Root canal is a dental procedure performed for treating a severely infected tooth or a decaying tooth caused due to other problems. The term root canal is colloquially used to denote the central space of a tooth, where blood vessels and nerves are present. Infection to this cavity is not an unusual case. Root canal treatment is directed to prevent further spread of infection to adjacent tissues and formation of tooth abscesses. While it is a reliable intervention, infection after root canal does happen in some instances.
How Common is it?
Medically termed as endodontic therapy, it involves cleaning the inside of affected tooth to remove nerves, pulp, unwanted debris and bacteria. After getting rid of the infected parts, the root canal is sealed properly with rubber and tooth crown to minimize the risks of recurrent infections. The success rate of root canal treatment is highly impressive, approximately 95%. Nonetheless, in some candidates, reinfections develop in the already treated area and they call for further therapeutic intervention.
A probable reason for infection after root canal is presence of similar infections in other root canals, which remain undiagnosed at the time of treatment. With time, they spread to the already treated root canal resulting in reinfection. At times, the tooth filling is not done to the tip of the canal, leaving behind bacteria and infected pulp. This also leads to infection post root canal surgery. It may worsen and cause fluid accumulation at the apex of the root canal, a condition known as periapical abscess.
In some candidates of root canal therapy, cracks present in the tooth give a path for entry of bacteria, leading to infections. Two other causes for recontamination of the root canal after treatment are faulty dental restoration and defective inner sealing substances. Both factors allow pathogenic bacteria to enter the cavity of the tooth and cause recurrent infections. Whatever may be the reason for causing root canal infection post treatment, it is painful and treatment is an absolute necessity.
Symptoms and Treatment
One of the notable signs of infection after root canal is fluid oozing from the recently treated tooth. This indicates presence of pathogenic bacteria in the tooth cavity that has been cleaned during the root canal therapy. If it is a case of periapical abscess, prominent gum swelling in a localized area (near the treated root canal) is observed. Other signs to look for confirming root canal infection after treatment are puffiness of the area and pain that persists for an extended time period.
If any signs of reinfection appear, the candidate should consult the doctor as soon as possible. Along with examination of the symptoms, the concerned doctor will perform X-ray imaging tests to check for abscesses. And the only way of correcting infection after a root canal treatment is to repeat the dental procedure again and clean the infected area. It not only increases the cost of dental treatment, but also the concerning issue is, a lowered success rate in repeated root canal therapy. Hence, it is always better to avoid the occurrence of an infection after root canal procedure, rather than dealing with it later.
To conclude, root canal treatment or therapy (RCT) is a relatively safe procedure. An alternative procedure of this treatment is tooth extraction, which poses certain risks for the candidates and is costly too. With regards to infection after root canal treatment, it is of utmost importance for every patient to get the therapy conducted by a trusted endodontist, so as to minimize infection as well as other root canal complications. Following the after care instructions stringently is imperative to minimize complications. Also, it is a wise idea to discuss the effectiveness and complications of root canal therapy beforehand.