Recognize the symptoms of failed root canal
Signs & symptoms of root canal treatment failure
A root canal is easily one of the most unpleasant dental procedures. Although a good doctor can minimize the pain and discomfort, there is no way to avoid it altogether. When a root canal goes wrong, the problem becomes a lot worse. If you are dealing with this problem, and you require corrective assistance, you can get a free consultation in Los Angeles or Beverly Hills.
Before your root canal was done, your dentist probably warned you of possible complications. Once the job is completed, you will naturally feel a little bit of anxiety as you wonder whether or not the ordeal will be repeated. For those who are dealing with this sort of anxiety, we offer this list of symptoms.
Symptoms Of A Failed Root Canal
It should be noted that this is not a complete list, as such a thing would be outside the scope of this article. However, we will cover all of the most common symptoms. You should also remember not to jump to conclusions. Most of these symptoms can be caused by other problems having nothing to do with your root canal. You don’t really need to be alarmed unless you exhibit most (or all) of the following symptoms.
Tenderness Or Pain
Once you have fully recovered from the root canal procedure itself, the tooth should not remain sensitive. If you feel pain whenever pressure is applied to the tooth, something has probably gone wrong with your root canal. This problem is normally caused by an inflammation of the surrounding tissues. This inflammation is usually caused by pus and other infectious material leaking out of the tooth.
Dentists use something called a “percussion test” to check this symptom. Thankfully, this kind of thing is simple enough to perform on yourself. First, watch this video to get an idea of how it works.
As you can see, you will need to begin by examining the tooth with your finger to see if it is tender. If it isn’t tender, try biting down on a Q-tip with that tooth. If that doesn’t cause any pain or discomfort, you can take a small blunt object and gently tap the tooth. Be very careful here, and use something made of plastic rather than steel just to be on the safe side.
Once recovery is complete, the area around the affected tooth should not be swollen. If you see any swelling at all, you should immediately schedule a visit with your doctor. Infections can be serious business if they are not quickly addressed, and swelling is usually a sign of serious infection (or re-infection, in this case).
Swollen tissues will always be sensitive and tender, and may also begin to discharge pus. In some cases, an infection will develop at the root of the tooth. When it becomes large enough to reach the skin on the surface of the gums, it opens up like a large pimple and begins leaking pus into your mouth. These drainage openings are referred to as “sinus tracts.” Yes, this is disgusting, and it’s another good reason to be diligent and catch this problem early.
If you do have issues with swelling after getting a root canal work, the problem is most likely to be seen in the gums. By pressing your finger against the upper and lower gums, you can look for swollen areas (which will probably be at least a little sore) around the area of the tooth in question. Never ignore a problem of this type.
Sensitivity To Heat Or Cold
Sometimes, a failed root canal will cause a person to experience conditional sensitivity in regards to their teeth. That is to say, they will experience pain and discomfort but only under certain conditions. For instance, your tooth might light up in agony when you take a sip of hot coffee or a drink from a cold soda. Extremes of either temperature will result in a quick, sharp pain.
Not all failed root canals will exhibit this symptom, and it is usually an early sign of trouble to come. Because a root canal involves the removal of all nerves from the tooth, you should not be feeling anything at all. If you do feel sensitivity to hot or cold in that specific tooth, it means that a nerve has been missed. It is such a sure indicator that researchers will sometimes use thermal sensitivity as a test for re-infection (pulp necrosis).
In order to understand this symptom, you need to understand the root canal procedure itself. When your dentist drills into your teeth, they are removing all the nerves. The material that contains the nerves is normally called the “pulp.” If your dentist did a good job, most (if not all) of the infected pulp should have been removed.
However, there will normally be a little bit of bleeding as the corrupted tissues are ground away and removed. This blood will then seep into the filler that your dentist uses to fill the tooth. As you probably know, blood turns brown when it dries. This is why tooth discoloration is somewhat normal after a root canal treatment.
The good news is that there are many ways to deal with this problem. The obvious answer is tooth bleaching, but this method is not always effective for root canal patients. Sometimes, the filler material will be re-discolored. Still, this study found that bleaching was very effective for 80% of the root canal patients on whom it was tested.
