What to Expect After a Root Canal

So you’ve had your root canal. It wasn’t that bad was it? Now you want to know what to expect after a root canal.

Expect some mild pain

mild pain

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You need to know that the tooth will likely hurt for a few days after each root canal appointment and that you should avoid eating on the tooth until the pain from the tooth has gone away. It is a good idea to take over the counter pain medications like tylenol and/or advil immediately after each root canal appointment before the dental anaesthetic used by the dentist runs out. It is much easier to control pain before it sets in than waiting for it and then taking pain relief.

The tooth will be weak

There has been a lot of tooth structure removed during the root canal procedure. This means the tooth is not as strong as it was and is prone to breaking. This usually doesn’t matter if the root canal treated tooth is towards the front of the mouth where the chewing forces aren’t so high. If the tooth is towards the back of the mouth where the chewing forces are very high, then you would be wise to get the tooth crowned to strengthen it, preventing the tooth from breaking. A crown is a very strong dental material that ifits over the tooth, bear hugging the tooth, preventing the tooth from breaking.

You may need to get the tooth crowned


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The dentist will likely want to wait for a while before crowning the tooth because sometimes the root canal doesn’t work and the dentist will need to go back into the tooth to repeat the treatment. Doing a root canal is more difficult after the tooth has been crowned and the crown will also be damaged because it will have to be cut into to access the root canals again. Better to wait a month or two to be confident the root canal has worked before crowning the tooth!

Sometimes the root canal can fail

On the subject of root canals not working, as I have said in my last article, a root canal has a very high success rate, but it is not 100%. If a root canal is to fail, it most likely will do so in the first couple of months, but it can fail up to five years later. Nobody really knows exactly why a root canal fails, but we do know that a root canal is more likely to fail if it has been unsuccessfully root canal treated before, the tooth was not alive when the root canal was started, and when the tooth isn’t crowned for more than a few months after the root canal was finished.

Sometimes when the root canal fails it is obvious because the tooth may become painful to bite on again a few weeks to months or even years after the root canal. If you develop severe pain after the appointment, you should go back to the dentist as there may be another problem. Other times there are no symptoms, but the dentist may pick up on a painless abscess developing from the tooth on  a follow up appointment.

What are the options if the root canal fails?

If the root canal fails, you can get it retreated. The success rate is about 50:50 for a retreat. Another option may be to go to an oral surgeon and get a surgical procedure called an apicoectomy. An apicoectomy has a success rate of about 70% . Another increasingly popular option with dental implants being placed more and more is to get the tooth extracted and then get an implant placed where the tooth was. An implant is successful between 90 and 100% of the time.


Fortunately, a root canal does work most of the time. After a root canal treatment you can expect to be out of the severe pain you were in before you had the treatment performed (assuming you were in pain from the tooth before the procedure). After a few days to a week any pain from the tooth should be mostly or even totally gone. The tooth can take a few months sometimes to completely settle down. The tooth may need to be crowned after the root canalto strengthen the tooth and prevent it breaking. You can expect the root canal treated tooth to last for a very long time; almost as long as a healthy tooth in fact.

If you have any questions about root canals or any of the information presented in this article or if you would like to share your own experiences, please do so in the comments section.







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One thought on “What to Expect After a Root Canal

  1. Jeff Madison

    I appreciate your tip on getting a crown after a root canal on a tooth toward the back of your mouth. It seems that with all the chewing you do in the back of your mouth you would probably need something to strengthen a tooth. My wife is going in to get a root canal soon, when she does we’ll have to see about getting a crown after.


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