Dealing with a Failed Root Canal – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options

Failed root canal, Root canal treatment is a common dental procedure that is performed to save a damaged or infected tooth. Despite its high success rate, there are situations where the treatment may fail. This situation can cause severe pain, swelling, and even an abscess. It can also lead to the loss of the tooth if left untreated. This article will discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for a failed root canal, as well as provide answers to frequently asked questions.

What is a Root Canal?

A root canal is a common dental procedure that is performed to save a damaged or infected tooth. The procedure involves removing the infected or damaged pulp, which is the soft tissue inside the tooth that contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue. Once the pulp is removed, the tooth is cleaned, disinfected, and sealed to prevent further infection. Root canals are often recommended for teeth that have deep cavities, cracks, or abscesses, as well as those that have been traumatized.

What Causes a Failed Root Canal?

While root canals are successful in the majority of cases, there are certain situations in which the treatment may fail. Some of the most common causes of this situation include:

  • Inadequate cleaning and shaping of the root canals during the initial treatment.
  • The use of substandard materials or techniques.
  • The presence of undiagnosed or untreated dental issues, such as additional canals or a fracture in the tooth.
  • A poor crown or filling placed after the root canal treatment.
  • Recurrent infection.
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Symptoms of a Failed Root Canal

If a root canal has failed, there are several signs and symptoms that may indicate the problem. These include:

  • Persistent or recurring pain in the treated tooth.
  • Swelling or tenderness in the gums near the treated tooth.
  • A pimple or abscess on the gums near the treated tooth.
  • A discolored or darkening of the treated tooth.
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures in the treated tooth.

Treatment Options for Failed Root Canal

If a root canal has failed, there are several treatment options that may be considered. These include:

  • Retreatment: In many cases, a failed root canal can be retreated by removing the old filling, cleaning and shaping the canals again, and placing new filling.
  • Apicoectomy: An apicoectomy is a surgical procedure that involves removing the tip of the tooth’s root. This procedure can be done if the initial root canal treatment failed because of a blocked or curved canal that could not be accessed during the initial treatment.
  • Extraction: In some cases, the tooth may be too damaged or infected to be saved. In such cases, extraction may be the best option.
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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How can I prevent a failed root canal?
  • Maintaining good oral hygiene, visiting your dentist regularly and following their instructions for post-operative care can help prevent a failed root canal.
  1. How long does it take for a failed root canal to heal?
  • The healing time for a failed root canal can vary depending on the severity of the damage and the treatment option chosen. A retreatment typically takes a few weeks to heal, while an apicoectomy can take several months.
  1. Will I need a crown after a failed root canal?
  • A crown may be recommended after a failed root canal to protect the tooth and restore its function.
  1. Can a failed root canal cause an infection?
  • Yes, a failed root canal can cause an infection if the tooth is not treated properly.
  1. Can a failed root canal be treated with antibiotics?
  • Antibiotics alone cannot treat a failed root canal. A root canal treatment or surgery is typically required.


A root canal can be a serious dental issue that requires prompt attention. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options can help you make informed decisions about your oral health. It’s important to maintain good oral hygiene and visit your dentist regularly to prevent a failed root canal from occurring. If you suspect that you have a failed root canal, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible to save the tooth and prevent further damage. Retreatment, apicoectomy, or extraction are the most common treatment options for a root canal, and your dentist will be able to recommend the best course of treatment for you. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to speak with your dentist.

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