How to Prepare for a Root Canal

root canal thousand oaks

If you’ve just found out you need a root canal, you’re not alone: over 41,000 root canals are performed each day, making it a very common dental procedure.

But how should you prepare for one, and what can you expect? Aren’t root canals scary?

The good news is thanks to modern dental technology, many patients who have a root canal will tell you that the experience is not that much different than having a routine filling done.

However, there are certain steps you can take before and after your appointment to ensure your mouth heals as quickly as possible. Here are some tips on how to prepare for a root canal.

Try To Get Some Rest

Although it may be challenging to sleep when you’re in pain or nervous, getting adequate rest the night before your root canal appointment will help you feel better and boost your body’s immune system. If you’re experiencing pain, try taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain medicine that contains ibuprofen. Sleep with an extra pillow or two so your head is slightly elevated; this can help minimize any swelling.

Stop Smoking

Tobacco products can slow down your blood circulation which is needed following any kind of medical procedure to help assist with healing. So it’s a good idea to stop smoking or using any tobacco products for at least a few days before and after your root canal procedure. Your body will be able to better heal without the hindrance of nicotine in the bloodstream.

Stay Nourished and Hydrated

You may not feel like eating if you have an infected and painful tooth, but it’s important to try to eat a nutritious meal before your appointment. For starters, it will help keep your blood sugar level stable throughout the day and prevent you from feeling faint. Your body also needs vitamins and minerals so your mouth will heal quickly after the procedure.

If it’s difficult to chew food, try consuming soup or soft foods such as scrambled eggs, yogurt, or macaroni and cheese. It’s a good idea to stock up on these foods so you have something comfortable to eat following the appointment, when your mouth still may be a little sore.

Drink water before the procedure to keep your body hydrated.

What to Expect During a Root Canal

Knowing more about root canal treatment and what to expect can help alleviate some of your concerns. A root canal involves removing any decayed and infected areas from a tooth to alleviate pain and restore the tooth’s strength and function again. It’s not that much different than a routine filling, except a greater portion of the tooth is removed and filled.

Chances are you need a root canal because you have a cavity that has gotten so deep it has reached the pulp of the tooth and is now causing pain. Or the tooth may have experienced trauma and needs a root canal to be saved. Either way, a root canal procedure helps you keep teeth that would otherwise have to be extracted and eventually replaced with a dental implant.

At your appointment, your dentist will give you a local anesthetic to numb the affected tooth and the area of the mouth where it’s located. Here at Newbury Dental Group, we also offer our patients sedation dentistry so that you’ll feel relaxed and less anxious during the procedure.

The dentist then removes all decay and the infected pulp. Then they’ll use special files to clean out the roots of the tooth. Once it’s completely cleaned and disinfected, the tooth will be filled with a rubbery material called gutta-percha.

At a follow-up appointment, you’ll be fitted for a crown. This final step is necessary to restore the tooth’s strength so you can chew with it again. As your natural tooth may become discolored following a root canal, a crown also helps it blend in with the rest of your smile.

The entire procedure usually takes about one to two hours depending upon the tooth’s location and root system it has.

What To Do Following a Root Canal

It’s normal to experience some discomfort following a root canal after the numbing anesthetic wears off. Your dentist will prescribe you antibiotics to help completely wipe out any infection and any special instructions for at-home care. Generally, the following tips can help you feel like your old self after a root canal in no time.

Don’t Exert Yourself

Lifting heavy weights or performing another strenuous exercise can get the heart beating fast and prolong any swelling in your mouth. It’s best to take it easy for a day or two following a root canal. If you want to exercise, do something gentle such as a walk around the neighborhood or yoga poses.


If you weren’t getting much sleep because of pain or discomfort, now is a good excuse to catch up on your rest. As previously mentioned, getting enough sleep will help give your body’s immune system a boost. This can help your mouth heal faster.

Take Care Chewing

Your tooth may still be a little sore and irritated for a few days following a root canal, especially if an infection was present. Try chewing food on the opposite side of your mouth until the discomfort completely goes away.

Of course, you still want to practice your daily oral care habits such as brushing and flossing your teeth every day.

Take Your Antibiotics and Pain Medicine

Be sure to take all of your antibiotics as directed to ensure your infection completely goes away. Your dentist may also prescribe a pain killer for you, or you can take an over-the-counter brand. Apply ice wrapped in a towel to your mouth as needed to help bring any lingering swelling down.

Know How to Prepare For a Root Canal

Knowledge is power, and knowing what to expect during your root canal and how to prepare for it can definitely help you feel less nervous about your appointment.

Here at Newbury Dental Group, we specialize in comfortable root canal treatment for our patients in a friendly environment. If a tooth is bothering you and you think you may need a root canal or you’re just looking for a new family dentist, contact us to make an appointment.


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