1Will I experience any pain with my tooth after the root canal treatment? Why is my tooth still tender to bite on if all the nerves are gone? I did not have symptoms prior to my root canal treatment, so why do I have symptoms and swelling now?
It is normal for your tooth to be sore after your root canal treatment. Root canal treatment removes the inflamed or infected tissue inside of the tooth, but the tissues that support your tooth need time to heal. The ligament surrounding the tooth is inflamed due to the natural response of the body to any irritants or bacteria involved with the tooth – which resulted in your need for root canal treatment. This inflamed ligament can cause the tooth to be sore to biting and chewing for a few days after treatment. Inflammation can also occur from the injections you received and from keeping your mouth open for an extended period. Inflammation may already be present when you arrive at our office and this does not go away immediately – much like how a bruise takes time to heal and diminish. In addition, some teeth have a local infection within the bone that supports the tooth that may cause some swelling and pressure around the tooth after root canal treatment. Patients who have signs or symptoms of this kind of infection will be placed on antibiotics. Most pain experienced after root canal treatment should diminish in 48-72 hours.
2Is it okay to drive an automobile and/or return to work after treatment?
Yes, unless you have taken narcotic pain medicine or a sedative (i.e., Valium), feel dizzy or incapable of driving or working. Do NOT drive after taking Vicodin or any narcotic pain medicine. Not only can it make you drowsy, making driving unsafe, but it could result in a DUI. If you will need a driver to take you home, please arrange this ahead of time. Let us know if you need a written excuse to miss work.
3What medications should I take after root canal treatment?
Take any over-the-counter anti-inflammatory (i.e. Advil, Aleve, Motrin, or Ibuprofen) medication before the numbness wears off. It is recommended to take up to 800 mg. of an anti-inflammatory every 6 hours for 24-72 hours after treatment. If you cannot take an anti-inflammatory, it is acceptable to take Tylenol as instructed on the medication bottle.
Some patients who are expected to have more discomfort after treatment will be given a stronger prescribed medication by the doctor to take in addition to an anti-inflammatory. Take 800 mg of Ibuprofen every 6 hours and up to 2 Vicodin every 6 hours. For example, if you take the Ibuprofen now, you will take the Vicodin 3 hours later. 3 hours after you take the Vicodin, you will take the Ibuprofen again. So you are taking a medication every 3 hours, but each medication only every 6 hours. This will continue as long as needed for pain. For the strongest over-the-counter pain relief, substitute 1000 mg of Tylenol for the Vicodin.
If you experience discomfort that persists longer than 48-72 hours, or if the medication you are taking is not keeping your discomfort at a tolerable level, please call our office.
4My endodontist did not give me antibiotics to take after my root canal treatment. Shouldn’t I take antibiotics if there is infection in my bone?
As explained above, some teeth require antibiotics. We are very selective in prescribing antibiotics. If you have swelling or bacterial drainage (pus) associated with your tooth, an antibiotic may be prescribed. Research has shown that antibiotics will not assist with healing in teeth that do not display this kind of bacterial involvement. Therefore, to minimize stomach symptoms and in an effort to avoid bacterial resistance to antibiotics, we will only prescribe antibiotics as needed. If you develop any swelling after treatment and have not been given any antibiotics, please call our office for proper treatment.
5What should I do if the temporary filling placed in my root canal tooth falls out?
Your family dentist or one of the endodontists in our office can replace the temporary filling. Please call our office or your family dentist immediately to have this filling replaced. Temporary fillings generally do not fall out unless they have been there for an extended period of time. Often, the top portion of the filling will wear away due to brushing and chewing; this does not mean the filling fell out.
6When should I have the final tooth restoration (i.e., filling and/or crown) done? What can happen if I don’t have it completed?
You may have this done as soon as possible, but we ask you not to wait more than six weeks to have it completed. If you do not have the final restoration done, your tooth could fracture or become re-infected. We will not be responsible for damage or failure of the root canal if restoration is not completed in a timely manner.
7Will I need follow-up care?
After the completion of your treatment in our office, you will be referred back to your family dentist for the final restoration (i.e., filling and/or crown of the tooth). We will send a report regarding your treatment and copies of pre and post treatment radiographs to your family dentist.
We will also send you a postcard one year after your treatment in our office. You will be asked to schedule an appointment so we can evaluate your root canal treatment. There is no charge for this appointment.