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Were you aware that if you consistently take good care of your oral health, you can often keep a tooth that has been through a root canal treatment for the rest of your life? Most people envision themselves in dentures at some point, and while there are some pretty amazing dentures out there these days, keeping your natural teeth is still ideal and why you should be taking good care of your teeth and gums every day!

The American Association of Endodontists (AAE) asserts that people can keep a damaged tooth – after treating it with a root canal – for the rest of their lives to help them keep their teeth functioning as long as possible.

Occasionally, a tooth that has undergone a root canal can turn out to be diseased and cause pain, whether that’s months or years after your original root canal. The good news is, you can still get a second chance at saving that tooth by having another root canal done. It is called root canal retreatment, and as endodontists, we use those to help our patients all the time!

Why a Tooth Might Not Heal From a Root Canal

With a root canal treatment, even though the tooth’s nerve is taken out, it may still not heal completely. It can happen the first time around from any of the following factors:

  • The crown or other dental restoration placed after the original root canal was delayed for some reason.
  • The root canals were too narrow or curved, making some of them unreachable for treatment.
  • The anatomy of the problem tooth was tricky, so some canals were missed.
  • Saliva made its way into the tooth after the tooth was restored, leaving the canals contaminated.

A tooth can also develop issues after a successful root canal treatment, including dental decay that exposes the filling material in the root canal to oral bacteria (leading to reinfection). Bacteria can get inside a tooth if a filling or crown has been damaged, including after being loose, broken, cracked, or fractured. Now is a good time to go back in and retreat the tooth with another root canal if any of these happened to you.

Endodontic Surgery Options

Indeed, dentists can often extend the life of a tooth when performing a successful root canal the first time. But once pain comes back in that tooth, turning to our endodontist for retreatment may be the best solution for your smile. Endodontic surgery such as an apicoectomy can also help when a root canal retreatment won’t. In that case, we can go in and make an incision near the tip of the tooth’s root to get at the infected parts. Aside from retreatment of the tooth or having an apicoectomy done to save it, the only other option left for you is extracting the damaged tooth and replacing it.

What Happens During Your Retreatment

If you do choose endodontic retreatment, first, our endodontist will take off the dental crown or filling from the damaged tooth so we can get to the root canal filling and take it out. Next, the canals are thoroughly cleaned so we can see the root canals. Using special tools with light and magnification, we can check for extra canals if there’s an infection or if there’s abnormal anatomy within the canals themselves.

Once the infection is cleared, we can reshape and clean the canals so they can be refilled and restored. There are cases where the canals may be too thin to get to, so we can seal off that area of the root tip. Then you can get a temporary filling in the newly restored tooth and have a follow-up visit with us to make sure everything is working. Once the area heals, you can see your dentist and have a dental filling or crown placed, bringing your tooth back to full function.

Thanks to advances in endodontic technology, having a root canal retreatment may be the best solution for a painful tooth that once had a root canal. Remember, we are here to help you maintain a healthy smile throughout your life, so give us a call today to learn more!