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Root Canal Complications

Root canal treatments seldom lead to complications, as they are considered the most successful medical procedures. But, possibility of complications cannot be ruled out completely.
Sonia Nair
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
Root canal treatments, also known as endodontic therapy, may give rise to certain complications, in some cases. However, with the advent of latest technology, like sophisticated instruments, new filling materials, and advanced techniques; chances of root canal complications are very less. Even if some problems arise, they can be treated and cured easily, to restore dental health.
What is Root Canal Treatment?
The center of a tooth houses a hollow portion called the pulp chamber, which is located at the coronal part; and is connected to the roots of the tooth through very narrow channels called root canals. A root canal starts from the central pulp chamber and runs through the entire root of the tooth. These root canals and pulp chambers are filled with blood vessels, nerve tissues, and several cellular entities. The blood vessels carry nutrition for the pulp, whereas the nerves carry signals to the brain. Normally, each tooth has one to four root canals, but those towards the back of the mouth may have more.
Root canal treatment or endodontic therapy, is recommended in case of any infection in the root canals and pulp chamber. In some cases, any injury to the tooth can cause damage, that in turn, leads to the death of the tooth. If the pulp chamber is infected, it may lead to the formation of an abscess with pus, and causes inflammation of the surrounding gums. The person may not feel any pain or inflammation during the initial stages of infection. Such conditions necessitate root canal treatment, which is aimed at removing the entire structure inside the pulp chamber and root canals. Once emptied, this pulp chamber and root canals are cleaned, decontaminated, and filled with some inert filling. If the infection has spread to the crown, then it is also replaced.
Possible Complications
A root canal treatment is an expensive and lengthy procedure, which requires three to four visits to the dentist. In case of root canal complications, you may have to spend more time at the dentist's clinic for further treatment.
  • One of the most common reasons for such complications, is a missed root canal or canals. Some teeth may have many root canals, and the dentist may miss some of them while cleaning. In some cases, it is difficult to clean some canals, like the curved and horizontal ones. If the dentist fails to measure the full length of the roots, it may lead to insufficient cleaning and filling, which in turn, may cause spread of infection and tooth abscess.
  • An infection may lead to a dead tooth, which is prone to fracture. While filling such teeth, a fracture may occur, which can lead to root canal complications. Such situations demand endodontic surgery to remove the fractured root.
  • If there are many root canals with curves, the cleaning and filling process becomes difficult. Sometimes, while filling a curve in the root canal, the tool may accidentally penetrate the side of the tooth causing a fresh perforation. This hole has to be filled properly to prevent further infections, through that perforation.
  • Complications may arise if the doctor fails to detect any cracks in the teeth. Such undetected small cracks may become the gateway of entry for bacteria that infect the tooth again.
  • Another common root canal complication is the accidental breakage of tools, inside the tooth. Sometimes, the tools used for cleaning and filling the root canals may break during the process. If the tooth is already cleaned, then the broken part is left inside and the tooth is filled. But if the tool breakage happens while cleaning, the broken piece has to be removed. In some cases, surgery is required to remove the broken part of the tool.
  • Complications may include infection of the tooth after root canal treatment, due to defective dental restoration or any other factor. In some cases, the infection may have caused extensive tooth damage, which forces the dentist to decide that the tooth is not fit for further root canal treatment, and he may prefer a tooth extraction.
In case of root canal complications, there are many treatment options. Minor complications, like pain and swelling, can be treated with medication. Other procedural defaults are tackled with root canal re-treatment. Some of the complications may require surgery, as in the case of fracture of the tooth. If the tooth has suffered irreparable damage and cannot be saved, then extraction is suggested. You can replace this lost tooth with dental implants. However, don't be afraid of this dental procedure, which cannot be avoided in some situations. Remember, dental care is an important part of regular health care.