With a root canal failure rate at around just 5%, one might not think that this is something that they should worry about. After all, since just 5 of 100 root canals are subject to needing retreatment, what are the chances that you would be one of those five patients?
The whole idea of having to go in and have root canal retreatment may seem intimidating, but here at Best Dental of Houston, we’ve helped many patients embraced a comfortable and straightforward approach to having their root canal therapy redone. That’s why we present this guide to root canal failure which covers the causes, symptoms, and what you can do about it.
We feel that the best experience is an educated experience. One that comes without surprises and with all the information that you need to know. Gone are the days where the details are left in the dark, especially since the World Wide Web presents us the opportunity to share our knowledge with all.
What causes root canal failure?
There are several different reasons that result in root canal therapy failing patients, whether just shortly after the procedure or for a long time after it. However, it is safe to say that we can pinpoint the ones that occur most among patients most often. The top 5 causes of root canal failure include:
· A Dental Crown That Was Placed After a Root Canal Breaks
When it comes to dental crowns, there are many applications where they are successful (and this includes patients who have received root canals). However, just like anything else in the world, there is still a chance that they could break.
Whether it breaks due to trying to chew on something hard or if it breaks due to another reason if it covers the area where a root canal was performed it still does pose a risk. It provides the opportunity for bacteria to enter the area and allow for a new infection to form.
A lot of the time, if the dental crown breaks, the filling has a higher chance of falling out. Since it would be the only thing remaining to seal the area, it exposes the inside of the tooth in its entirety which also increases the risk of infection.
· Decay Forming After the Root Canal Was Performed
While root canal therapy may be a way to save a tooth and to eliminate any infection that may be inside of the tooth itself, it is not fully immune from new decay. Any time that the tooth that was treated or other teeth in your mouth begin to decay, there is a higher chance of your root canal treatment failing and being the cause of a new infection forming inside of your previously treated tooth.
· Injury to The Tooth That Was Previously Treated
Trauma (whether caused by an accident, injury, or something else) can damage your teeth, and anytime that a tooth is damaged it becomes more prone to becoming infected. Especially if you have had a root canal performed in the past. If this happens, your best bet is to contact your dentist immediately before the condition has a chance to worsen and cause further complications.
· The Root Canal Itself Was Not Cleaned/Disinfected Properly
This is most common where the natural anatomy makes it difficult to clean and disinfect certain root canals. Although there are also times where the need to be cleaned and disinfected may have been ignored during the first procedure.
Any time that a root canal isn’t cleaned properly or fully disinfected, this presents a chance for it to become infected again. While it might not be evident for a while following the procedure, rest assured that over time it can become infected again and cause an onset of some of the symptoms that are covered in the next section.
· The Seal That Protects the Inner Part of Your Tooth Breaks Down
The seal (also known as the filling) could break down over time due to a number of different factors. It is meant to protect the inside of the tooth from bacteria entering it (which ultimately leads to a tooth infection). Any time that the inner seal is broken, bacteria can enter and be the cause for new infections to surface leading to a number of different symptoms.
What are the symptoms of a failed root canal?
While there are different reasons that a root canal fails, you can still look for certain signs of root canal failure to warn you that you might need to seek retreatment. Some of the most common symptoms of root canal failure include, but shall not be limited to:
· Boil/Pimple on the Jawline
Any time that a boil or a pimple forms on your jaw without going away could be a sign of having a sinus tract infection. What this means is that your sinus tract is trying to drain the pus that is formed as the result of an infection. The best way to take care of this is to visit your dentist, and do not try to pop it on your own unless advised otherwise by a dental professional.
You will either notice this from the tooth itself or from the gum line in the area that the root canal was performed. Discharge is your body’s way of trying to force out any infection that may have formed. If any type of discharge is noticed around where the root canal procedure was done, you should let your dentist know immediately so that they can treat it properly.
· Increased Sensitivity
For the first few days after your root canal, you will want to stick to soft foods (and your dentist will most likely advise you to do so as well). This will allow it to heal properly and minimize the risk of root canal failure due to not eating the right foods after your procedure. If after the first few days that follow you still have difficulty chewing food, you may want to reach out to your dentist to let them know about the complications.
The reason being is that increased sensitivity when it comes to the tooth that was treated with root canal therapy could be a sign that bacteria was left behind. Not only does this have a chance of spreading, but retreatment ensures that there is still a possibility of saving the tooth.
It is not uncommon to be experiencing pain the first few days after having to undergo root canal therapy, but any longer should warrant a call to your dentist. The reason being is that pain that occurs for any longer (over 1 week) could be a sign that you may be experiencing root canal failure. If you don’t get it treated quickly enough, it could lead to further complications.
