Failed Root Canal – Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Are you dealing with a Failed Root Canal? Root canals are essential dental procedures aimed at saving infected or decayed teeth. However, it can be unsettling when the results don’t meet expectations.

Common Symptoms of a Failed Root Canal

A root canal treatment aims to remove infected pulp and nerve tissue from a compromised tooth due to decay or infection. Emergency root canal procedures are often necessary to alleviate symptoms of an infected tooth. When performed correctly, they protect the tooth from further infection. Unfortunately, not all root canal treatments are successful. If you’re facing the challenges of a failed root canal, the insights shared in this guide can help you navigate the journey toward saving your tooth.

What are the Common Symptoms of a Failed Root Canal?

Getting a root canal is a common dental fix to save a tooth. It usually works well, with a success rate of over 90%. But like any procedure, it can sometimes fail.

6 Symptoms of a Failed Root Canal are

If you’ve had a root canal, it’s important to know the signs that it might not have worked. Sometimes, things don’t go as planned, even with the best care.

Swelling After Tooth Treatment

If you notice slight swelling in or around the treated tooth in the first few days, it could signal an infection that needs immediate attention. Swollen tissue is often sensitive and may produce pus.

Soreness After Failed Root Canal

Experiencing soreness for a few days after an unsuccessful root canal could mean trouble. If you feel extreme pain or the tooth initially felt better but then started hurting again, it might indicate a failed root canal.

Pain and Discomfort During Root Canal Recovery

It’s common to feel pain and discomfort during the recovery from a root canal, especially after consuming hot or cold beverages. However, if the pain remains or becomes severe, seeking professional help is essential.

Leakage of Pus or Blood From Gums Post Tooth Treatment

If your gums around the treated tooth start leaking pus or blood, it could be a sign of an abscess beginning to form. Abscesses are often accompanied by discomfort, making it crucial to promptly examine any discharge.

Back Tooth Infection Causes Maxillary Sinus Infection

Infections in your back teeth can sometimes spread to the maxillary sinus, leading to issues such as congestion, stuffiness, runny nose, bad breath, and jaw and face pain. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to consult a dentist promptly.

Pimples or Boils On The Jaw Signals Root Canal Failure 

Noticing a pimple or boil on your jaw that won’t go away could indicate a failed root canal. The body’s natural drainage system may try to expel pus from the affected area, signaling potential complications with the root canal procedure.

Following are the causes of Root Canal Failure

Complex Root Structure:

Some teeth have tricky roots that are hard to clean thoroughly.

Different Canal Shapes:

Each tooth can have canals that vary in number, shape, and position, making treatment more challenging.

Missed Canal Branches:

Sometimes, smaller branches of the main root canal are missed, which can harbor infection and lead to treatment failure.

Hardened Canals:

Over time, canals can become hardened, making them difficult to clean completely during treatment.

Material Breakdown:

The sealant used in the root canal can degrade over time, allowing bacteria to re-enter the tooth and cause infection.

Tiny Contaminants:

Even tiny particles left inside the canal can cause contamination and hinder successful treatment.

Incomplete Cleaning:

If bacteria remain in the tooth after treatment, they can cause reinfection and undermine the procedure’s effectiveness.

Broken Tools:

Tools used during the procedure can break inside the tooth, making retrieval challenging without causing damage.

Bacterial Leakage:

Bacteria can leak into the treated area, contributing to treatment failure over time.

How to Treat a Failed Root Canal

How to Treat a Failed Root Canal?

Here are some common treatment options for a failed root canal:

Retreatment of the Root Canal:

If the failure is due to incomplete cleaning or sealing, your dentist may suggest retreating the root canal. This process involves reopening the tooth, removing the previous filling, cleaning the canals again, and resealing them.


This surgical procedure targets the root tip (apex) itself. It involves removing the root tip and sealing the end to prevent further infection. Apicoectomy is often considered when retreatment isn’t feasible.

Tooth Extraction:

Extraction may be necessary if the tooth is severely damaged or other treatments are not viable. Following extraction, options such as dental implants, bridges, or partial dentures can bring back the appearance and functionality of the missing tooth.

Endodontic Surgery:

Specialized endodontic procedures may sometimes be required to access areas of infection that conventional treatments cannot reach.

Antibiotic Treatment:

In certain instances, antibiotics may be prescribed alongside other treatments to control and eliminate the infection.

Monitoring and Maintenance:

In less severe cases, your dentist may choose to monitor the tooth closely and recommend maintenance procedures such as regular cleanings and check-ups.

Understanding these treatment options can help you make informed decisions about your dental health and work towards restoring the health and function of your teeth.

Knowing the symptoms, causes, and treatments for a failed root canal is key to good dental health. By understanding these aspects, you can take action early and work with your dentist to find the best solution.

Schedule an appointment with Chevy Chase Today

Are you ready to bid farewell to tooth troubles? Call at 301-302-7761 to book an appointment with Chevy Chase. Our dedicated team is here to restore your smile with gentle care and effective solutions. Don’t let discomfort linger – take the first step toward dental relief and call us now!


What is the most common cause of root canal failure?

The reasons behind endodontic failure include bacteria (inside and outside the canal), inadequate canal filling (poorly cleaned and sealed canals), and Overextension of root filling materials.

While antibiotics can reduce swelling and infection, they do not facilitate tooth healing.

The main treatment for a failed root canal is retreatment, which has the highest success rate. Your endodontist will address the infection before refilling and sealing the tooth to preserve its structure.

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