People often shiver with dread when they hear the words “root canal.” But endodontists and dentists perform approximately 15 million of them each year — and their patients don’t feel a thing. In fact, getting a root canal should ease any discomfort you have in the tooth completely.
But what if it doesn’t?
Robert Scott Nance, DDS, MS, PA, is an experienced endodontist who brings his advanced skills in performing root canals to each of his private practice locations in Statesville and Hickory, North Carolina.
Here, Dr. Nance explains why these procedures sometimes fail and when to seek additional treatment.
The goal of a root canal
Root canals have a bad rap, but they can save a tooth affected by damage, infection, or decay.
While a tooth may seem completely solid, the very center contains soft tissue known as pulp. This interior chamber — or root canal — contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissues. These elements form the hard exterior tissue of a tooth during development.
Unlike the portion of a tooth you can see, the root canal chamber that has the pulp extends deep into the jaw, where it connects with tissue surrounding the tooth roots.
Dr. Nance performs a root canal to treat this type of tissue when the pulp becomes infected or inflamed.
How root canals work
During a root canal, Dr. Nance makes a small opening in the tooth to access the pulp and remove it.
Then, he cleans and disinfects the inside of the tooth before filling the empty space and sealing the opening he made. Dr. Nance could also cover the tooth with a crown for added strength and protection.
This procedure restores the health and function of your tooth, which no longer needs the pulp once a tooth fully develops.
Root canals usually require more than one visit to restore the tooth to full function.
When root canals fail
The good news is that most root canals respond to a single treatment. However, there are some cases when they don’t.
Common reasons for unsuccessful root canal treatment include:
- Poor oral hygiene
- A filling or other restoration that leaks
- A tooth or filling material that breaks down over time
- A vertical crack in the tooth
Root canals can also fail when an endodontist can’t see an extra canal in the tooth. For instance, a tooth could have four root canals, but they only spot (and treat) three. Similarly, root canals can also contain obstructions or curves that interfere with cleaning.
While it’s normal to have a little tenderness or sensitivity after a root canal, it should disappear within a few days. If it doesn't, or your pain seems severe, it could be a sign that your root canal wasn’t successful.
What to do when a root canal fails
If your symptoms persist or worsen after your root canal, it’s time to schedule an evaluation. Dr. Nance assesses the tooth and provides personalized recommendations to address the issue.
Depending on the cause of your root canal failure, Dr. Nance might suggest an additional root canal, a root-end resection, or extracting the tooth.
Facing a root canal can seem scary, but it’s crucial not to delay treatment — especially if your first procedure fails. Without care, you can lose your tooth, and the infection could spread to other teeth or your jawbone.
Did your root canal fail? Don’t wait to get the expert care you need. Schedule a consultation with Robert Scott Nance, DDS, MS, PA, in Statesville or Hickory today.