What are the Symptoms of Failed Root Canal Treatment (RCT)?

what are the symptoms of failed root canal

When it comes to saving a severely decayed or damaged natural adult tooth from loss, the only dental solution available is root canal therapy. Failed root canal? Root Canal Therapy (RCT) is a routine endodontic procedure wherein an endodontist or root canal specialist removes the damaged or infected tooth pulp, disinfects the root canal, fills the canal with gutta-percha, and then seals it. In most cases, the dentist provides further protection to the saved natural tooth from sustaining another infection by capping it.

Unfortunately, there are cases where one may end up losing a natural tooth because of unsuccessful root canal therapy. So, what is a failed RCT, when does it happen, what are its symptoms, and how can it be treated? Do you have such questions coming up in your mind? If so, continue reading this article to know everything you should know about a failed root canal treatment.

What is a Failed RCT?

A failed RCT refers to the failure of the original root canal therapy. The failure is in terms of the inability of the endodontist to remove all the infected or damaged tooth pulp or the patient reporting re-infection of his/her treated tooth. If the patient experiencing symptoms of a failed RCT does not seek the immediate attention of an endodontist, the infection may spread and impact both oral and general health.

What Causes the Failure of RCT?

A failed RCT may be an outcome of a possible error or mistake made on the part of an endodontist, an unexpected development, or a structural abnormality of the treated tooth. For instance, a dentist is less proficient in root canal therapy and so misses one of the patient’s root canals. These are some of the signs you need a root canal.

Other potential causes of a failed root canal treatment include:

  • Traumatic dental injuries: If there is a crack or fracture in the dentine of the root canal treated tooth, the tooth roots can again catch infection.
  • An obstruction: There might be a hindrance in the endodontist’s practice of cleaning the infected or damaged root canal. The possible obstructions may include another tooth or improper application of filling materials or sealants.
  • Root canal structure: Every patient has a different root canal structure. Some patients have complex roots, such as a narrow or curved root canal. In such cases, an endodontist may not be able to take a proper count of root canals to be treated and thus miss on root canals or not clean it out right. That increases the chances of developing an infection again in the same tooth.
  • Salivary contamination: Saliva allows bacteria to flourish inside the mouth. If the inside of the treated tooth gets contaminated by saliva, a second infection may occur, marking the failure of root canal therapy.
  • Delay in the placement of dental crown: Capping of the tooth saved by a root canal is considered to be important following a root canal treatment to protect the tooth from further infection. If there is a delay in dental crown placement or the capping is loose or broken, the root canal-treated tooth is exposed to another infection.   

What are the Symptoms of Failed RCT?

The signs and symptoms of a failed RCT include:

  • Sensitivity of the tooth
  • Prolonged or intense pain in the root canal-treated tooth when biting down
  • Development of pus-filled dental abscess near the saved tooth
  • Discoloration of the root canal treated tooth
  • A pimple or boil on the jaw
  • Severe pain from pressure in the tooth treated with a root canal
  • Tender gums near the tooth where root canal was performed
  • Facial or neck swelling
  • Inflammation near the root canal treated tooth.

It may take a few weeks, months, or even years for signs of a failed root canal to show up. At first, most patients may not detect a failed root canal. Some patients show no signs of a failed root canal while others may show symptoms that may look different than they did before the original root canal treatment.    

Following a root canal treatment, patients can expect to feel mild pain or discomfort for a few days. However, if the root canal treatment has failed, patients may feel pain for the long term and the pain or discomfort may impact their daily lives. They may avoid eating or chewing and so lose their weight.

Although, above mentioned symptoms cause the patients to suspect a root canal failure, an endodontist must be consulted to confirm a root canal failure by ordering a dental X-ray. Dental X-rays can help endodontists examine the tooth’s pulp, periodontal ligament, and bone surrounding the tooth to check for any infection or inflammation. 

Getting an X-ray after root canal treatment can help an endodontist determine whether the tooth is properly healing or there is a failure of root canal treatment. After confirming the failure of root canal treatment, the endodontist can guide on the best course of action or determine the best treatment plan by using the dental X-ray report as a reference.    

Treatment Options For A Failed RCT

There are several options available to fix a failed root canal treatment. The endodontist can decide on the best-suited treatment option based on the cause of the failure of a root canal and the severity of the re-infection. Among the treatment modalities, the most commonly chosen treatment is getting another root canal. 

  • Root canal retreatment: An endodontist removes the previously placed filling material from a root canal, again cleans and disinfects the root canals especially focusing on misshaped root canals, and finally refills the root canals with gutta-percha.
  • Apicoectomy: An endodontist makes a small incision in the gum to get access to the infected root tip. The tip is disinfected and sealing material is applied. The treatment may get over with the placing of tissue or bone graft.

Schedule an Appointment at First Point Dental Clinic to fix your root canal failure today!

A root canal may not be a success with your previous endodontist. If so, we are here to help! Make an appointment with our top-notch root canal specialists and endodontist in Chicago today to get your treated tooth evaluated and relief from your failed root canal symptoms. We can provide you with the best treatment for a failed root canal at a reasonable price.