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Recognizing Signs of a Failed Root Canal

Root canal therapy (aka “having a root canal”) is one of the most successful procedures in all of dentistry, with a 90% chance of removing the infection in the root of a tooth and preventing it from recurring. Root canal treatment, however, is very complex, though minimally invasive process, involving a microscope and tiny tools, ideally deployed by an endodontist, who has years of specialized training and experience: https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/dental-root-canals

Yet once in a while retreatment might be needed for a particularly difficult case. What we think of as a tooth is just the surface enamel that shows above the gum line, which is the hardest tissue in the body and protects the vulnerable tissues inside. The next layer is dentin, which is a calcified material that, unlike enamel, can be continuously formed, but is hard enough to provide further protection for the pulp, the inner core. This consists of soft connective tissue, nerves, and blood vessels, which can become infected. This is what causes pain–not the root canal procedure, contrary to the common saying. Treatment eliminates the cause and the canal is filled with a neutral material and sealed to keep it from being infected again.

After a root canal procedure you should, of course, continue brushing for two minutes after breakfast and dinner and flossing before bedtime, to keep your oral health in excellent condition. This will reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even cancer.

However, there are many reasons why a root canal therapy might fail. A crown, the tooth-like top that may be placed to protect a tooth that has been fractured or ground down, could become cracked again and result in bacteria seeping into the pulp. Canals are very complicated systems, narrow and curved, and very challenging to thoroughly clean, with cracks that might not show on x-rays and could harbor bacteria. Occasionally, a seal breaks and exposes the core. 

The symptoms of a failed root canal treatment, which might occur weeks or years later, include:

  • A cleaned root canal should heal in a few days, but if severe pain continues in that tooth, call for an immediate appointment.
  • Swelling of the gums around the treated tooth.
  • A discharge around the tooth due to an abscess forming.
  • Increased sensitivity of the tooth to touch, chewing, just pressure when you close your mouth, or hot or cold foods and beverages.
  • A boil or pimple on the gums in that area that does not go away quickly.
  • Darkening root.

Serving the areas of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Hoboken, Jersey City, and Fort Lee, New York City Endodontics can help assess your individual case and determine the best course of treatment. Call us today to schedule an appointment.

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