Warning Signs of a Failed Root Canal

IN RARE CASES, endodontic treatment on a tooth can fail and require retreatment. We want to make sure...

IN RARE CASES, endodontic treatment on a tooth can fail and require retreatment. We want to make sure our patients are familiar with the signs of treatment failure and how they differ from normal recovery because it’s always better to address a dental problem sooner rather than later.

Recognize the Symptoms of Root Canal Failure

While the symptoms on this list are common in root canal failure, be careful not to jump to conclusions because they can also be symptoms of other problems. You won’t need to worry about the tooth that received treatment unless you’re exhibiting most or all of these symptoms:

  • Tenderness or pain in the tooth when applying pressure, even after recovering from treatment.
  • Swelling after recovery or pimple-like structures developing and leaking pus in the area.
  • Temperature sensitivity, such as a quick, sharp pain after taking a sip of hot coffee or cold soda.
  • Discoloration from inside the tooth (which might only require internal bleaching to fix but could indicate something more serious).
  • Persistent pain in the treated tooth, particularly after the recovery period, and doubly so if it’s getting worse over time.

This is advice for sensitivity after a filling, but it can be helpful after a root canal too:

What Can Make a Root Canal Fail?

The purpose of root canal therapy is to preserve a tooth that has been infected. If all traces of that infection are not removed and it is able to reestablish itself, the root canal can fail. At this point, there’s no choice but to repeat the procedure. A number of things could cause the root canal to fail:

  • Poor sanitation. For a root canal to be successful, the area where the procedure takes place needs to be clean and sterile, and saliva must be prevented from entering the treatment site.
  • A missed nerve. Endodontists are very thorough in treating an infected tooth, but sometimes in the very tiny space of the inside of the tooth, some of the pulp, including nerves, can get left behind.
  • Crack or fissure. A crack in a tooth can cause serious problems, and the roots of a tooth may be more fragile and prone to cracking after treatment.
  • Broken root tip. A root tip can become separated from the rest of the tooth and start to rot. This is a serious complication that may necessitate extracting the tooth even after all that work to save it.
  • Soft sealant. In some cases, a failed root canal may come from the sealant used to fill the space inside the tooth. If it doesn’t harden fast enough, it could let bacteria back into the tooth.

In the Event of Root Canal Failure

The first thing to do if you’re worried your root canal might be failing is to contact the endodontist or dentist who performed the original root canal. A failed root canal could be grounds for switching to a different practice but it can happen through no fault of the doctor in some cases. Next, it’s time to schedule retreatment, which doesn’t always require surgery. Don’t let symptoms like the ones described above go unaddressed! Acting quickly could be the difference between saving the tooth and extracting it!

We love saving teeth, even from failed root canals!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
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