· Sinus Problems
This is most common with the teeth located in the back of your mouth and it happens when they become infected. Even after a root canal, there is a chance that infection still has a chance to form due to bacteria being trapped in the tooth that was treated. Common sinus problems that could be a sign of root canal failure include congestion, bad breath, facial/jaw pain, a runny or stuffy nose.
Any form of swelling in your facial area is a tell-tale sign that there is some form of infection that is still present. The point of a root canal is to eliminate the infection, so if you experience any form of swelling in your gums or within the area of your face, you’ll want to get in touch with your dentist without any hesitation.
Keep in mind that you can try to use an ice pack on your face in increments of 15 minutes (followed by 15 minutes of not using ice) to try and get the swelling down until you have a chance to get in to see your dentist. However, this is something that calls for immediate dental treatment due to the level of seriousness that infection still being present poses.
· Tooth Discoloration
Not all of the time will you experience any tooth discoloration after a root canal, but if you do, you should pay attention to it. The reason for this is while it could be for a variety of reasons, one of the most common is when the pulp is left in your tooth after root canal therapy. If this is the case, root canal retreatment may be the only solution that will present positive results.
With root canal failure, how many years does it take?
95% of root canals are successful, but this still leaves room for the few that end up needing to be retreated due to root canal therapy failure. As for how many years it takes for root canal treatments to fail, it is not something that comes with a set number. Patients have been known to experience failure just months after the procedure as well as years later.
For the most part, root canal treatment can last a patient their entire lifetime if they implement good oral hygiene practices, and if the procedure was performed properly. It is a matter of the state of their oral health as well as the quality of the care that was received in the first place.
How is root canal failure treated?
Experiencing the pain and symptoms associated with root canal failure isn’t what anyone wants to experience, but the only step to making things better is to seek out the help of a dentist. In order to help you understand what’s involved and what can be expected, we’ve broken it down into 3 parts.
1. Your initial visit to a trusted dental provider where a plan is made.
During the initial visit, you can expect to receive dental x-rays. This is the only way that your dentist can confirm if root canal failure is the source of your problems. During this visit, you can expect a treatment plan to be discussed as well as any other aspects of the procedure.
2. A step towards reducing bacterial growth is implemented.
This usually happens on a second visit to the dentist, as it’s the first part of implementing the necessary treatment plan that has been recommended. During this visit, all of the old root canal filling material will be removed and replaced with calcium hydroxide. Since calcium hydroxide has antibacterial properties, it will put up an effective fight against the growth of bacteria.
3. Root canals are cleaned, and root canal therapy gets underway.
On your third visit, the calcium hydroxide will have had enough time to work its magic and your dentist can remove it from your tooth. Once this is done, your dentist will remove the calcium hydroxide and clean/disinfect your root canal(s) as well as target any other areas that could present reason for concern in the future. After this is done, your dentist will place a temporary filling in your tooth to seal it up and keep any bacteria from entering the inside of the tooth.
While we broke down the retreatment above into 3 steps, it’s important for you to know that your dentist will want to see you for a follow-up visit (just like they would with any other procedure of this nature). They will make sure that the filling hasn’t fallen out as well as perform any additional tooth restoration that might be needed.
How much does it cost to treat root canal failure?
It is important to keep in mind that root canal retreatment is totally different from the initial procedure, as they tend to be a lot more complex. This has a lot to do with the cost that is associated with having your failed root canal fixed by your dentist. An example of this is that fillings may need to be removed, and tooth restoration may be required in order to produce the desired outcome.
The average cost to treat a failed root canal is $1,200. Prices can vary based on the tooth that is being retreated, the complexity of the case, and the treating clinician who is performing the procedure.
The Bottom Line on Root Canal Failure
While a dental implant could eliminate a lot of the problems often seen in root canal failures, it’s not always something that is feasible for all patients. After all, they tend to be a lot more expensive and involve a lot more work from your dentist. This doesn’t mean that you need to let your dental care slip away, as root canal retreatment could provide you with a long-term solution.
If you’re seeking treatment for root canal failure in Houston, don’t hesitate to give our office a call so we can set up a time to meet with you. We’re an award-winning dental practice with extensive experience providing root canal retreatment that also uses the latest in dental technology to ensure that we can produce the best results for our patients at all times.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Can antibiotics heal an infected root canal?
Antibiotics can temporarily remedy some of the symptoms of an infected root canal, but these ailments will return when your prescription has been completed. The only cure to the problem when your root canal has failed is to either have it retreated, or have the tooth extracted.
What happens if you don't take antibiotics after a root canal?
If you do not take antibiotics after your root canal treatment, the chances of pain and infection after the procedure will go up. Although a properly performed root canal will not need antibiotics according to some studies, some clinicians feel that antibiotics can prevent flare ups after the procedure has been completed. Antibiotics can contribute to pain control after a root canal as well.