Tag Archives: root canal failure

Pain After Root Canal Treatment

I need some advice about my root canal treatment. I had one done in three sessions that was the most discomfort I have ever been in. Then, I remained in pain for quite some time. I went back to my dentist and he decided to refer me to a root canal specialist, which I am wondering if he should have done in the first place. The endodontist thought maybe I was in pain because a canal was missed and I opted for a retreatment. During the procedure, he did not find a missed canal but said that he gave the end of the root more of a seal than was there before. He did tell me it would hurt for a few days. The swelling is down, but I am on day five and still in quite a bit of pain. Is there something wrong or do I need to wait this out?


Dear Drew,

Man in pain holding his cheek

I am sorry you are in pain. The good news is there are some things to be optimistic about here. First, it looks like the original problem of the infected tooth was resolved during the root canal treatment. In some complicated cases, it is better to go to a root canal specialist, but for most normal root canal treatments, your general dentist is just fine.

It should be noted that the failure, in this case, was not because he missed a canal but could have done a better seal at the tip of the root, which your second treatment resolved.

You said the swelling has gone down. This is another positive sign. The question about healing after a root canal treatment is not as much “how long should you be in pain”? Rather, the question is, “Are you improving?”

In your case, it appears you are. Some patients are in pain for longer than others. I would ask your dentist or endodontist to give you something for the pain but make sure you taper off of it each day.

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Can You Have a Root Canal Done a Third Time?

I had a root canal treatment done about nine years ago. It had to be re-done a few years after that. Now it is bothering me again. Is it possible to do a root canal treatment a third time?


Dear Mary,

You can re-do a root canal treatment quite a few times. However, you may want to evaluate whether or not that is your best course of action. Root canal treatments are tricky under the best of circumstances. It is estimated that even when a dentist does everything perfectly, there can still be a 15% failure rate. Why is that?

While there is between one and four canals in a tooth, depending on the type of tooth, there are branches that stem off from the main canal. These can take crazy twists and turns. In some cases, they are literally impossible for us to clean out and seal properly with the current technology we have. If a dentist can’t reach all the pulp, there is a significant chance of re-infection.

In addition to that, the chances of a successful re-treatment go down with each attempt. This will be your third treatment. A second option is root canal surgery. However, some patients are not candidates depending on where the nerves lie.

While a good dentist always tries to save a tooth, the honest answer is some teeth are not saveable despite everyone’s best efforts. In that case, the only thing left is to get a tooth extraction and then a replacement.

If that happens, the two best replacements to look at are a dental implant or a dental bridge. Both will serve you well. Just speak with your dentist about your particular circumstances and he or she will help you make the right decision.

Best of Luck!

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Her Dentist is Putting her in Danger

I had a root canal treatment several years ago. The area started hurting again so I went in and my dentist did an x-ray and decided I needed a re-treatment. He did it right then and gave me both Vicoden and penicillin. I was fine for a bit, but maybe that was just the Vicodin. Then the pain came back with vengeance. I called him and he said some people just take longer than others to heal and to give it another couple of weeks. I’m in so much pain I can barely breathe half the time. What do you recommend?


Dear Stacy,

Woman grabbing her jaw in pain

I’m concerned about how your dentist is handling this infection. I can’t tell for sure if you got better and then worse or just got steadily worse to where the Vicodin was no longer working for you. Either way, it is a bad sign and he is putting you in danger.

Most root canal re-treatments are only successful 1/2 to 3/4 of the time. I realy think you need to see a root canal specialist at this point. He’s not taking this seriously. At the very least, he should have switched you to a stronger antibiotic when you were not better after a few days.

When you call a specialist, let them know what is going on so they can get you in for an emergency dental appointment. If they can’t get you in right away, they should at the very least prescribe a stronger prescription for you.

I’m sorry this is happening to you.

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The Filling Over my Root Canal Fell Out!


I had a root canal done back when I had dental insurance. Now, I don’t have insurance anymore and the filling covering the gap the root canal left behind has fallen out. Since I lack the funds to see a dentist, I’d usually let it slide, but I’m worried. There’s a metal rod that’s been exposed, and what’s worse, it’s loose – I can wiggle it with my tongue. Is there anything I can do on my own, or is seeing a dentist my only solution? I need an affordable solution.

Barney, Poughkeepsie, NY


Hi Barney,

I’m sorry to hear about your situation. Root canal treatments can fail if they are not protected from saliva in the mouth. Loosening the protective filling can cause another infection, which means another root canal is needed, or else you will lose the tooth.

I’d recommend you go see a dentist that caters to your needs. If you explain your situation, they should be able to fix this for low cost (or if you’re lucky, no cost.) There are two different solutions I would recommend: The first is quick and easy, and can be done using Cavit (a paste that comes in a tube, and hardens when exposed to moisture – such as in the mouth).

A more permanent but still affordable solution would be to create a filling around a metal post using a bonded core material. In your case, if you can not afford to come back for a crown, this filling would last for several years. Once you have dental insurance again, or are in a more-secure financial state, you can complete the next step of treatment – a new root canal topped with the porcelain crown you need.

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Dental Dam

My dentist always uses something called a Dental Dam when he does root canals and fillings. I don’t like how it feels. Can you tell me what its used for?

Anne G.- Ft. Worth, TX


Sure. A dental dam, also called rubber dam, are designed to keep your tooth dry for procedures like root canals and sometimes composite fillings. The purpose for it is to protect your tooth from saliva. Our saliva has bacteria in it that can increase the chance of your tooth getting reinfected after your root canal procedure. It is also useful for keeping your tongue out of the way as well as keeping dental material and water out of your throat during the procedure. This helps people with a strong gag reflex.

Some dentists will use it when doing white (composite fillings) also because if the tooth doesn’t stay dry, the material won’t bond properly to your tooth. I would discuss with your dentist how you feel about the dam and see if you can work out a mutually beneficial solution.

You may also be interested in learning about Mercury-free dentistry.

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