Root Canal and an Untreated Nerve

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It is possible that a nerve canal can be missed and end up untreated.

A patient may come to your Seattle Dentist or Bellevue Dentist office complaining about a tooth that was treated with a root canal several decades earlier. Previously, no problems have existed with the tooth in question except that it may have been discolored. In an attempt to improve the color of the tooth, a dentist may have attempted internal bleaching, which involves drilling into the tooth and bleaching it from the inside. The process is often successful without any complications. A drawback to this process is that it may take several sessions to successfully bleach the tooth and even then it may not be as light of shade of color as is most desirable. If any side affect occurs involving pain in the tooth or swelling in the surrounding gums then the tooth should be re–evaluated as to the cause of these symptoms. Referral to a specialist, such as an endodontist or an oral surgeon may be needed at this point.

Sometimes an original root canal may have been performed fine, but an abscess with infection might develop at the tip of the tooth root. Re–treatment of such a root canal might be needed to cure the infection. Otherwise, the root tip would need surgical removal. Re–treatment of a root canal involves removal of the old rubbery filling inside the root, followed by reshaping of the root, treatment of the infection, and then refilling the canal with new material. On rare occasions, a nerve canal could be missed during the original root canal procedure and therefore was not properly treated. Such a problem may not be distinguishable upon x–ray examination, because x–rays are a 2–dimension representation of a 3–dimensional object. A missed nerve canal during the original procedure is a primary reason that a root–canal treated tooth can become re–infected. Re–treatment of the tooth should eliminate any infection.

Although properly performed root canal therapy has about a 90% success rate, subsequent problems including infection still can occur, and a missed nerve canal can often be the cause of re-infection.