It seems that every time I get ready to see an orthodontist for braces that my dentist finds something wrong with my teeth. I am beginning to think that he doesn’t want me to see an orthodontist for braces. I have another delay now because an old root canal tooth is bothering me. I thought I just had some sensitivity in the tooth because my gums are receding, but my dentist did an x-ray and said I needed a repeat root canal. I never heard of a repeat root canal. Is this an actual procedure, or is my dentist making excuses again? – Thank you. Karin from OK
A dentist can repeat root canal treatment more than twice. But repeating it is not always the best option for the patients. When a dentist completes the procedure correctly, root canal treatment has a five to fifteen percent failure rate.
Why May a Root Canal Treatment Fail?
Root canal treatment may fail because of branches in the tooth roots that a dentist cannot fully clean and seal. A molar tooth has three canals, one for each tooth root. But some teeth have a fourth canal. Or some of the canals can split off at right angles. Although fourth canals and right angles are rare, they can be the source of root canal failure.
Although a dentist uses tiny, flexible files to clean out the diseased tooth pulp, a file cannot access a side branch at a ring angle. Retreatment can resolve fifty to seventy-five percent of cases.
An Alternative to Repeat Root Canal Treatment
Root canal surgery is an alternative to root canal treatment. A root canal specialist (endodontist) with these steps:
- Access the tooth roots by making an opening in the bone
- Cutting off the infected root tip
- Sealing the end of the tooth with a small filling
Still, some tooth roots are not surgically accessible or risky because they are near a nerve that travels through the jaw and lower lip. In that case, extraction is another option.
Get a Second Opinion
If you think your dentist is unnecessarily delaying your orthodontic treatment, we suggest that you schedule a second opinion. Look for a dentist with advanced training and experience in root canal treatment. And if you have recent x-rays, ask your dentist for them, and take them with you for a second opinion.
Rekha Reddy, DDS, of Dallas, TX, sponsors this post.