Medically reviewed by Dr. James Ko

Do You Need a Root Canal Treatment? Here’s How You Can Prepare for the Procedure and Your Recovery

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8 months ago

News that you need to undergo a root canal treatment is not exactly the anticipated outcome of that most recent dental exam. Even so, there are reasons why your dentist believes that endodontic therapy is in your best interests. What does it mean to undergo a root canal treatment and how can you make sure everything is ready before the day of the procedure? Here are some key preparations that you can begin making right now.

Talk With the Dentist About Why You Need a Root Canal

What causes you to need a root canal? In most cases, one of two things is happening. The results of your exam indicate the presence of tooth decay that has penetrated through the enamel and dentin. At this juncture, it’s beginning to affect the tooth pulp. It’s only a matter of time before things get really bad.

Another of the more common root canal causes are pulp that’s already compromised. This means the pulp is already infected. You need to act now in order to prevent further complications from arising.

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One of the questions that come to mind is about the body’s ability to deal with infection. Can a root canal heal itself? There usually has to be some sort of support for that to happen. In your case, any window of opportunity to avoid a procedure and attempt to treat the problem with antibiotics or other non-invasive methods is past. The root canal is the most practical solution.

Learn More About the Basic Procedure

The dentist will be happy to go over all of the basic root canal treatment steps with you. That begins with the preliminary set of X-rays that help the dentist to know exactly what needs to be done. The procedure itself will not commence until you receive some type of sedation.

In the best case scenario, there will be no signs that the infection has spread to the gum. Once the dentist removes the infected pulp, antibiotics are administered to eliminate any lingering traces of the bacteria causing the infection. From there, the tooth is filled. Your dentist may recommend a combination of a root canal and crown to add stability to the tooth as well as enhance the appearance.

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Ask about Alternative Approaches

What happens if you don’t get a root canal? That is your choice, but going without any type of treatment is something you should not consider. It may be worth asking your dentist if simply extracting the tooth is feasible. Depending on how much damage is already done to the tooth and what the X-rays show, the dentist might be willing to go this route.

What happens if you leave root canal untreated? You can expect the infection to spread and increase the potential to harm the gums. Over time, the oral infection may increase the odds of developing other types of health conditions.

Nothing good will come from choosing to do nothing. Even if you are not crazy about the idea of a root canal, explore other treatment options and settle on one that will protect your health in general.

Go Over Your Medications and Supplements With the Dentist

There is a chance that some of the medications or the nutritional supplements that you currently take could complicate the procedure. That’s why you want to bring them all and go over each one with the dental team. Be especially aware of any substance that thins the blood, lowers your immune system function, or causes drowsiness.

Dentist are usually knowledgeable about what medications do. They are also aware of how certain types of medical problems can affect a dental procedure. Along with going over your medications, make sure the dentist is aware of any ongoing health issue you are currently managing. Those can also be taken into account during the preparation for your root canal.

Why is a root canal dangerous? In most cases, it carries no more risk than any other invasive procedure. It’s the possible complications from medication or existing health issues that can increase your risk. By going over these factors with your dentist, steps can be taken to keep the risk as low as possible.

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Have a Word With Your Dental Insurance Provider

You also need to contact your dental insurance provider and find out if there is anything they need you to do prior to the procedure. There may be a deductible you have to meet or possibly a co-pay that you should provide to the dental clinic before the provider begins to cover any of the root canal treatment cost.

This is also an opportunity to determine how much of the expense the provider will ultimately cover. That makes it all the easier for you to make arrangements to pay for the remaining balance.

Schedule Time Off From Work

At the very least, you need to take off the day of and the day after the root canal. This is especially important if your work is physically demanding. For a short time, the dentist will recommend that you limit your activities. That includes anything that involves lifting, bending, carrying heavy objects, and basically anything that could create too much stress on the body.

Do Some Grocery Shopping

The team at the dental clinic will tell you that soft foods are a good idea for a day or so. That means stocking up on foods that require little to no chewing. Fortunately, there are plenty of foods that you can purchase that do not need a lot of preparation. The list provided by the dental team will give you plenty of ideas of how to plan those meals for the days after the root canal.

Make a Trip to the Pharmacy

How painful is root canal treatment? Some people experience very little pain. The dental team can provide you with a prescription for pain and maybe even some oral antibiotics to take for the first few days. If you don’t feel the pain medication is needed, the dentist can also recommend over the counter products that you can use instead. Remember to stick with that list, since some over the counter products could thin the blood or otherwise complicate the healing.

Arrange Transportation To and From the Procedure

You can rest assured that none of the root canal treatment steps will get underway until the staff verifies that someone is there to drive you home. Ask a friend or other loved one to go with you, ensure you get home safely, and maybe even stay with you for a couple of hours. By then, the sedation will be wearing off and you can function well enough to take care of yourself. Keep in mind that driving is still out of the question for the rest of the day.

Plan on Taking It Easy the Rest of the Day

The hours after the root canal is the perfect time to rest. Use the time to nap, listen to music, watch a movie, or read a book once the sedation wears off. See this as a chance to enjoy some of the down time that always seems to elude you.

Remember to gargle and rinse every few hours. You also want to take any medication provided by the dentist as directed. Doing so will help to prevent bacteria from building up and possibly causing a problem around the base of the tooth.

Your activities will be restricted in the next few days, but the day of the procedure is when you need to remain relatively passive. Once you’ve passed the 24-hour period, you can begin the process of incrementally getting back into your regular routine.

Avoid Certain Activities For Two or Three Days

What activities will be restricted in the days ahead? Don’t lift anything heavier than a pitcher of liquid for the first day. Carrying heavier objects is something that will have to wait for a time. Many housecleaning tasks, especially ones that require you to bend over will have to wait for a few days. If you work out regularly, the trips to the gym are off limits for a time. You can walk and ride a bike if you feel the need for some fresh air or want to work your muscles a little.

Remember that restricting your activities is designed to avoid root canal treatment side effects that would slow your recovery. If you are thinking of doing anything in particular that might cause complications, put if off until your dentist agrees that you can resume all of your usual activities.

Remember that the preparations you make in advance will ensure the day of the procedure goes much smoother. There will be less to tempt you to overdo it in the hours after the root canal, and there will be plenty to occupy your time while the recovery progresses. At times, it may seem as if you are being a little too careful, but don’t attempt to do more than the dental team recommends. In the long run, taking it easy and allowing your mouth to heal will be the best thing that you could do.

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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