A root canal isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time, but the process is far more bearable than it used to be. A root canal is a procedure that can save the life of an infected tooth and stop the spread of contaminated oral bacteria.
In a standard root canal, a dentist drills a small incision through the crown of an infected tooth. They then use extremely small dental instruments to clean out the diseased matter from the pulp chamber, they reshape the chamber and root canal, and proceed to filling in the tooth.
A root canal involves the positioning of a foreign object into a small space surrounded by gum tissue and nerve endings. Working on these extremely sensitive parts of the mouth is what makes a root canal so painful. Although the dentist takes every measure to reduce a patient’s pain during a root canal, it can still hurt for a brief time after.
Bring the pain
Anesthetics are much more powerful than they were in years past, and dentists use local anesthesia to numb the pain their patients would otherwise feel during the procedure.
Of course, anesthesia wears off. As it does, a root canal patient typically starts feeling mild discomfort in the mouth after the operation is over. This is something of a delayed reaction to the contact with sensitive gums and nerves from when the dentist cleared out the decayed pulp.
Most of the time, this post-op pain is mild. It’s also mercifully brief, usually lasting no more than a few days, if that long. But even temporary discomfort is too much for many patients to bear. Thankfully, there are a few ways to mitigate the pain associated with a recent root canal.
Over-the-counter medications. Widely available, non-prescription medications are often all a recovering root canal patient needs to get through the painful aftermath. You may already have bottles of acetaminophen or ibuprofen already in your house. Most of the time a few doses of Advil, Tylenol, Motrin IB, or other pain reliever brands will do the trick. As with all medicine, check with your doctor to ensure that these over-the-counter medications are safe for you to use.
Avoid hard foods. Chewing on crunchy or tough foods — crusty breads, hard candies, chewing gum, caramels, and so forth — can intensify the pain after a root canal. They should be completely avoided for a few hours immediately after the procedure, and even longer if your pain persists.
Try stress-relieving techniques. Pain management is a great side benefit of some of the more well-known and popular stress relieving methods, such as yoga, meditation, tai chi, dance, or physical exercise. Doing these physical or relaxing activities in the few days after your root canal can take the edge off any pain or discomfort you experience.
Talk to your dentist if you’re still in pain. If your pain doesn’t go away, or if you experience continued inflammation after your root canal, call your dentist to get further advice or treatment. Root canals that take two sessions are quite common, so it may be necessary to schedule an additional dental visit.
Many people have certain anxieties around dental work, especially when it comes to intense procedures such as tooth pulling. Though a dental extraction may not necessarily be an enjoyable experience, it usually helps to know exactly what is being done and what to expect.
Tooth extraction can be deemed necessary for a patient due to a variety of different factors, usually relating to advanced decay or breakage in teeth caused by an external force. Most people imagine dental extraction as the simple removal of teeth, but tooth pulling is not the only form of dental extraction; in fact, there are three common methods that are used for different needs.
Simple extraction. This is the most well-known and commonly performed type of dental extraction. Simple extraction is what most people think of when they imagine getting a tooth pulled, as it deals with the extraction of the visible tooth as well as its root. Simple extractions are typically the product of an extremely decayed tooth with a compromised root. Dentists will typically inject a local anesthetic to numb the gum area surrounding the tooth, reducing pain for the patient. Contrary to popular belief, the tooth is not actually pulled directly from its socket, but is instead pushed deeper into the gum until the root dislodges itself from the jaw. This is the easiest type of extraction and it can typically be completed relatively quick.
Partial extraction. This refers to the removal of a tooth while leaving the root whole and undamaged within the jawbone. This method is relatively new in dental circles but is highly regarded for its positive lasting effects on tooth and jaw health. Removing teeth and their roots causes the jaw to become weakened, so a partial extraction can remove a broken or decayed tooth without harming the jaw (as long as any damage hasn’t spread to the root). Partial extractions are a great option for those planning to replace removed teeth with dental implants, as they make the implantation process go much smoother.
Surgical extraction. This form is often used as the last resort in situations where an extraction is needed but a simple or partial extraction isn’t possible. A surgical extraction refers to the surgical removal of a tooth or tooth fragment, along with the root if needed, that has sustained decay or damage below the gum line. This is the most invasive form of dental extraction, so depending on how many teeth need to be extracted, the severity of the damage or decay, and the patient’s anxiety levels, dentists will sometimes provide complete anesthesia as opposed to local anesthesia.
