Improving Your Dental Care

A Perforated Tooth Root After A Root Canal: What You Should Know

The list of things that can go wrong with a root canal is relatively short. The process dates all the way back to 1838 when it was determined that a spring from a watch could be repurposed as a dental tool to access a tooth's damaged pulp (its nerve). Obviously, the process has been significantly refined since then. Techniques and tools may have been modernized, but it's still an intricate process. One potential complication is damage to the tooth's root during its root canal.

A Tooth's Canals

A dentist must open the tooth to reach its damaged pulp. They might decide to drill a small access cavity, or if there's an existing cavity (which might be the initial cause of your infected dental pulp), this hole can be expanded. Teeth have numerous canals branching away from the pulp chamber (which will be emptied when the infected nerve is removed). These canals may curve away at inconvenient angles, but your dentist must follow these canals to comprehensively remove all your infected pulp and other contaminants. During these efforts to thoroughly treat all the deepest reaches of your tooth, it's possible for the tooth's root to be damaged, leading to perforation.

A Breach in the Root

A perforated root in your tooth sounds serious, doesn't it? Fortunately, it isn't difficult to treat, although this treatment may not happen immediately. This is because you may be unaware of the problem until later. After it has been irrigated, the tooth's empty pulp chamber is filled with an inert, biocompatible latex substance called gutta-percha. The perforation in your tooth's root can cause the filling material to leach out, where it will irritate surrounding tissues. This feels like your tooth has become infected again—as though your root canal has failed. Without treatment, your discomfort will continue (and will likely worsen). Your root canal certainly needs attention, but it hasn't failed. 

Sealing the Breach

Your dentist can repair the perforation in your tooth root. The treated internal sections of your tooth will also need to be inspected, in case the perforation has disturbed your dentist's work. The perforation will be repaired using a special dental cement (a mineral trioxide aggregate) developed specifically for tooth roots. This seals the breach, preventing the unnatural flow of contaminants and foreign particles from the tooth root into your gums, and vice versa. Any discomfort you're experiencing will then subside of its own accord, although you might appreciate some over-the-counter pain medication during this time as needed.

Lingering discomfort after a root canal shouldn't lead you to conclude that the work has failed. The explanation is likely to be far simpler, and it can be just that a tiny perforation in your tooth's root is causing a few problems—problems that are easy enough to solve.

For more information about root canals, talk to a dentist in your area.