Medically reviewed by Dr. James Ko

Decisions You Should Make Before Having a Root Canal Treatment

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Your doctor has told you that something has to be done with one of your molars. The recommendation is to undergo a root canal treatment. While this approach to endodontic therapy will certainly increase the odds that the tooth will last you for quite a few more years, is this the choice you want to make? And if so, what other decisions have to be settled before your appointment day? Here are some things you should think about and only proceed once you have made the choices that are right for you.

Should I Ask Why My Dentist Recommends a Root Canal?

Absolutely. There are more root canal causes that most people realize. Your dentist likely has specific reasons for recommending this type of treatment. As the patient, you certainly want to be aware of what those reasons happen to be.

Feel free to ask your dentist direct questions. for example, what causes you to need a root canal? Why does the dentist think this particular treatment is the best option? Given what you’ve heard about risks, why is a root canal dangerous?

Your dentist will be happy to point out why you need treatment to save the tooth and why this approach will serve you better than any other solution. You’ll also learn a few facts to offset some of the myths you’ve heard about root canals. For example, you’ll learn that the risks of this treatment make it no more dangerous than any type of invasive procedure.

Read more: Dental crowns what are they and when is one needed

Do I Want to Talk About Alternative Treatments?

Satisfy your curiosity and ask the dentist about those other forms of treatments. Your goal is to get a better idea of what it is about them that make those treatments a less than ideal fit for your particular situation.

While you’re at it, ask a few more questions about having anything done at all. In the short term, what happens if you don’t get a root canal? Over the long term, what happens if you leave the root canal untreated? Can a root canal heal itself? The answers to these questions will likely reinforce your perception that the dentist is right in recommending a full root canal.

Who Will Perform the Root Canal?

In most circumstances, your general dentist will be able to manage all of the root canal treatment steps. Most likely, the procedure will take place in the same type of room where you undergo dental exams. Remember this is the type of treatment you can have done over the course of a few hours.

In some cases, your dentist may refer you to an endodontist. This is a dental professional who specializes in treating conditions involving tooth pulp as well as nerves and tissue found in a tooth. Remember that if your dentist does refer you to another professional, there is usually a reason, such as something about the X-rays that makes the dentist think there may be something other than just a standard root canal needed. Once you hear the reasons and have a better idea of what the specialist can do, it will be easy to see why agreeing to the referral is the right move.

Read more: Do you need root canal treatment

How Soon Do I Want to Have the Procedure Done?

Now that you’ve decided to move forward with the procedure, there’s the matter of scheduling the date and time for the treatment. To some extent, this depends on when the dental professional can arrange for the procedure. There’s also the need to determine the best time for you to have the work done.

Assuming there is not a pressing reason to have the procedure, mention that you have something on the schedule coming up that cannot be changed. However, you would be able to rearrange you schedule any time after you have the upcoming three weeks out of the way. That makes it possible for the dental team to check the current schedule and offer a date and time that is convenient for everyone.

How Much Time Should I Take Off Work?

You will need to ask for some time off so you can have the procedure. The question is how much time is sufficient? You already understand that it will take time for the tissue to heal and for the soreness to subside, but it’s usually not bad after a day or two. Is it really necessary to take off several days to recuperate?

Definitely arrange to take the day of the procedure off. This gives you time to recover from any lingering effects from the sedation that’s used for the actual root canal. If your dentist has reason to believe that you may have significant discomfort into the day after the procedure, asking off for two days is not out of the question.

The nature of your work may also influence how long you need to be away from the job. If your position requires a lot of lifting, the dentist may recommend having the procedure on a Thursday, taking Friday off, and giving yourself the weekend to recuperate more fully.

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Who Will Drive Me To and From the Procedure?

One aspect of the process that’s not negotiable is having someone there to drive you home after the procedure is complete. While you will be awakened before allowing to leave, the lingering effects of the sedation make it unwise for you to operate any machinery for several hours. That includes driving a vehicle.You can bet that none of the root canal treatment steps will begin until the team knows there is someone waiting to take you home afterward.

Your best bet is to ask a relative or other loved one to be your driver as soon as you lock in the date and time for the appointment. Consider asking someone as a backup, just in case your first choice has an unexpected situation arise.

Should I Stock Up on the Recommended Foods Before the Procedure?

Part of the aftercare involves the types of foods you will consume the first few days. Soft foods are often recommended, since it will mean less chewing involved. Even if you plan on trying to chew on the opposite side of the mouth, it’s all too easy for foods to make it over to the root canal site. That’s not something you want to experience.

Do buy the recommended foods in advance. They’ll be in the pantry and the refrigerator when you get home and when you begin to feel a little hungry. That’s much better than trying to do any grocery shopping while you are still recovering from the sedation.

What are My Preferences for Managing the Pain During My Recovery?

How painful is root canal treatment? Some people experience a little soreness and nothing else. Others seem to have pain that they have trouble controlling. It’s best to cover all your bases, since you don’t know how much discomfort will appear.

Do talk with the dentist about the right type of over the counter products to use. An anti-inflammatory medication to help with swelling and pain that does not also thin the blood will work nicely. Go ahead and ask for some sort of prescription pain medication to go along with any oral antibiotics the dentist recommends. You can try the over the counter product first and see how it does in terms of easing the discomfort. When it’s not enough, then break out the prescription pain medication.

Remember pain and soreness are common root canal treatment side effects and nothing to worry about unless they seem to linger or appear to get worse. Any level of discomfort that seems to be beyond what the dentist indicated is grounds for making a call and coming back into the dental clinic.

Do I Want a Crown Too?

A combination of a root canal and crown is common these days. The crown helps to restore the shape of the tooth and also add more protection for the filling. You would do well to accept the dentist’s suggestion and get a crown along with the root canal.

When done properly, the addition of the crown makes it virtually impossible for anyone to know that the tooth is anything but whole and natural. That’s because the crown can be tinted to match the shade of all the surrounding teeth. As a bonus, the crown adds more stability to the tooth and helps reduce the wear and tear that comes with chewing.

Whats My Plan for Covering the Costs?

If you have dental coverage, there’s a good chance that it will cover the majority of the root canal treatment cost. You may have some balance remaining to pay out of pocket. That remainder can be managed with cash, a credit card, or even a medical loan if necessary. Make your payment plans in advance so you can cover your share the day of the procedure. That makes it all the easier to have the work done and not have to deal with a bill later.

Remember that a root canal is often the most practical way to save a tooth. Talk with your dentist at Markham Smile Centre, use the information to decide what to do next, and then do it. Action now will make it all the easier to be happy with the choice and be prepared to make the most of your recovery period.

Andrea Galick

Andrea Galick is an accomplished Dental Hygienist (RDH) with a passion for helping patients achieve optimal oral health. Andrea has built a reputation as a caring and skilled practitioner who puts her patients at ease and provides individualized care that meets their unique needs.

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