The Road to Recovery | Failed Root Canal - Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Are you currently experiencing discomfort and wondering about the symptoms associated with a failed root canal? Failed root canals are a prevalent dental issue that may necessitate emergency intervention. The root canal procedure is typically a minimally invasive treatment designed to address damage within the tooth’s pulp, aiding in the cleansing of the root canal system, preserving natural teeth, and alleviating pain. Dentists routinely perform numerous successful root canal procedures each year, resulting in high patient satisfaction.

However, similar to other dental and medical procedures, there exists a possibility of a failed root canal. In such cases, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms associated with a failed root canal. If you happen to notice these symptoms, there’s no need to be overly concerned, as your endodontist can effectively address the failed root canal through surgical options or root canal retreatment

What is a Failed Root Canal?

While effective most of the time, root canals can occasionally fail. This happens when residual infection remains after treatment or the tooth gets reinfected later. The warning signs, like tooth discoloration, gum pimples, or swelling, might not show up for weeks, months, or even years.

However, it’s crucial to act quickly if you experience them, as ignoring a failed root canal can lead to the infection spreading to other teeth and significantly complicate saving the affected one. If you suspect your root canal may have failed, don’t hesitate to visit your endodontist for prompt evaluation and treatment.

What are the Various Causes of Failed Root Canal?

Root canal failures may stem from errors made by a dentist, structural anomalies within the tooth, or unforeseen complications. For instance, a dentist might overlook one of your canals or delay the placement of a dental crown. A botched root canal could also result from traumatic dental injuries, an obstruction, or salivary contamination.

  1. Dental Trauma: In cases where an impacted tooth sustains a fracture or crack, it may lead to an infection in the root.
  2. Root Canal Structure: Some patients have more complex root canal structures, characterized by curved or narrow canals. There is a possibility of having more canals than initially predicted by the dentist. Failure to address these canals adequately during the procedure may result in an infection.
  3. Obstruction: Various factors could obstruct the dentist’s efforts to clean a damaged canal. Examples include the presence of another tooth, filling material, or improperly applied sealants acting as hindrances.
  4. Salivary Contamination: Bacteria present in saliva have the potential to propagate throughout the mouth. If the inside of your tooth is contaminated by saliva and germs, a secondary infection may arise.
  5. Dental Crown Placement: Postponing the placement of a dental crown after a root canal treatment could provide an opportunity for an infection to develop. If the crown is loose or cracked, it may lead to a reinfection of the tooth.

Various Signs & Symptoms of a Failed Root Canal

After undergoing a root canal, you expect relief from the pain and discomfort that brought you to the dentist in the first place. But what if the symptoms return, or new ones appear?

  • Lingering pain or discomfort: This could be sharp, dull, throbbing, or only occur when biting down. It may appear immediately or days later.
  • Tooth sensitivity: If your tooth aches with temperature changes or brushing, something’s wrong. Root canals remove nerves, so sensitivity shouldn’t occur.
  • Swollen gums, jaw, or face: Minor irritation is expected, but significant swelling suggests a cyst or infection. Seek immediate medical attention if swelling spreads or affects your airway.
  • Discharge: Pus draining from gums, cavities, or around the tooth can indicate an abscess. It often has a salty or metallic taste.
  • Tooth discoloration: A brownish or bluish shade, especially noticeable when smiling, can reveal dead nerve tissue. Internal bleaching might be possible.
  • Boil or pimple on the jaw: This “fistula” signifies an active abscess and may disappear and reappear as pus drains. Don’t ignore it.
  • Chronic sinus problems: If congestion or a runny nose started after your root canal, consult your dentist. Upper tooth roots can reach the sinus cavity, and treatment complications can lead to sinus issues.
  • Silent threat: Even without pain, X-rays may reveal problems like recurring cysts or abnormal root resorption. Absence of pain doesn’t mean no infection – get it checked.

What to Do When a Root Canal Fails?

While most root canals are successful, sometimes things don’t go as planned. If you suspect your root canal treatment hasn’t fully healed or infection has returned, remember: panic is not the answer! Early action can often save your tooth, and your endodontist has a toolbox of options to get you back on track with oral health.

Treatment Options for a Failed Root Canal

Root Canal Retreatment 

This is usually the first line of defense. Your endodontist will reopen the tooth, clean and reshape the root canals, and reseal them. Often, this resolves the issue, making it the most common and least invasive option.


If retreatment isn’t effective, this surgical procedure removes the tip of the infected root and seals the remaining canal. While more involved, it offers a high success rate for saving teeth with stubborn infections.

Tooth Extraction 

In rare cases, if the tooth is severely damaged or the infection is extensive, extraction may be necessary. But don’t despair! Your endodontist can discuss options like dental implants, bridges, or partial dentures to restore function and aesthetics.


  • Early detection is key: The sooner you address potential problems, the higher the chances of successful treatment and saving your tooth.
  • Don’t ignore the signs: Pain, swelling, and other symptoms are your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. Ignoring them can worsen the situation and jeopardize your oral health.
  • Your endodontist is your partner: They understand your concerns and have the expertise to guide you through the best course of action. Communicate openly and trust their recommendations.

While a failed root canal can be unsettling, it doesn’t have to lead to tooth loss. With awareness, prompt action, and the help of your skilled endodontist, you can navigate this bump in the road and get back to enjoying a healthy, pain-free smile.

Get Your Failed Root Canal Treatment in Richmond, TX

Although various factors can contribute to failed root canals, identifying telltale signs like pain, swelling, or discoloration early on can help preserve your natural tooth and prevent extended discomfort. Seeking timely treatment is also crucial for long-term dental well-being. Residents of Richmond, TX can consult Glow Up Dentistry for expert care and comprehensive treatment options.

Call 832-685-8240 to book your slot with our experts today!

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