complex and precise procedure that makes it almost an art. Endodontists are dentists that have chosen to take additional training to specialize in the root canal procedure. So it is important to make sure that you endodontist is actually board-certified. After you find a board-certified endodontist, make sure that you read through the patient instructions pertaining to your procedure.

Reading the patient instructions is critical to setting yourself up for a healthy recovery. We know that there is a lot of information to read and comprehend as a patient. This is why we have compiled all of the critical pieces of information that you need to know before, during, and after your treatment. We broke the information up to make it more convenient for you to find no matter where you are.

Before Endodontic Treatment

What Happens Before Your Endodontic Treatment?

According to the American Association of Endodontists, endodontic treatment (also known as root canal therapy) is usually necessary when there is either inflammation or infection in the roots of a tooth. If you are planning on scheduling a root canal therapy session, there are a couple things you want to do before your endodontic treatment.

Speak To Your Dentist Beforehand

One thing you should do before your endodontic treatment is have a pre-appointment conversation with your dentist to find out whether or not painkillers are suitable for you post-treatment. For safety purposes, it is recommended that you pick up your necessary medication beforehand so you won’t have to worry about it afterwards.

Asking the right questions prior to your endodontic treatment can be extremely beneficial in easing your mind and making the whole process go more smoothly. Some good questions to ask can be found here. Although having precautionary conversations is beneficial, it may not be realistic when emergency root canal therapy is needed.

Precautions To Take

Unless we instruct you differently, always eat a full breakfast or lunch prior to your appointment. For instance, those who will undergo conscious sedation may be asked to eat less.

If we’ve recommended taking an antibiotic premedication due to a cardiac, knee, hip or other prosthesis, heart murmur or mitral valve prolapse (MVP), or if you suffer from rheumatic heart disease, you’re going to want to make sure you are taking the correct antibiotic on the day of your appointment. If you’re still unsure about anything, contact our office before your appointment.

For those who have received medical clearance to take naproxen sodium or ibuprofen, you can experience reduced inflammation when you take it before your operation. You should take two tablets of the medication two to four hours before your treatment.

Recommendations

We recommend using a preventive antibiotic before these dental procedures, especially for patients with the following conditions:

  • Cardiac transplants with heart valve issues
  • Prior infective endocarditis
  • Artificial heart valves
  • Certain congenital heart defects, such as:
    • Heart defects repaired by a prosthetic device or material, which may be placed via surgery or catheter, especially during the first six months following the procedure.
    • Unrepaired or partially repaired cyanotic heart diseases, such as those using palliative shunts or conduits.
    • A repaired heart defect that has a residual defect either adjacent to or at the site of a prosthetic device or patch.

IMPORTANT: If you suffer from a cardiac condition, it’s important to talk to your cardiologist to see what they recommend for dental work preparation.

Immediately After Endodontic Treatment

In most cases, you won’t have any restrictions when the procedure is complete. You will typically be able to drive yourself home and return to work with no issues. You will also be able to continue taking all medications for diabetes, blood pressure, thyroid problems or other conditions unless instructed otherwise.

If a problem does occur after treatment, or you’re concerned with after treatment care, contact our endodontist for answers to your questions and concerns. Ensuring your after treatment care is followed properly will reduce your chances of needing a root canal retreatment.

tooth with root canal treatment as text

Post-Operative Instructions

What To Expect Following Endodontic (Root Canal) Therapy

Nearly 15 million root canals are performed every day in the US alone – that’s nearly 41,000 per day. If you’ve recently had a root canal, or know someone who has, following both the pre-operative and post-operative instructions will ensure that no damage is done to the site where the therapy has taken place and that the healing process continues uninterrupted.

Things to be aware of following root canal therapy:

  1. Dull pain – It is not uncommon for a tooth to be uncomfortable or even exhibit a dull ache immediately after receiving root canal therapy. This should subside within a few days.
  2. Tooth sensitivity – Your tooth will be sensitive to biting pressure and may even feel slightly loose. This feeling is a result of the sensitivity/inflammation of nerve-endings and surrounding tissue just outside the end of the root(s) that were treated. This is normal and will become progressively more comfortable within a few days.
  3. Rough areas – You may feel a rough area (on the top surface of a back tooth or on the back surface of a front tooth), where the access was made and sealed with a temporary filling. The temporary filling seals and protects the root canal treatment from becoming contaminated and re-infected between appointments. If the filling comes out or sinks down in the tooth it is important to contact our office to replace the filling to ensure the root canal therapy remains protected.
  4. Minor swelling – A small percentage of patients may experience severe post-treatment pain and/or swelling in the area that was treated. If this occurs, please call our office immediately so we may address this problem.

What To Do Following Endodontic (Root Canal) Therapy

The first thing we recommend is that you take an analgesic medication for pain-relief within one hour of leaving our office to allow the medication to be effective before the anesthesia administered begins to subside. Generally only a single dose is required; however, some people may require pain-relieving medication over the next several days.

A few potential pain-relievers:

  1. Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) – Taking 400-800mg every 6 hours (without exceeding 3200mg/day) is recommended for patients able to take either Ibuprofen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, or aspirin.
  2. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) – For people unable to take ibuprofen, non-steroidal medications, or aspirin, Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is recommended. The recommended dosage is 1000mg every 6 hours (without exceeding 4000mg/day). The consumption of alcohol is not recommended while taking acetaminophen or medications containing acetaminophen.

