Post-Op Instructions for Root Canal


Today, Dr. Shufflebarger performed an endodontic procedure called a root canal on your tooth.  Endodontics is also known as Root Canal Therapy and is a procedure that is done on a tooth that needs its nerve (inside the tooth nerve canal and pulp) removed and cleaned out.   Small instruments were used to mechanically and chemically clean and disinfect the inside of the tooth. This procedure is generally done due to decay that has reached the nerve (pulp) or trauma that has caused the nerve (pulp) to die. 

Dr. Shufflebarger discussed with you the prognosis of your procedure specifically.  However, although we know that root canal therapy may keep the tooth in your mouth for a while, it is typically not a permanent fix. Depending on the length of time that the tooth will still be in service the tooth may end up needing an extraction. Failure of root canal teeth can happen and typically is an issue of the tooth becoming reinfected, cracking, or recurrent decay (cavity).  We understand more about root canals now than we have in the past, knowing it is impossible to fully sterilize the inside of the tooth and canal.  Root canal therapy is making every attempt to disinfect the tooth as best as possible.  Sterilization of all bacteria inside the tooth is likely impossible and recurrent infection is probable due to roughly 20,000 tiny hollow tubules per mm² of dentin inside your tooth.  As discussed with you at your appointment, it is important to understand that in general a root canal is a last attempt to save a tooth.  Despite every attempt to sterilize the tooth and complete the root canal today, you may still experience symptoms and/or ultimately need an extraction of the tooth.  Should symptoms continue or the condition of the tooth worsen a follow up appointment may be warranted.

Temporary Filling Placed: A temporary filling was placed on your tooth after completion of the root canal.  The purpose of the filling is to plug the access hole that was used to complete the root canal.  This filling is only temporary and could last a day or up to a couple of weeks.  It is not intended to be a permanent filling and it is important that you understand you should immediately see your dentist to have a permanent restoration of either a crown or a permanent filling.  We need this filling material to stay in your tooth until your Dentist completes the final restoration.  To maintain the filling as long as possible, avoid sticky foods and candies, and try to chew on the opposite side of your mouth.

Final Restoration Needed:  As indicated, when the root canal was completed, only a temporary filling was placed.  You need to immediately contact your Dentist to have a final restoration placed.  A final restoration is usually a crown but in some circumstances such as a front tooth it could be a permanent filling.  You need to discuss your options with your Dentist. All root canals need a final restoration and are not considered complete until this has been accomplished.  Upon completion of a root canal, the nerve is removed from the tooth and the tooth is now dead, rendering the potential for the tooth to become brittle and break.  A root canal will not last without the permanent restoration with your Dentist.  Please contact your Dentist right away to have the restoration performed and achieve your best prognosis for your tooth. 

Prognosis:  At your appointment, Dr. Shufflebarger discussed your prognosis and odds of success with you.  This varies per patient and is dependent upon the state of your tooth at the time of the procedure.  If a poor prognosis was given or if Dr. Shufflebarger advised for you to delay the final restoration please make sure to follow his specific instructions and not apply the instructions given above.  Although the information contained herein is typical of all root canal therapy procedures, please keep in mind that your specific circumstance may warrant different instructions or that you were provided specific instructions to follow based upon your tooth’s condition.  Please make sure to follow the specific instructions given to you by Dr. Shufflebarger and staff should there be any conflicting information.  When in doubt, please make sure to contact the office for clarification.  It is our goal to make sure we achieve the best outcome for you.

Anesthetics: The length of time you experience numbness varies depending on the type of anesthetic you’ve received. While your mouth is numb, you’ll want to be careful not to bite your cheek, lip or tongue. The numbness should subside within several hours.  In some instances, your soft tissue surrounding the tooth we treated can be irritated from the injection and/or the instruments used during the procedure.  Salt water rinsing assists with soothing and healing the tissues. 

Rinsing: If you experience any discomfort with your gum tissue, it is recommended that you gently rinse your mouth with warm salt water (half a teaspoon of salt in an 8 oz. glass of warm water).  Rinsing is recommended for 1-2 weeks after your procedure and should be done 5 times per day and especially after you eat.  Rinsing with salt water helps to heal and cleanse your soft tissues.  Avoid using any other mouth rinses, mouthwash or other products during this healing period.  The use of anything other than salt water after your procedure can result in severe irritation of the site, prevention of healing, or potential recurrence.  Salt water is the only advised product to be used after your procedure. 

Diet:  Avoiding sticky foods and candies will assist with maintaining your temporary filling.  There are no restrictions on food or drinks after a root canal other than eliminating any items that could result in removal of the temporary filling. 

Discomfort: Occasionally after root canal therapy, it can be accompanied by some degree of discomfort. You may have been given prescription medication or suggested over the counter medications to control pain. Use it only as Dr. Shufflebarger has directed. If the medication prescribed does not seem to work for you, do not increase the dosage. If you have prolonged or severe pain, swelling, bleeding, or fever, call the office immediately. We will give you instruction on how to care for your problem.

THANK YOU FOR ALLOWING US TO ASSIST YOU WITH YOUR NEEDED ENDODONTIC CARE It is our desire that your recovery be as smooth and pleasant as possible. Following these instructions will assist you, but if you have questions about your progress, please call the office. If possible, calling during office hours will afford a faster response to your question or concern.  We are willing and will always offer post-procedure care to make sure you are healing properly and can address any concerns you may have.  We hope your symptoms are resolved and the remainder of the root canal process is smooth. Please contact the office (937-532-5693) if you need assistance.