We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Failed Root Canal?

By Thomma Grindstaff
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A failed root canal procedure is one in which the dentist has failed to remove all the dead or diseased tissue from an infected tooth. Root canals are treatments for infections that affect the root or pulp of the tooth. Infections result in pain, dead tissue or even abscesses. In root canal treatment, also called endodontic treatment, the dentist cleans out the canal to remove the infected tissue. Root canal problems occur when the procedure has not fully removed the diseased tissue or when a route has been left open through which infection can return.

Getting a root canal usually eradicates the infection and saves the tooth. When a root canal procedure fails, however, it usually means that the dentist has missed an extra canal in the tooth. Some teeth are expected to have only one canal when, in some patients, those teeth actually have two. Another reason why a root canal procedure may be unsuccessful is that a tooth may have an intricate canal structure deep inside the pulp, which the dentist either misses or is unable to reach with his or her instruments.

A failed root canal can also be the result of an accident during the procedure, in which a dental instrument breaks and becomes stuck in the canal. Structural irregularities, such as curves, ledges or obstructions, can make it difficult for a dentist to completely eliminate the infected tissue. Another cause of root canal complications is when a crack develops in the root of a tooth and the canal cannot be sealed against subsequent re-infection.

One of the most obvious symptoms of a failed root canal are inflamed gums around the tooth, signifying continuing bacterial infection and decay. Other symptoms of a failed root canal include throbbing pain that gets worse, sensitivity that grows more acute, and the seepage of fluid from around the tooth. Sometimes, however, a failed root canal causes no discernible symptoms, which is why patients should seek follow-up examinations from their dentists, including x-rays.

When a patient notices symptoms of a failed root canal, he or she should seek treatment as soon as possible. One solution is for the dentist to remove the old filling material, perform a new root canal procedure and get a better seal. Another option is for an oral surgeon to perform root canal surgery, which usually involves apicoectomy, a procedure in which the surgeon cuts the tips off the roots of an infected tooth. Sometimes root amputation must be performed, where a root has to be completely removed.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon1004550 — On Mar 04, 2021

I had a root canal in 1985, now a dentist says I *may have a failed root canal. Is that possible? It's very tender at the gum site no tooth pain. He RX me an antibiotic.

By ysmina — On Sep 19, 2013

Do dentists have legal liability if they do something wrong during a root canal and cost the patient their tooth and/or their money afterward?

I guess what I'm asking is whether a failed root canal is considered negligence? Can I sue my dentist for it?

By SteamLouis — On Sep 19, 2013

@ankara-- I'm not a dentist, so I may be wrong, but I think that the symptoms of a failed root canal show up fairly quickly. This is especially true if the infection is due to the dentist missing a root.

If you still have an infected root in your tooth, it should cause inflammation and pain soon after the root canal.

But it's possible to have a failed root canal for different reasons. For example, if the dentist doesn't seal the permanent crown all the way, bacteria can get in and infect the tooth. That can happen at any time, even a year after the root canal.

By bluedolphin — On Sep 18, 2013

How long does it usually take for a failed root canal to become apparent?

I had root canal therapy one month ago. Everything was fine afterward, at least until this week. Since the past few days, I have pain and swelling around the tooth that had root canal therapy. Does this mean that the root canal failed?

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.