Root Canals & Untreated Nerves: Unpleasant Connection

A woman looking up in confusion

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

We occasionally see new patients complaining about a tooth that was treated with a root canal several decades earlier.

Contrary to popular belief, there may have been no problems with the tooth in question except for discoloration.

Years ago, your dentist may have attempted internal bleaching to whiten a tooth, which involves drilling into the tooth and bleaching it from the inside.

More often than not, this treatment is safe enough and doesn’t involve complications. Normal disadvantages include needing a few sessions and not having a very strong effect – inconvenient, but not harmful.

However, if side effects do occur – be it pain in the tooth or swelling in the surrounding gums – then the tooth should be re-evaluated to see what’s wrong.

First and foremost, we’ll work with you to figure out the cause. Referral to a specialist, such as an endodontist or an oral surgeon may be needed at this point.

Root canals & infection: Cause & treatment

Sometimes, your root canal may have been performed fine, but an abscessed infection might develop at the tip of the tooth root regardless.

Properly performed root canal therapy has about a 90% success rate.

That said, subsequent problems (including infection) can still occur, and a missed nerve canal can often be a cause of re-infection.

In these cases, you might need re-treatment (or in worst case scenarios, surgical removal) to cure the infection.

To re-treat a root canal, we:

  • Remove the old rubbery filling inside the root
  • Reshape the root
  • Treat the infection, and
  • Refill the canal with new material

Problems like these may not show up during X-ray examination because X–rays represent 3D objects in 2D.

A missed nerve canal during the original procedure is a primary reason that root-canal-treated teeth become re-infected.

In general, re-treating the tooth should eliminate any infection and resolve your pain.

Contact a specialist & book a dental appointment

Does the description above sound like something you may be experiencing?

Book a dental exam ASAP!

Your dentist will help you outline an oral hygiene plan, including in-office and at-home care, to help you reach your goals.

Contact us to get started. Our dentists, Dr. Corie Vitkovic and Dr. Steven Kitts, will work with you to restore your dental health for good.

Book an appointment

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Our office is located in Bellevue, WA…Open a new window in Google Maps to get directions…, and proudly serves surrounding communities in Seattle, Kirkland, Renton, Woodinville, Issaquah, Redmond, and Sammamish.

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