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Getting a root canal done is a big deal for most people. The procedure itself is more often than not painless but years of social training to the contrary has put a sometimes irrational fear of getting it done in most people.
This is why it can be a real blow to the gut when you find out that the root canal procedure you had clenched your fists through has now failed! Here are some reasons why that can happen.
A root canal is a blind procedure in which the Doctor is working through the use of X-rays and tactile feedback. This makes the root canal inherently prone to errors. It is also a procedure that is performed by almost all dentists regardless of their specialty since it is a part of general dentistry. The individual skill of the dentist plays a large part in the success of the root canal treatment.
Some of the common mistakes that are made during root canal treatment include extending beyond the apex of the tooth and thus damaging the structure at the root tip. This is not something that is very serious and can be corrected during the procedure itself. If the final material used to fill the root canal is extending beyond the tooth though then it is likely to cause chronic pain and inflammation.
The other side of the coin is not cleaning and shaping the entire length of the canal. In such a situation, the length to which the doctor has performed the procedure is less than the actual length of the canal. In such a case, a small majority of the patients will have pain after the root canal has been completed.
The files or the pointed instruments used by the dentist to perform your root canal can be twisted or curved beyond their limit and thus break inside the tooth. File breakage happens much more commonly than people think, especially when the procedure is being performed by dentists who have not specialized in the field of root canals.
None the less, an instrument breaking inside your tooth is not quite the disaster it sounds like. Depending on where the instrument has broken inside your tooth, it can either be bypassed, retrieved or most commonly just left where it is. The likelihood of a tooth with a broken instrument inside the canal failing is more than one where it has not, but it is not uncommon for such teeth to survive for years after the procedure has been completed.
If the instrument is extending beyond the apex of the tooth though then the chance of root canal failure is much higher and the tooth would likely need to be extracted later.
Another thing that can happen is that the dentist can drill deeper than is required and end up perforating through the tooth. This makes it virtually impossible to achieve a seal stopping the flow of microbial agents into the area and a root canal failure is almost certain at this point.