A root canal is a type of dental procedure that gets rid of an infection deep within your tooth and root. While it is a common procedure that typically has a high rate of success, there are some root canals that fail. Here are some things to do if you think yours has failed.
Look For Signs of Root Canal Failure
The first thing you should do is make sure that the root canal failed and you are not simply experiencing a new problem. During a root canal, the infected tissue should be removed, along with the infected root. This causes the tooth and root to become "dead" so you shouldn't experience any more pain. You might have some sensitivity following the procedure, but if you still experience the same pain or sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures with that tooth, the root canal has likely failed. However, if it has been a few months since the root canal, and you are experiencing a throbbing pain in that area, it might be from a nearby tooth and not the actual site of the root canal. In either case, it is a good reason to visit your dentist.
Get an Examination and X-Rays
When you suspect a root canal failure, you should first visit your regular dentist. They will examine the area where you are experiencing pain or other symptoms. The dentist will likely want to perform x-rays as well, even if they see obvious signs of decay or a tooth infection. This lets them see exactly where the infection or decay is coming from. If they believe it is from the root canal that has failed, they will send you to an endodontist to look at it further. The endodontist often wants to take their own x-rays and look into the problem. At this point, they will give you a few different options, including attempting to repeat the root canal procedure and get any remaining infected tissue or extract the tooth.
Repeating the Root Canal Procedure
If you have had a crown placed on this tooth following the first root canal, the endodontist will determine whether or not they can leave the crown. In some cases, the problem isn't severe, in which case they can simply drill a hole into the crown to remove the tissue. However, many endodontists prefer removing the crown, completing the root canal the second time, then sending you back to your regular dentist to have the same crown or a new crown bonded to the tooth.