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Root Canal Gone Bad: The Complications

Root canal often terrifies a lot of people. Is their fear justified?

What exactly is a root canal?

Actually, root canals are the exact tunnels inside your tooth where soft tissues resides. On the other hand, root canal treatment is the dental procedure wherein the infected soft tissues of the tooth are removed and treated before a seal is placed. Located inside each tooth lies what is called the pulp, a collection of small tissues that supply nourishment for the tooth. When this becomes infected, your dentist or endodontist would recommend a root canal.

Indications of a Root Canal Treatment

  • Severe tooth pain that is aggravated with pressure upon the tooth
  • Swelling of the surrounding tooth area
  • Darkening of the tooth
  • Abscess discharge
  • Small bumps on the gums surrounding the tooth

Common Misconceptions Regarding Root Canal Treatment

    • You don’t need root canal because there is no tooth pain

Most infections occur without any pain. That is due to the fact that the infection has not reached any nerve YET.

    • You will experience extreme pain during the procedure

Most dental procedures require anesthesia including, root canals. Thanks to a dose of it, patients experience no discomfort during the procedure.

    • There is a risk of acquiring another illness when the procedure is done

Experts have long debunked this theory. Except for the reoccurrence of an infection, root canals have no correlation to other onset of illnesses.

    • Pulling the tooth is a better option

The natural tooth is far more superior to that of any artificial alternative. That is why dentists prefer to save the tooth rather than replace it.

    • It is a temporary solution

When the infection is caught early and the procedure is done by a dental professional, root canal treatments can last indefinitely.

Complications That Arise During and After a Root Canal

Root canal treatments have a 95% success rate without complications. However, as with any medical or dental procedures, some risks of complications are to be considered.

    • Dental tools might break off inside the canals

During the procedure, a small dental file is used to scrape off any infected area off the canal walls. Some canal walls are wavy and though dental instruments are incredibly durable, they can break off. A successful retrieval of the broken piece ensures no further complications.

    • Sinus congestion

Roots of some teeth reach the sinus cavity. In some instances, a root canal treatment can cause inflammation of the surrounding sinus cavities resulting to congestion. Most often this complication subsides after a few weeks.

    • Recurrence of an infection

Two seals are placed in a root canal. One is the inner seal called the gutta percha. Another seal or crown is done on the outer part of the tooth. These seals can withstand tremendous abuse but are not immune to erosion. When one or both seals fail, bacteria might repopulate and cause an infection again. Proper care defines the longevity and effectivity of the seals.

    • Crown fracture

The tooth basically dies during root canals due to the removal of the pulp. This saves the tooth from infection but causes the tooth to become brittle. Crowns are recommended to strengthen the outer area of the tooth.

    • Discoloration of the tooth

Discoloration occurs when the dead roots of the tooth permeates through the dentin. However, this only occurs in a small percentage of complications and can be aesthetically treated.

    • Paraesthesia

Paraesthesia, the numbness of the surrounding area have been known to occur with a small percentage of patients. Nerves surrounding the affected area are disrupted and thus, cause the numbness. This usually goes away after a few weeks.

    • Severe reaction to anesthesia

Some people have an extreme allergic reaction to anesthesia. If this has happened to you on previous medical procedures, you must inform your dentist immediately before the procedure takes place.

Why Do Some Root Canals Fail?

The procedure was NOT done by a licensed dental professional
Before any dental procedure, make sure that the one that would be handling it is a licensed dental professional. It can be either a dentist or an endodontist.

The root canal systems are vast and narrow

During the procedure, each pathway inside the tooth is irrigated of the infected pulp. Some canals are too narrow that an absolute cleansing of the canal walls would be impossible.

Narrow root canals are harder to disinfect

After removing the infection, a thorough disinfection of the area is done. This would prevent infection-causing bacteria to build up. The passages inside the tooth are often branched out into narrow canals that are often hard to reach or sometimes overlooked.

The seal was unsuccessful or has deteriorated

A number of factors contribute to the failure of the seal. A crack on the tooth may cause bacteria to once again populate the area. The deterioration of the seal depends on the sufficient care you put into it.

Extensive damage has already compromised the success of the procedure

At the first sign of the symptoms, it is better to have it checked at once. Once the infection has spread around the nearby teeth/gums, there is a higher risk of complications developing.

Root canal treatment is a common procedure done by dental professionals. Prior to your scheduled root canal, discuss the procedure extensively with your dentist or endodontist including all the complications that may ensue during and after the treatment. Even if these complications have a minute chance of developing, you must be informed of how your dentist would proceed if anything of that kind might happen. You have to know what your options are in facing such events. Moreover, take note of any instructions of post procedure care that your dentist would advise you.

Also, it is important to note that prevention is still exceedingly better than cure. Proper hygiene goes hand in hand with self-awareness. Be aware of any significant changes in your body. Do not wait for symptoms to progress before consulting a medical or dental professional. Pain is not usually the first symptom of a tooth infection.

Lastly, seek advice only from a licensed professional especially when conducting procedures such as root canal treatments. Remember that being informed is one way of arming yourself from the unexpected.