The healing period after a root canal procedure isn't what most would describe as fun, but it's critical to follow your dentist's aftercare instructions to protect your sensitive, restored tooth. This includes careful food choices during your recovery. Check out these guidelines on what to eat after a root canal and what foods you should avoid.
Root Canal Treatment
Dentists recommend root canal treatment when bacteria have invaded and infected the pulp inside a tooth. According to the National Health Service, the infection may cause tooth pain, swelling in the face and gums and, eventually, tooth discoloration. To cure the infection, your dentist will remove the bacteria and decayed parts of the tooth, fill the tooth with a dental material and then restore the tooth with a dental filling or crown. In the hours after the procedure and the following days, you can help ensure the best outcome by only eating foods that won't damage your dental restoration or cause tooth sensitivity.
What to Eat After a Root Canal
Soft foods are the best choice after a root canal to avoid irritating the sensitive area. You should wait to eat until the anesthetic has worn off, according to the American Association of Endodontists (AAE). This ensures that you don't accidentally bite the inside of your mouth.
Some soft foods suggested by the American Dental Association for patients recovering from dental treatment include:
Oatmeal or cream of wheat made with milk to provide more nutrients
Lukewarm vegetable soup, either pureed or containing soft vegetables
Meatloaf, scrambled eggs or an omelet for protein
Mashed bananas as a healthy snack
Avocado or tofu for a soft, savory snack
Pasta or other kinds of noodles if you need something filling
What Not to Eat After a Root Canal
Avoid sticky and hard foods after a root canal, as these may pull the temporary crown off your tooth or crack the restoration. The University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry explains that chewing sticky foods can dislodge a temporary crown. Further, the National Institutes of Health notes that hard candy and ice can chip a porcelain crown. If your tooth still has some nerves after the root canal, it may be particularly tender and sensitive, so it's important to keep your food and drinks at a mild temperature.
Here are some foods to avoid:
Taffy, gum and candy, as these are sticky and can displace the crown
Hard candies, which could chip your new restoration
Ice cubes, which may cause sensitivity and be too hard and too cold for a restored tooth
Hot soup, as the extreme temperature could cause discomfort when it contacts your sensitive tooth
Overly cold or hot beverages, which can trigger sensitivity around your restored tooth
Root Canal Treatment Aftercare
Sensitivity after a root canal treatment can last several days, according to the AAE, but you can help avoid problems by following your dentist's aftercare guidelines. If your gums are tender, your dentist might suggest you take an over-the-counter pain medication or rinse with warm salt water, according to the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry. You should also continue to brush twice a day and floss once a day as normal — but be careful flossing around the treated tooth and refrain from pulling the floss upward near the crown.
It's worth enduring a little discomfort and inconvenience in order to have a healthy, fully restored tooth. To prevent damaging the filling or crown your dentist uses to restore your tooth, be sure to follow these guidelines and eat foods that don't put pressure on the tooth or stick to it. Your smile — and your dentist — will thank you.