Can You Eat After a Root Canal?

Reviewed on 2/23/2022
Dental model showing an infected tooth
People are usually very sore after having a root canal procedure done. You will be able to eat about 30 to 45 minutes after a root canal, after the temporary filling has fully hardened. Waiting to eat until after the anesthetic has worn off can help prevent biting the inside of the cheek or tongue.

After a root canal, a tooth may be sensitive for a few days and patients will need to avoid chewing with the treated tooth until the final restoration is placed.

Patients can eat about 30 to 45 minutes after a root canal, after the temporary filling has fully hardened, but it is recommended to wait to eat until after the anesthetic has worn off to avoid the risk of biting the cheek or tongue. 

Most patients can eat soft foods following a root canal without any problems as long as they don’t chew or bite down with the treated tooth. 

Patients should be careful to avoid damaging the temporary filling when eating. In addition, the tooth may be sensitive or sore, so it’s important to avoid foods that could aggravate it. 

5 Foods to Avoid After Root Canal

Right after a root canal, avoid eating:

  • Very hot or cold foods and beverages
  • Sticky foods like gum and candy
  • Crunchy foods such as pretzels and chips
  • Chewy foods such as crusty breads or some meats
  • Hard foods such as nuts

Once the permanent crown or restoration is complete, patients can usually return to a normal diet soon afterwards.

What Is a Root Canal?

A root canal is a type of dental treatment used to eliminate bacteria from an infected root of a tooth. 

The top layers of the tooth are hard layers called enamel and dentin, and within those layers is soft tissue called pulp that contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. The pulp helps the roots of teeth grow during their development, but fully developed teeth can exist without the pulp because surrounding tissues provide teeth the nourishment they require.

In a root canal, inflamed or infected pulp is removed and the inside of the tooth is cleaned and disinfected, then filled and sealed.

What Is a Root Canal Procedure Used For?

Root canals are used to save a tooth that is infected or decayed due to: 

  • Cracked teeth that result from injury or genetics
  • Deep cavities
  • Issues from previous fillings

Symptoms that may indicate the need for a root canal include:

  • Lingering tooth sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures
  • Severe pain while chewing or biting
  • Chipped or cracked tooth
  • Swollen or tender gums
  • Pimples on the gums
  • Deep decay or darkening of the gums

How Do Doctors Perform a Root Canal?

A root canal treatment is usually completed in one or two appointments, depending on the condition of the patient’s tooth. 

The procedure involves the following steps:

  • X-rays are taken of the tooth
  • Local anesthetic is administered to numb the area so patients will not experience pain during the procedure
  • A “dental dam” is placed over the area to isolate the tooth and keep it clean and free of saliva during the procedure
  • An opening is made in the crown of the tooth and tiny instruments clean the pulp from the pulp chamber and root canals and to shape the space for filling
  • Once the space is cleaned and shaped, the root canal is filled with a biocompatible material (usually a rubber-like material called gutta-percha) that is placed with an adhesive cement to ensure complete sealing of the root canals
  • A temporary filling is usually placed to close the opening, which will be removed before the tooth is restored
  • After the final appointment, the dentist will place a crown or other restoration on the tooth to protect and restore it to full function

The first appointment is the procedure in which the infected pulp is removed, and the second (and sometimes third) appointment is when the root canal is cleaned and filled. Appointments last about 90 minutes each. 

Following a root canal, patients generally experience some soreness, discomfort, tooth sensitivity, or swelling for up to a few days. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers are usually sufficient to relieve any discomfort. 

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Reviewed on 2/23/2022