Can Root Canals Fail?

Root canals are the most common procedure performed by endodontists. In some cases, a general dentist may also perform a root canal, although a general dentist’s office will often not have the same equipment and expertise as a specialist. This is because a dentist’s office needs to invest in a wide range of equipment, and there is limited space allotted for all of this equipment, so specialty devices designed for root canals will likely not be at the top of the investment list. 

If you need a root canal, you probably have questions, including “can root canals fail?” This is a rather broad question that requires several answers. To help, here are the different ways this question can be answered.

Tooth Pain After a Root Canal

Root canal treatment is designed to eliminate bacteria from the infected tooth, prevent reinfection, and save the natural tooth. When the nerve endings are damaged and die off, the area will begin to decay, which can cause significant pain within the tooth. During a root canal, this material is removed from the tooth, then cleaned out and sealed to prevent bacterial growth from springing up inside the tooth.

However, the inner workings of a tooth can be complex. It is possible that some of the dead nerve endings or pulp may remain, or bacteria might begin to form because some areas within the root canals were not cleaned out thoroughly. Should this happen, tooth pain will likely start again.

In this case, the initial root canal did, in fact, “fail.” Thankfully, it can be retreated by being thoroughly cleaned. It is highly recommended to seek an endodontist to perform a root canal. Plus, endodontists perform root canals regularly, so their skill level is generally higher.

Damaged Tooth

Now, just because a root canal was performed does not mean nothing further can happen to the tooth. Yes, the internal pulp and nerve endings have been removed, but the outside of the tooth can still develop cavities. They can also be damaged through trauma, the same as any other tooth in the mouth. And, it is even possible for the tooth to require a secondary root canal that has nothing to do with the first.

If the tooth develops a cavity that is not addressed, it will burrow deeper into the tooth until it breaches the root canal, which will cause bacteria growth. If this is not treated, the bacteria will start to rot the tooth from the inside out. So, while this is not related to the first root canal, it is still essential for patients to take care of their teeth.

Tooth Is Darkening

The changing of a tooth’s color can happen following a root canal. Because the living tissue within the tooth is removed during a root canal, it may no longer maintain its white appearance on its own. Following an initial root canal, a whitening coloring agent can be injected into the tooth if necessary (if the tooth can be visible when smiling or talking, otherwise, there is no need to have this done). However, over time, the coloring agent may begin to fade, and the tooth might appear darker than the surrounding teeth.

If you have noticed a tooth that has undergone a root canal is starting to darken or is becoming discolored, you should visit your dentist or endodontist and have the coloring agent injected back into the tooth. This will help correct the discoloration and improve the overall look of the tooth. This happens to some teeth that have undergone a root canal. 

However, it is not the fault of the original root canal. Because there is likely no more blood flow into the tooth, it will not have the same minerals and other nutrients delivered to the exposed tooth, resulting in this discoloration. As the years go by, this discoloration will become more pronounced.

You should talk to your dentist or endodontist to find out what to expect when it comes to the coloration of your tooth. They will explain what can be done to not only prolong the white appearance of your tooth but what you should do to correct any discoloration that might take place. Thankfully, though, this is not something you need to worry too much about; it is also something your general dentist may be able to address during your routine checkup. But even if the tooth begins to darken, it is cosmetic only and not a sign your root canal is failing.

Schedule Your Initial Root Canal Appointment Today

If you want a specialist to inspect your tooth, whatever the case may be, the team here at Southern Endodontic Specialists is here to help. We are always accepting new patients, so if you have questions about root canals or want to schedule your initial appointment right away, all you need to do is give our friendly office staff a call or fill out the appointment request form right on the front page of our website.