Simple and partial extractions are the least involved types of dental extractions and usually require the least amount of anesthetic. However, surgical extraction might be needed if the damage is out of sight or has spread to the surrounding teeth and gums. Though dental extractions may seem scary, they are usually virtually painless with anesthetic. In order to avoid needing a dental extraction, make sure to prioritize dental health and avoid external damage to your teeth and gums.
Tips for follow up and care following your LANAP procedure
Patients with moderate to severe gum disease must take strategic and dedicated steps to address the issue. One excellent treatment option is the LANAP procedure. The Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure is a specialized periodontal regeneration protocol approved by the FDA (and supported by related studies and clinical results) to help create genuine regeneration of gum and bone tissue to its original, healthy form. This procedure uses a sensitive laser to target bacteria contributing to gum disease.
LANAP is especially beneficial for patients fearful of conventional scalpel surgery and those taking certain medications such as blood thinners.
How does LANAP work?
This innovative procedure uses light energy from a laser directed through a very tiny fiber placed between the gum and tooth. The light energy then cuts away diseased tissue and helps reduce the amount of bacteria present in gum disease. Tartar, often a culprit with inflamed and bleeding gums, is also removed from a tooth’s root surface with an ultrasonic scaler and other specialized instruments. With a clean target area, the body is free to naturally heal.
Does the LNAP Procedure hurt?
The LANAP procedure is completed as the patient is under a local anesthetic of the treated areas. This allows the dentist to precisely direct the laser, and post-procedure discomfort is typically minimal and does not last long. The dramatic increase in patient comfort makes the LANAP surgery procedure very attractive, but individuals should address the need sooner rather than later to reduce further damage to their gums, teeth and bone.
How long does it take?
Depending on the severity of the patient’s periodontal disease, LANAP treatment may be completed in one office visit or multiple visits. The estimated treatment time is reviewed with the patient. As reference, LANAP periodontal surgery of a patient’s full mouth is usually completed in two 2-hour visits.
Benefits of LANAP care
Some of the benefits of LANAP care include:
Minimally invasive allows fast recovery and healing
Less pain and discomfort during and after the procedure
No invasive cutting and stitches
Very little recovery time and many patients immediately resume their daily routines
Laser use removes bacteria with less gum inflammation and bleeding
Reduced risk of gum recession
Better chance of saving natural teeth
Excellent option for patients with other health issues including diabetes, HIV, or people taking specific medications.
What to expect after LNAP treatment
The LANAP protocol does not require a scalpel to open gum tissues and sutures to close the tissues, so the healing process is relatively simple. In fact, given LANAP’s non-invasive process, there are often far fewer side effects.
For 24 hours following treatment, patients should rest with their head elevated. The day after treatment, normal oral hygiene routines can continue on teeth not treated with the procedure. Patients may experience mild aching, throbbing, and soreness of treated areas for the first two or three days, and this discomfort can be relieved with mild pain medications. Tissue around the teeth may appear discolored and your bite may feel different, but the teeth will soon adapt. Patients cannot brush or floss their teeth for the first 10 days after treatment, and must follow a liquid or mushy diet such as mashed or baked potatoes, eggs, and broth or soft soups. Continue to avoid gum, nuts, candy, and even raw vegetables for 6-8 weeks.
Despite avoiding brushing and flossing, the entire mouth should still be kept clean with a salt-water rinse (½ teaspoon salt in 8 ounces of water) or a rinse provided by a periodontist.
As always, it is important to maintain good oral hygiene habits in order to avoid the recurrence of gum disease and to keep your mouth healthy. Oral hygiene really is the best proactive treatment to avoid dental issues in the first place.
As the gums heal, the teeth will shift, and a patient’s bite will need to be adjusted several times over the coming months. Splints are sometimes used to stabilize and immobilize the teeth, and promote healing. Plan to have your teeth cleaned every three months for at least the first year.
If swelling occurs in the treated area, an ice pack placed on the face for 15 minutes is highly effective. Remember that even after the initial 10 days following treatment, healing is not fully complete. It’s important to make smart food choices for at least a month following treatment.