Imagine this scenario: One of your teeth was infected or cracked, so your dentist recommended a root canal to ease your discomfort and save the tooth. The procedure went well, but now the discomfort has returned and you're wondering if you made the right choice. Plus, you've been doing some research and have come across articles claiming root canals actually do more harm than good.
Is your best option to remove a root canal tooth? First, it's a good idea to figure out what's causing the discomfort and explore your retreatment options.
Root Canal Facts and Fiction
At first, you were comfortable with the idea of having root canal treatment. But now that the pain has returned and you've read claims online that root canals cause cancer, you're worried. Don't be.
While it is disappointing that you're still experiencing discomfort after your treatment, you can rest assured that a root canal does more to help you than to harm you. As the American Association of Endodontists (AAE) points out, claims that root canal treatments can make you sick or cause disease are based on evidence that is outdated and that has long since been proven false.
Your dental team is there to help you find a solution to your discomfort and to help ensure that your teeth are healthy. In many cases, root canal treated teeth can last a lifetime and do not need to be removed, explains the AAE.
Why Is Your Tooth Still Bothering You?
The majority of people who have root canal treatment enjoy a positive result. But there is still a small chance that something will go wrong with the tooth after treatment. A paper published in the European Journal of Dentistry notes several factors that can affect the success of a root canal treatment, including:
- Canals that aren't adequately filled
- Canals that are overfilled
- Persisting bacteria
- Leakage from the seal
- Canals that are left untreated
If your tooth continues to bother you after a root canal treatment, talk to your dentist. They may recommend endodontic retreatment to correct ongoing issues with the tooth or to fix new issues that have developed.
Endodontic retreatment is similar to the initial root canal treatment you had. Your endodontist will remove the crown from the affected tooth so they can access the canal, explains the AAE. Next, they will remove the filling and clean the canal. They'll inspect the tooth and canal to look for any new signs of infection or damage to the tooth (such as a crack). The endodontist will then refill the tooth and place a temporary crown or filling over the top. At a later appointment, they will add your permanent crown or other restoration and your tooth will function as normal.
Depending on the state of your tooth and the issues you experience after your initial root canal treatment, there is a chance your dentist or endodontist will recommend endodontic surgery, such as an apicoectomy, which removes the tip of the tooth's root, explains the AAE.
Should You Remove a Root Canal Tooth?
If you have a treated tooth that's still causing you pain and discomfort, you might think that the simplest option is to pull the tooth. Luckily, ongoing discomfort in the tooth doesn't usually mean that you need to pull it. The AAE stresses that saving your teeth is always the best option. Retreatment techniques typically provide the best long-term outcome for the patient, and they have a high success rate. An extraction can actually wind up costing you more in both time and money, according to the AAE. You'll also need to replace the tooth with a bridge, implant or partial denture.
If your tooth is bothering you, you can feel comforted knowing that your dentist and endodontist will do everything they can to save the tooth and keep you healthy and happy.