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Root Canal

What kind of problems or complications may occur after a root canal? (Continued)

A root canal can become reinfected if the restoration has leaked, the patient doesn't have good oral hygiene, or because the sealing materials have degraded or broken down over time. Sometimes there may be more than the normal number of root canals in a tooth and the treating dentist may have missed the extra canal, leading to root canal failure. This canal may harbor infected tissue and will need to be cleaned out and filled. If a root canal has become reinfected, it can usually be retreated with another root canal. In this procedure, the endodontist will simply remove the gutta percha and sealing material through the opening in the tooth, clean out the canals and any additional canals, and seal them back up again. A retreatment is likely to be done in two visits. Sometimes a retreatment isn't possible and a tooth will require a surgical procedure to be saved. In this case, an endodontist may perform an apicoectomy, which involves accessing the root of the tooth through an incision made in the gums and bone. The tip of the root may be cut off and the area is cleaned and sealed from the end of the root.

Upper molars have roots that are very close to the sinus cavities. Sometimes the roots actually penetrate into the sinus cavities. When these roots are treated with a root canal, there may be some sinus congestion resulting from inflammation or infection around that particular root. If some of the medicaments or sealing materials used during the root canal extrude out of the end of the root into the sinus cavity, sinus problems can occur afterward.

Another condition that can occur after a root canal is discoloration of the tooth. Sometimes, this will even happen when the nerve in the tooth dies and can be the first sign indicating that a root canal is necessary. The tooth typically will become dark yellow, brown, or gray -- much more than surrounding teeth. If this color is an esthetic concern to the patient, especially if it is a front tooth, it can be treated with internally bleaching that specific tooth in a dental office or covering the tooth with a veneer or crown.

There have been claims that leaving a tooth treated with a root canal inside the mouth causes a variety of health problems, including cancer. These claims are based on an assumption that root canal treatment can never fully get rid of the infected tissue and tooth structure and that keeping infected tissue inside the mouth induces a response by the body that leads to health problems. Such claims are not based on sound scientific evidence and rely on coincidence and correlation for substantiation. Often, such claims are used to promote expensive alternatives to traditional dental treatments that result in profit for those making the claims. There is more evidence to refute such claims than to support them. People who believe they may need a root canal should seek out a competent licensed dentist whom they can trust to diagnose disease and deliver evidence-based dental treatment, including root canal treatment when needed.

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Reviewed on 5/24/2016

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