dentist showing patient root canal complications

Root Canal Complications: What You Need To Know

When you think about a root canal, you likely envision a painful dental treatment that requires a fair bit of recovery. A root canal is normally done when there is a problem, such as inflammation or infection, which can result in tooth decay, a cracked tooth or a continued need to treat the area. Undergoing a root canal helps prevent pain and the possibility of developing an abscess. For many people, the procedure goes off without a hitch, but root canal complications are a risk of the surgery and understanding them before you have surgery helps prepare you for the recovery period. Fortunately, the procedure isn't always as painful as you might expect and you can return to your normal day-to-day activities soon after.


Because a root canal involves cleaning and repairing the root area of a tooth, you're likely to feel some pain in the days following the procedure. This might range from a dull ache to a sharp pain, but it shouldn't be so bad that it debilitates you. However, if some bacteria remains behind after the canal is cleaned, it can grow and result in pain down the road. If the area feels better, then begins to hurt again, contact your dentist right away for follow-up treatment in the area.

Additional Problem Areas

In some cases, you might have more than one root that's causing you problems. If one of the canals is missed, bacteria can remain, which can result in the need for a repeated root canal. Having a second surgery in the same area is bit more involved because your dentist has to remove the fillings and any crowns or implants that were placed in order to get to the roots of the tooth.

Undetected Crack in the Root

A missed crack in the root of your tooth is one of the root canal complications that can lead to bacterial growth and the possibility of further treatment. If your dentist doesn't notice a small crack in the root of your tooth, it leaves the area exposed to the reintroduction of bacteria in the area.

Defective Materials

Over time, the inner seal placed during a root canal can erode, which allows bacteria to transfer back into the root of your tooth. This is a complication your dentist is likely to warn you about so you can take proper care of the area to prevent this or slow the process. However, in some cases, a defective restoration occurs and allows bacteria back into the canals.

What to Do

When you have a root canal, it's important to have it done at a reputable location by a dentist with experience performing the procedure. Follow after-care instructions very carefully to promote adequate and proper healing. Notify your dentist right away if something doesn't feel right or you're worried that the root canal wasn't fully successful. A follow-up can help detect possible problems and treat them before they get worse.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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