Hamilton Mountain Dental Group

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Two dental professionals operate on a patient seated in a dental chair, performing a root canal procedure with various dental instruments and wearing protective masks and gloves.

How Long Does a Root Canal Take to Heal

posted May 24, 2024

A root canal is a fairly common dental procedure that’s aimed at saving a severely infected tooth root. Although the procedure has a bad reputation, it shouldn’t cause extreme pain, and will, in fact, alleviate the pain caused by an infected tooth root. The length of the healing period will depend on a few factors. It’s important to be aware of these factors, as well as what to expect from the healing process, to help promote a successful result.

Purpose of Root Canal Treatments

Root canal treatments are necessary when the pulp, or the innermost tissue in the tooth root canals, which contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissues, becomes infected or damaged due to deep decay, repeated dental procedures, or traumatic injury. If left untreated, the infection can spread, leading to abscesses, bone loss, and extreme pain.

The infected or damaged pulp is removed, and the tooth root canal system is cleaned, disinfected, and sealed to prevent further infection. 

Process 

During a root canal, the dentist or endodontist numbs the area before accessing the tooth’s interior through a small opening in the crown. Instruments are used to remove the infected pulp and shape the root canal to clean it out. The root canal is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected to eliminate bacteria and prevent reinfection.

If a second treatment is required, a temporary filling seals the area until this next treatment. Once the root canal is fully cleaned and shaped, it’s filled with a biocompatible material, usually gutta-percha, to seal the space and prevent bacteria from re-entering.

A crown is often placed on the tooth to strengthen the treated tooth.

Healing and Recovery

Following a root canal procedure, it’s normal to experience some degree of pain and discomfort, although there is some variation based on the patient. Immediately after the procedure, mild to moderate discomfort is common, because of residual inflammation and tissue irritation from the treatment. This pain is typically manageable with over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. This should only last a couple of days; during this time, follow your dentist’s instructions for pain management. You can also ease swelling and discomfort by applying ice packs to your jaw. 

Although the intensity and length of your discomfort will vary based on the severity of the infection and individual factors, it should gradually decrease with time, and be gone by about a week. If you are experiencing persistent or severe pain beyond this, contact your dentist, as it may be a symptom of an issue.

Factors Influencing The Healing Process

Severity of Infection

The extent of the infection and inflammation impacts the healing timeline. Complex cases with extensive decay and infection need more thorough treatment and may require multiple sessions to fully clean out the root canal. These severe cases will have a longer recovery time.

Tooth Location

The position of the affected tooth within the mouth also plays a role in the healing process. The molars in the back face greater chewing forces. As a result, they may experience additional challenges and require more time to heal.

Patient Health

Certain health conditions, such as diabetes or autoimmune disorders, can compromise the body’s ability to fight infection and impede the healing process. Similarly, certain medications can impact recovery. 

Smoking and alcohol use can also impede the healing process and increase the likelihood of complications; it’s recommended to avoid both of these until you are fully healed to avoid extending the recovery period.

Following Post-Treatment Care Instructions

Strictly following your post-treatment care instructions from your dentist is essential to avoid problems that can impede your healing progress and increase the risk of complications.

Follow all instructions provided by your dentist carefully. Maintain excellent oral hygiene by brushing and flossing regularly to prevent bacterial buildup and infection. Refrain from chewing on the treated tooth until fully restored, to prevent damage or movement of the filling material or crown. Your instructions may also include medication schedules and dietary restrictions. 

Attend scheduled follow-up appointments with your dentist to monitor healing progress and address any concerns promptly.

A dental x-ray reveals a tooth with a highlighted red area, indicating probable inflammation or infection near the root canal. Understanding the extent of damage helps in estimating the healing time required after any necessary dental procedure.

Symptoms of Issues

Complications are rare; however, you should still watch for symptoms which may indicate you should follow up with your dentist. While some discomfort and mild swelling are common after a root canal, certain situations may indicate an issue, and will delay your healing process.

Intense or worsening pain beyond the initial healing period may indicate an incomplete root canal or persistent infection. General swelling that doesn’t ease or actively increases, swollen gums, or pimple-like lumps on the gums may be signs of an abscess or other infection. 

Sensitivity to pressure or temperature that persists beyond a few days is a symptom of complications, too. A darkened or discoloured tooth could indicate uncleared pulp or infection; however, some darkening may be normal. In rare cases, a root canal-treated tooth may become loose because of damage to the supporting tissues. Finally, a persistent, foul taste or bad breath are symptoms of infection.

Hamilton Mountain Dental Clinic offers root canal therapy. If you have severe pain in a tooth or signs of infection in the area, a root canal may be necessary. Don’t delay treatment, as this will allow your condition to worsen, whereas, with prompt care, your pain can be alleviated.

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