Whenever you think root canal treatment, disconcerting thoughts jump to mind, right? Of course, once the procedure is over, it is time to relax and celebrate your courage with a high caloric meal. Ice cream is most likely everyone’s first choice.

Unfortunately (you must hate the sound of that), post-root canal treatment complications do occur. They could be due to a poorly performed procedure, or poor maintenance on the patient’s behalf. Either way, it is good to know what to expect, so you can maybe better prepare for it, or avoid it altogether!

Signs and Symptoms of Root Canal Failures

Symptoms which could be an indication of a failed root canal treatment include:

  • A painful sensation experienced when tapping the tooth.
  • Inflamed areas in your gums.
  • Unpleasant smell.
  • Altered sense of taste.
  • Mouth ulcer which doesn’t heal.

So when is it time to visit the dentist again? Keep an eye on the following characteristics to guide your decisions:

  • How often the symptom occurs?
  • How long symptoms last?
  • If an extreme pattern evolves.

NOTE: Regardless of the level of pain, if symptoms are reoccurring, you should always schedule a check-up appointment with your dentist. A poor root canal treatment can result in infection spreading below the gum line and the eventual removal of the tooth.

Why do Treatments Fail?

Aren’t treatments supposed to be foolproof? The challenge lies in how many factors are at play:

  • Cleaning: Deep cleaning treatment is crucial for a successful root canal procedure, otherwise, contamination results in an infection that’s hard to manage.
  • Wear and tear: A cover is often placed onto your tooth after a root canal. When it wears out over time it will be too frail to stop germs. This will also cause your gums to be affected.
  • Fissures in the root: When germs move into the root, fractures begin to form. These fractures are so tiny it is impossible to repair them or get rid of the infection. These fissures could be present at the time of the root canal or be the result of the treatment.
  • Poor inner cover: Sometimes the cover used during the procedure could be faulty. It’s supposed to block germ leakage and if this barrier fails it can cause inflammation in the gums.
  • Overfilling the tooth: Overfilling the tooth will affect the cover. It will wear out over time.
  • Faulty cover: If the final cover is faulty, bacteria will be able to travel inside the tooth. Even if the root canal is done well, it won’t endure the effects of a faulty cover and the resulting inflammation & decay.
  • Technical issues: Technical issues can hinder treatment and result in a sub-par procedure. Examples:
    • Equipment can break and small particles can get stuck in the tooth.
    • Dentists could accidentally drill a hole on the root.
    • When dentists shape the interior of the root it can become too complicated to clean inside.

These challenges can all have long-term effects that could turn into serious problems years after the initial procedure. Anything from serious inflammation to a tooth crumbling due to a compromised structure is possible.

How Likely is a Root Canal to Fail?

Luckily—and you’ll be glad to know—the success rate of these procedures is quite high. Cases which do fail are often fixed by either tooth extraction and/or retreatment. This means the original treatment is salvaged.

To prevent these accidents it’s advisable to visit a root canal specialist rather than your dentist. In terms of skill and equipment, an expert will be better equipped to handle difficult situations.

Types of Teeth that are More Likely to Fail

One aspect no one has control over is how your teeth will react before and after the procedure. Studies show the types of teeth most affected are:

  • Upper molars
  • Lower molars
  • Premolars

The reasons include their multiple canals, their shape and therefore difficult to identify problems earlier on. But when you keep an eye on them a problem may be identified early on before it becomes a crisis.

How to Treat Failed Cases

So, what happens if you do have problems later on? First, your dentist must determine the urgency of your situation. But, keep in mind that identifying the cause of infection could take time.

In most cases, the infection can be treated with something as simple as antibiotics.

In severe cases where treatment is futile your tooth could be removed.

Author: Peter Mayhew

Peter is a dental hygienist in the city of Chicago, IL. In his free time he likes to write blogs and product reviews on anything dental health related.