Why Do Root Canals Fail?

Key Takeaways:

    Incomplete Removal of Infection: Why do root canals fail? One reason is if all infected tissue and bacteria isn’t entirely removed during the initial procedure. However, this is not the only cause of failure.

    Root Canal Treatments: Another cause is the complex anatomy of some teeth, which can make root canals challenging. Advanced imaging technology is a huge help in those cases.

    Cracked Teeth: Finally, cracks in teeth can significantly compromise the success of root canal treatments by providing an entry for bacteria to reinfect the root canal system.

A root canal is a standard dental procedure used to save a tooth that has become infected or is heavily decaying. While root canals have a high success rate, procedures can occasionally fail. Understanding why root canals fail can provide insight into the importance of selecting the right provider the first time around and ensuring the long-term success of dental procedures.

In the following article, we will look at the most prevalent reasons why root canals fail and examine strategies to address these issues to improve oral health and patient satisfaction. 

Common Cause of Failure #1 – Incomplete Removal of Infection

One of the most common reasons for why root canal treatments fail is that unhealthy tissue found within the tooth is not completely removed during the initial procedure. A root canal involves the meticulous excision of inflammatory pulp tissue from the tooth’s interior, to eliminate the source of pain and prevent its recurrence. 

However, leaving behind contaminated tissue can lead to bacterial growth, risking reinfection and the success of root canal therapy. Thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting the root canal system using modern techniques is crucial for treatment efficacy.

For example, the dental operating microscopy, advanced dental imaging (CBCT) and advanced irrigation technology (the GentleWave and Fotona laser) are modern tools that provide a detailed image of the tooth’s internal structure and allow for precise navigation and complete removal of contaminated tissue. These innovative instruments allow endodontists to detect and treat even the tiniest patches of infection, significantly reducing the danger of leaving any infected tissue behind.

Common Cause of Failure #2 – The Root Canal’s Complex Anatomy

When performing root canal treatments, endodontists face a great deal of challenges due to the anatomy of root canals. Most teeth have complicated systems of multiple curved canals and isthmuses or connections between those canals, which might make it difficult to adequately clean and fill the teeth and therefore can be a common reason why root canals fail.

Addressing these challenges requires an effective approach that makes use of modern imaging techniques, such as a cone-beam scan. The CBCT technology produces a three-dimensional, high-resolution image of the tooth’s interior structure, providing unique insight into its complex anatomy. This precise imaging enables endodontists to accurately determine the root canals’ anatomy, even in cases with atypical configurations.

CBCT scans also enable endodontists to navigate more complex root canal systems with more precision and confidence. This sophisticated visualization allows them to identify and address any issues before and during the treatment, improving the cleaning and filling process for each canal layout.

Also, advanced irrigation technology such as the GentleWave and laser technology may be the only way to clean  into some of these complex structures. Mechanical cleaning with straight endodontic files can only do so much. 

Common Cause of Failure #3 – Undetected or New Cracks

The occurrence of cracks within a tooth is another reason why root canals may not be successful long term. These difficult to diagnose hidden structural defects have the potential to compromise the integrity of the seal formed during and after treatment, allowing bacteria to permeate and induce reinfection and endangering the overall success of the procedure.

The solution to this is to use sophisticated diagnostic tools and techniques that go beyond standard X-rays. Transillumination, for example, involves shining a bright light through the tooth to expose any fractures or flaws that would not be seen on regular radiographs. This approach reveals minor variations in tooth structure, assisting in the early diagnosis of fissures or fractures that could jeopardize the treatment’s efficacy. Sometimes cracks can be under the gum and bone tissue and are undetected without advanced imaging technology. Even with advanced imaging, cracks are difficult to discern sometimes, and this is where clinical expertise is important. Cracks may also occur years after the original treatment.

During your appointment with an endodontist, you may undergo tapping tests and sensitivity tests using hot or cold stimuli. Although these methods might seem simple, they provide invaluable information that aids in locating the source of the pain that tooth crack is causing. When a tooth has a crack, tapping it can produce a distinct pain response that differs from other types of dental discomfort. A crack can create a unique sensation or sharp pain when pressure is applied. 

Also, by applying a hot or cold stimulus to the tooth, endodontists can observe if there is an exaggerated or prolonged pain response, indicating a potential crack or fracture. This sensitivity can help localize the problem area within the tooth’s structure.

If you think you may have a cracked tooth, learn more here about how to treat it.

Why You Should Choose Ballantyne Endodontics for Endodontic Care

While there are several reasons why root canals may fail, at Ballantyne Endodontics, we take pride in offering modern and effective root canal treatments, including the GentleWave root canal procedure. Here’s why we’re excited about this innovative approach to endodontics:

The GentleWave procedure revolutionizes endodontics by harnessing the power of advanced fluid dynamics and a wide spectrum of sound waves. This combination allows us to access even the most intricate and hard-to-reach spaces within your teeth, thoroughly removing bacteria, debris, and tissue.

Thanks to the thorough cleaning and disinfection achieved with GentleWave in Charlotte NC, the risk of root canal failure over time is significantly reduced. Additionally, there’s a lower likelihood of needing endodontic retreatment in the future, ensuring long-term success for your treated tooth.

Also, the GentleWave root canal procedure is known for its minimally invasive nature, preserving more of your natural tooth structure and keeping your tooth strong. In many cases, it can be completed in just one appointment, streamlining the treatment process and potentially reducing the number of visits needed. Patients often experience reduced post-procedure pain and discomfort, making the overall experience more comfortable and convenient.

Experience the highest standard of care and optimal outcomes for your root canal procedure at Ballantyne Endodontics with our innovative GentleWave technique.

In addition to GentleWave, we also have added the Fotona Laser as one of our newest endodontic technologies.

Our endodontists use it to get rid of bacteria that can grow inside your tooth’s canals, as well as any tiny bits of debris that may collect during your procedure.

The laser can be used to prevent soreness and fatigue by activating the muscles around your jaw. This can help make you more comfortable during your procedure.

Without even needing to touch you, the Fotona Laser helps ensure a safe, clean, and effective root canal, reducing postoperative discomfort and helping restore your oral health. It helps make a Ballantyne Endo root canal a positive experience for our patients. Book your appointment today to reduce interference with your daily routine and ensure long-term oral health.