If you've had a painful tooth infection, then root canal therapy can save your tooth. Your dentist will clean out the infected pulp – the living portion of the tooth – and place a filling to seal the site. Root canals are a very common procedure with good success rates; however, you should still do everything you can to make sure you heal well. If you have tooth grinding, or bruxism, you could hinder your recovery.
How Will You Know if You Have Bruxism?
While some people grind their teeth during daytime hours, many people grind their teeth while they sleep. If you aren't sure whether or not you grind your teeth, consider if you have symptoms like:
- Daytime fatigue
- Frequent headaches
- Tooth, jaw, or ear pain
- Loose-feeling teeth
- Tooth sensitivity
- TMJ pain
If you sleep with a partner, he or she may even be able to hear you grinding your teeth. A dentist can check your molars for signs of bruxism too. You may have tiny fractures on your teeth or the cusps may be flatter; your dentist can see these issues at a routine check-up.
Why is Grinding So Bad for Root Canals?
Ideally, your tooth will feel better after a root canal since the infection will be clear. Many patients are on OTC analgesics and antibiotics, which speed up recovery and relieve any swelling.
However, if you grind your teeth, you may place undue pressure on the tooth with the root canal. Not only does this cause pain, but it can break down the filling material and cause the root canal to fail. The temporary filling that your dentist will place is only supposed to last a short time, so you need to protect it before the permanent filling is placed.
If the filling material is compromised, it makes it that much easier for bacteria to seep into the canal and cause another infection.
Protect Your Root Canal
First, make sure you wear a mouthguard when you go to sleep. Second, make sure you are eating soft foods for a few days. It's easier to relax your jaws and avoid clenching if you aren't eating tough or sticky things, like nuts or gum.
Before your root canal, ask your dentist about placing a crown instead of a filling. Crowns are great because they allow you to maintain a portion of your natural tooth, but they are stronger than fillings. If you tend to grind your teeth, a crown will receive the brunt of the force and protect your tooth from fracturing.
Contact a dentist in your area for more information on root canals.