Why Do Root Canals Fail? 

Dec 18 • 2 minute read

A root canal is actually a tunnel chamber that holds the tooth’s nerves, blood, and connective tissue. People commonly refer to needing a root canal when they need root canal therapy. This treatment requires a dentist or endodontist to clear out infected tooth roots and seal off the canal to prevent reoccurring infection throughout the tooth. Sometimes, however, a root canal treatment fails and tooth infection progresses.

How does a root canal fail? 

Under normal circumstances, the long-term success rate for root canal therapy ranges between 80-95%. Although success rates are high, below are some of the most common causes of root canal therapy failure: 

1. Coronal Leakage – Unfortunately, sometimes bacteria seeps back into the tooth after receiving root canal therapy. The seal of the restoration (Dental crown) is key to preventing bacterial leakage. Visiting a dentist who is experienced and utilizes quality materials reduces chances of a root canal treatment failing.
2. Additional tooth roots – The complexity of the tooth being treated can determine how successful root canal therapy is.  Some teeth have hidden roots left undiscovered until they cause the patient pain. Some teeth have hidden roots that do not show up on a conventional angled x-ray and are consequently leaving patients in pain if left untreated. 
3. Root perforation – In such small quarters, accidental perforation can happen when a dentist punctures or makes a hole in the tooth’s root while cleaning it out. If the perforation goes unnoticed and is left unsealed, it can allow bacteria to re-enter the tooth.  4. Crack in the tooth – An undetected hairline crack in the tooth will eventually allow bacteria back into the tooth even after a dentist’s best efforts to treat it. 

How do you know if your root canal treatment failed? 

It is normal for patients who have received successful root canal therapies to have some sensitivity in the gums near the treated site. Patients whose treatments have failed experience pain and swelling in the affected area longer than two weeks, if discomfort persists please consult your dentist.  An x-ray is used to determine if bacteria is still present in the tooth. 

A root canal is considered a failure if it ever has to be re-treated or if the tooth ultimately has to be extracted. This can happen many years down the road if the dental restoration does not hold up or for any reason bacteria re-enters the tooth. Patients who continue to see their dentist on a regular basis for preventive check-ups have a better chance of catching a failed root canal therapy treatment before experiencing reoccurring discomfort.

Contact your dentist when experiencing tooth pain.

A failed root canal can cause further damage to your tooth and jawbone, especially if left untreated. If you believe that you may have a failed root canal please don’t hesitate to call your dentist for a check-up today!

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