In 2002 my dentist at the time did a root canal on a top right molar. Within the past 3 months, the tooth is sometimes so sore that the pain is almost unbearable. I’ve been taking a lot of ibuprofen to try to control the pain. I took a close look at the tooth, and outside of it on the gum, there is a small sore with yellow pus that comes out of it. I only notice the pus when I feel the intense pain in the tooth. The tooth already had a root canal on it. I’m afraid that it will need to be extracted, and I’ll need a dental implant. I’ve switched dentists 3 times since I moved to GA, so I’m a little concerned about letting this new practice work on my tooth. Depending on which day of the week I have an appointment, I might see a different dentist. What are my options? Thank you! Lydia from GA
You’re experiencing root canal failure. The treatment can fail within months or years after the initial treatment. Five to fifteen percent of root canal treatments fail. What are the causes?
Causes of Root Canal Failure
Causes of root canal failure vary. Some reasons are listed below.
- Incomplete cleaning – Narrow or curved canals can be complicated for a dentist to access, but if the infection isn’t completely removed, root canal treatment can fail.
- Undetected canals – Sometimes, the channels in a tooth are uncomplicated, or a dentist might not see an additional canal. Undetected canals are still infected.
- Improper restoration – If a patient or dentist delays restoring a tooth after root canal treatment, saliva and bacteria can leak in and infect it. Your tooth can get infected again if your dentist doesn’t restore it correctly.
- Damaged restoration – If your filling or crown is damaged, the tooth can get infected again.
- Cracked tooth root – When a dentist doesn’t notice that a tooth root is cracked—or if the root is damaged during root canal treatment—root canal failure eventually results.
Does Root Canal Failure Always Lead to Extraction and an Implant?
If you’re hesitant about letting your current dentist diagnose and treat your tooth, we recommend that you schedule an appointment with an endodontist—a root canal specialist. The endodontist will examine your tooth and take digital x-rays. Your options might include:
- Another root canal treatment
- Root canal surgery at the root tip
- Tooth extraction and a dental implant
Don’t give up quickly if the specialist offers to try saving your tooth. Dr. Finley recommends saving a natural tooth and restoring it whenever possible.
David Finley, DDS of Bayou Dental Group in Monroe, LA, sponsors this post.