Root canal treatments are common dental procedures. Their purpose is to save severely damaged or infected teeth. Root canal therapy is an endodontic treatment, meaning that the inside of the tooth is treated.
Root canal procedures have a very high success rate, but failed root canals are possible. As with any medical or dental procedure, there are risks and complications, although low. While any issues may be noticed soon after the procedure, there may not be any problems until months or years afterwards.
What Are Root Canals?
A root canal procedure involves removing infected or damaged pulp inside the roots of a tooth, to prevent the spread of infection and save the tooth. Dental pulp consists of nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue and is essential during tooth development. Once a tooth is fully formed, it can function without its pulp, relying on surrounding tissues for nourishment. However, if infected, a root canal procedure is necessary.
How Does Pulp Become Infected?
Dental pulp can become infected for a variety of reasons. Deep tooth decay, if untreated, can penetrate the tooth and introduce infection when cavities reach the pulp. Physical trauma, like fractures or chips, can damage the pulp, and enable bacteria to reach it. Faulty dental work, including poorly executed fillings or crowns, may create openings for bacteria to access the pulp. Advanced gum disease and gum recession exposes tooth roots so they are more vulnerable to decay and infection.
Having multiple dental procedures on the same tooth can increase the risks, as it becomes more weakened.
Why Is a Root Canal Procedure Done?
Root canal therapy relieves the extreme tooth pain experienced when pulp is infected or damaged, and prevents the spread of the infections to other tissues and parts of the body, which could result in potentially severe health complications. Root canal procedures also help to save a tooth that would otherwise need to be extracted, preserving the tooth and its function.
During a root canal, the infected tooth pulp is carefully removed and the inner area of the tooth is cleaned and disinfected. A special filler is used to keep the area clean and prevent reinfection.
Root Canal Complications
Root canal therapy is generally safe and effective, but, as with any medical procedure, it can have complications and issues.
The Root Canal Infection Isn’t Completely Removed
Sometimes, it’s challenging to remove all infected tissue from the root canals, especially in teeth with complex root systems. Residual infection can lead to persistent pain or reinfection. In these cases, a root canal retreatment is required.
There Is Ongoing Pain After the Root Canal Treatment
Root canal infections are extremely painful. Most patients experience relief from this pain within a few days of the root canal recovery period. Normal discomfort after root canals should subside in a couple of days and be manageable with over the counter medications; if not, you should consult with your dentist.
The Tooth Becomes Cracked or Weakened
Removing the pulp and cleaning the root canals can weaken the tooth structure. In some cases, this can lead to fractures or cracks in the tooth, so a dental crown placement or additional work is needed to strengthen and protect the tooth.
Reinfection Because of an Improper Sealing
Although rare, the tooth may become reinfected. This may happen if the filling material used to fill and seal the cleared out area of the tooth does not create a tight seal, allowing a new infection to enter the tooth.
A Nerve Becomes Damaged
During the procedure, there’s a slight possibility that a nerve in the area becomes damaged. There may be numbness or tingling in the lip, chin, or tongue. This is usually temporary.
Swelling and Infection Develops
In some cases, an infection in the area can develop after the procedure, leading to swelling, pain, and discomfort. Antibiotics are usually used to treat this.
An Allergic Reaction Is Experienced
While extremely rare, some patients may have allergic reactions to the materials used during the procedure. It is important to advise of any allergies before beginning treatment.
The Tooth Becomes Discoloured
After a root canal, the affected tooth may darken. It isn’t an indicator of whether the root canal fails, but is a cosmetic concern. Often, the tooth is given a dental crown to strengthen it anyway, so this discolouration isn’t visible.
Ongoing Dental Care Is Recommended
The tooth may be weakened, and more vulnerable to fracturing. A crown is often placed to help address this issue. Regular checkups help avoid future issues with the tooth, and ensures any concerns that do arise can be treated early.
Getting a Root Canal Procedure
While complications and issues can arise, they are relatively rare, and the benefits of preserving natural teeth often outweigh the risks. If you have severe pain in your tooth, seek treatment as soon as possible. If you have a root canal infection, you are more likely to be able to save the tooth the earlier it can be treated, and you will relieve your tooth pain.
Be sure to follow your dentist’s recommended follow-up care closely for the best results, and to follow up if you do notice any issues.
Orchard Park Dental offers root canals in-office for our patients, for convenient treatment and follow-up.