Root Canal (cont.)

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Is there pain associated with getting a root canal?

Most of the time, people will say that a root canal doesn't hurt any more than getting a simple filling, and they should be able to return to their normal activities immediately. Since a person needing a root canal is often already in extreme pain, the root canal treatment actually provides relief from pain and recovery is very minimal. When the anesthesia wears off, the gums around the tooth will be sore from the rubber dam clamp, and it may feel a little sore when chewing with that tooth -- especially if the tooth was abscessed prior to treatment. Even though the nerve is no longer inside the tooth, there are still nerve endings around the outside of the tooth that may be inflamed as a result of an abscess or the root canal treatment itself. It is best to try chewing on the opposite side of the mouth for a few days following the root canal to give the bone and tissues around the tooth time to calm down.

Any pain or discomfort can be controlled by taking ibuprofen or another over-the-counter pain medication when appropriate. Ibuprofen should not be used by persons taking certain blood thinners or those with kidney disease or stomach ulcers. A person who is experiencing extreme pain following a root canal that isn't getting better after a few days should return to the treating dentist immediately for further evaluation.

Are there special considerations for getting a root canal during pregnancy?

Since a root canal is often necessary because a person has a tooth that is either causing extreme pain or is infected, it is best to get root canal treatment immediately, even if the person is pregnant. Untreated pain will produce too much stress and an abscess could critically endanger the health of the mother and developing baby. If it is possible to plan the timing of the root canal treatment, the second trimester is generally the safest time for dental procedures.

X-rays must be taken during the procedure, so it is imperative that a lead apron is used to protect the mother and baby. Tetracycline must be avoided as an antibiotic, as it can affect the baby's development.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/9/2013

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