If your dentist did a good job of removing the corrupted material without removing anything else, there should have been minimal bleeding and thus, minimal discoloration. If your dentist is really good, they may have used a special bonding agent to prevent this problem. Research has shown that a pre-coating of dentin material is effective in reducing root canal discoloration.
Pain is a normal side effect of the root canal itself, but if it continues to plague you long after the procedure is done, you should take it as a warning. There are many ways to mitigate the pain of a toothache, but this is like putting a band-aid on an infected wound. You should be especially concerned if you experience frequent pain with no apparent cause, or if the pain grows steadily worse over time.
It may put your mind at ease to know that most root canal patients do not experience this problem. According to this study, 95% of those treated did not experience lingering pain after recovering from a root canal. Researchers examined a total of 5,777 teeth. They found only 168 that exhibited long-term pain. This means only 5.3% of those studied experienced the problem of persistent pain.
Possible Causes Of A Failed Root Canal
A root canal is necessary when a tooth suffers from an infection. Thus, the entire point of the procedure is to remove all traces of that infection. In most cases where a root canal has failed, it has failed because the infection was able to somehow re-establish itself. When this happens, there is no choice but to repeat the procedure.
One of the simplest and most common causes would have to be lack of sanitation. Obviously, your dentist probably tried their best to keep everything clean and sterile. However, a root canal procedure requires that the dentist keep all saliva from entering the holes that he has created. Because saliva contains a lot of bacteria, any contamination could potentially ruin the whole operation. As you might imagine, it’s pretty hard to drill holes in someone’s teeth without allowing saliva to enter them.
The pulp of your teeth contain a certain number of nerves, and the number isn’t always consistent. Dentists will normally use X-rays to detect and map the nerves before they start the job. However, there is always the possibility that a nerve could be missed for one reason or another. Defective equipment, user error, or any number of other possibilities exist. When this happens, your situation actually isn’t all that bad. You will still have to get another root canal, but your dentist will not have to undo the earlier work.
A crack or fissure in the root of the tooth can also cause problems if it is not detected. With all the precise drilling required here, it is relatively easy for the long, thin ends of the tooth to become cracked. As you can surely imagine, this is accompanied by severe pain. Sometimes, the roots of a tooth can be curved, and this might also present a complicating factor.
When a root tip is broken, it becomes separated from the rest of the tooth and “dies.” Like anything dead, it will soon start to rot, and this will cause an infection that can be very difficult to remove. The good news is that dentists have a special tool to remove broken root tips. The bad news is that they cannot use this tool without first removing the tooth. Thus, a broken tip may force you to sacrifice the tooth that you spent so much money to try and save.
Sometimes, the issue might come from the sealant that your dentist used to fill in the space created by the drill. If the sealant does not harden quickly enough, it can cause the surrounding material to become contaminated. One of the purposes of the sealing material is to trap the bacteria and isolate them from the rest of the tooth.
In some ways, it could be compared to a thick metal coating that prevents rust by separating the good metal from the bad. If the sealant does not harden properly, or if it takes too long to do so, or if the sealing material fails to bond with the tooth, the bacteria may escape their confinement and start the whole process again. As you can see from this study, it is a very common problem indeed.
What Do I Do If My Root Canal Has Failed?
The first thing you need to do is to contact your dentist. Let them know what kind of issues you are having, and see if you find their answers to be satisfactory. This is a time when you might need to re-evaluate your dentist and consider whether or not you should continue to employ their services. That being said, your dentist may not have made any mistakes at all. Try to be fair and evaluate their answers without too much emotion.
Either way, you need to get this problem corrected. The good news is that the vast majority of these cases do not require surgery, and will only require you to undergo a procedure similar to the first one. The dentist may have to remove some or all of the old sealant, but this will vary according to your situation. You can expect that there will be a lot of evaluation on the part of your dentist before they proceed with this corrective action, and that is a good thing.
If you find that you no longer have confidence in your dentist, you may want to seek another opinion and possibly get someone else to do the corrective procedure. While most medical professionals are competent people who know their work, there will always be a few inferior examples in any profession.
As we said before, a root canal is never a pleasant experience. We sincerely hope that you never have to deal with the problems that come from a root canal complication. However, if you do find yourself in that position, we hope that this article will be helpful as you evaluate your situation and decide your next move. We also advise you to consider what may have caused your tooth problems in the first place. Only by getting to the root of the matter can you prevent this whole ordeal from happening again.