You also want to make sure that you minimize chewing on the affected tooth until your root canal therapy is completed and your dentist has placed a final restoration on your tooth. This is to ensure no further traumatic injuries occurs.

Please contact your dentist to have your tooth restored within 1-2 weeks following completion of your root canal therapy. If the tooth does not get the necessary final restoration and the temporary filling wear out, the root canal will become infected and need re-treatment or extraction. That is why it is extremely important to follow up with your general dentist immediately.

The 3 Step Post-Root Canal Therapy Checklist

Step 1: Reduce The Amount Of Stress Placed On The Teeth

Until the crown is placed onto your tooth, the tooth is completely unprotected. When unprotected, avoid chewing things (especially harder foods) on that side of your mouth until the crown is placed and the therapy site is completely protected. This will help avoid needing any type of fractured tooth management.

Step 2: Choose Foods That Are Soft

One of the most important factors in caring for your tooth after a root canal is making sure you stick to soft foods. Ones that won’t have the potential to damage the site of your root canal therapy. The filling’s job is to seal the tooth until a more permanent solution can be implemented – also known as a crown – so eating foods that are hard or crunchy may increase the risk of damaging the temporary filling. The last thing you want to do following a root canal therapy is damage the feeling or break the tooth, so being extra aware about what you eat will ensure that no problems occur regarding the healing of your tooth.

Step 3: Be Careful When Brushing

Brushing or flossing too aggressively can hinder the healing process or cause damage to the tooth that may call for another appointment. Although brushing and flossing is still recommended, because the tooth and surrounding gums still need proper care, it is advised that you take extreme caution and cleanse these areas with a gentle hand. You may find it more difficult to floss around the temporary filling, but don’t let the added difficulty deter you from following your regular tooth maintenance routine. The best course of action would be to take your time, apply pressure to the therapy site very gently, and contact your dentist or endodontist if you have any questions about tooth care following root canal therapy.

Adhering to our simple 3-step process will aid in recovery and ensure that a retreatment won’t be necessary.

tooth with post operative guidelines as text

Endodontic Treatment After Care

What You Need To Know After Your Treatment

So, your endodontic treatment is over, now what?

Once your root canal system has been permanently sealed during an endodontic therapy, there are several things you will need to do afterwards to avoid further complications.

The seal placed on the outer portion of your root canal is temporary. Generally, your general dentist will have to perform a restoration to fully protect the affected tooth. Prior to your visit to your general dentist, our team will forward an in-depth record to your dentist to ensure they get the job done right.

Initial Endodontic Treatment Recovery Period

As the local anesthesia from begins to make it’s way out of your body, mild pain and associated sensitivity may occur. If you do experience mild pain or sensitivity immediately after your endodontic treatment, the pain you are experiencing will most likely subside in just a couple of days. You can find more specified information on the pain associated with post-endodontic treatment here.

Most patients do not need any pain relief medication following their procedure, and if they do, usually have what they need by following the before treatment recommendations. Even so, some patients with mild sensitivity may opt for low-grade pain relief medications such as Ibuprofen or Tylenol. It is advised that you consult your doctor before taking any of these medications to ensure that there will be no interactions with any other supplements or medications you are currently taking.

Knowing the Dangers Present Following an Endodontic Treatment

One of the first things we make sure our patients know is teeth are far more likely to fracture following an endodontic treatment.

This means immediately following your procedure; you need to chew on the other side of your mouth to ensure no damage occurs. Once a restorative dentist has placed a crown over the affected area, you will be able to chew normally again.

After your endodontic treatment, the last thing you want to deal with are the consequences of a traumatic tooth injury due to negligence of proper post-operation care. If mistreated, a root canal retreatment may be necessary to restore the tooth to it’s previous health.

Potential Problems You May Face After Treatment

There are some problems you may face after treatment, such as:

  • Nerve Injuries to Lower Teeth – After treatment, you may have a nerve injury if your procedure was performed on the lower posterior teeth. Our team will inform you of this possibility before the treatment to ensure you know what to expect. The lower teeth are usually closest to the nerves that control sensation to your lips and gums. There are instances when you will feel a slight tingling during surgery as the anesthesia wears off. This sensation might last a few days if the nerves near these teeth were affected.
  • Upper Teeth and Sinus Issues – If the treatment is for your upper teeth, there may be a few issues with your sinuses following the surgery. Communication between your mouth and sinuses is common following root canal surgery. Usually, we will advise you to avoid blowing your nose for a few days after your surgery is completed. Blowing your nose can create a lot of pressure in your sinuses and may lead to discomfort.
  • After Treatment Infections – Sometimes, after treatment, you can get an infection. If this happens, you will usually be placed on an antibiotic for a week to eliminate the possibility of the infection continuing.
    Some additional issues you may experience can be found here.

During your consultation before the surgery, our team will provide you with all of the information you need to feel at ease with the procedure we will perform.

root canal filling

Questions about the instructions?

The office telephone is answered day and night.
If you need to call after hours, please have your pharmacy number available.