Recovering After An Apicoectomy

Posted on: 10 November 2015

If you're lucky in life, you'll have probably never heard of an apicoectomy - however, to a small proportion of root canal treatment patients, apicoectomies are all too familiar. This surgical procedure is undertaken when a tooth that has previously undergone root canal treatment becomes infected again. Although the procedure involves small incisions and is minimally invasive, it can have a particularly painful recovery period, so it's important do do everything you can to speed your own recovery and healing after an apicoectomy.

What are apicoectomies?

In short, an apicoectomy is the removal of the tip of one or more infected tooth roots, along with removal of any infected gum tissue in the area. It differs from a root canal treatment or retreatment in that the roots are accessed from the outside, through the gum line, rather than from the inside through the tooth. As such, the procedure involves surgical incisions, which necessitate a longer healing period than more routine dental treatments. This is exacerbated by the circumstances of the apicoectomy - since the tooth and surrounding gums have already undergone one or more root canal treatments, scar tissue and weakened immune response can further lengthen recovery time and increase the likelihood of developing complications.

How can I make the recovery period quicker and easier?

Once the surgery is completed, you're likely to be left with a nasty, stitched-up incision and a lot of pain. In most cases, your dentist and/or oral surgeon will provide you with analgesic medications for the pain (usually non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen) and antibiotics to clear up any remaining pockets of infection. However, you can supplement the beneficial effects of these medications yourself with a few simple steps:

  • Swelling after an apicoectomy is generally severe and painful, and you may find it difficult to eat or drink. Applying a cold pack to the outside of the mouth (not directly onto the incision) can reduce this swelling and temporarily numb pain. You may notice that swelling increases a day or two after surgery - don't worry, this is normal.
  • You should avoid aggravating the surgery site any more than is necessary, so you should avoid hard, crunchy foods. This includes ice, which some people like to chew to numb oral pain. You should also switch to a soft-bristled brush, if you don't already use one, and take special care when brushing around the affected area. Avoid lifting your lip to make this easier or to inspect the wound, as this can damage or tear the stitches.
  • You may find flossing too painful in the days and weeks after an apicoectomy. Try switching to an interdental brush, which places less pressure on swollen gums. Be careful not to disturb any scabs or blood clots, as they are a necessary part of the healing process and can bleed heavily if disturbed.

For more information, talk to your dentist or oral surgeon