Can a Root Canal Get Re-Infected?

Most first-time endodontic treatments are successful in saving a tooth with internal decay and extending its lifespan to match that of the patient's non-decayed teeth. However, sometimes, a tooth treated with endodontics can be re-infected by decay. This can occur weeks, months, or even years after the original endodontic treatment. In cases where nonsurgical retreatment isn't an option, endodontic surgery may be the best alternative to extraction.

New cavities may appear immediately after endodontics, which can cause reinfections. If the teeth are damaged or broken after root canal treatment, the same thing happens. The success of any endodontic treatment depends largely on effectively eliminating harmful bacteria from the root canal system and then sealing it to prevent more bacteria from entering the tooth or roots. After receiving endodontic treatment, the tooth may still be more susceptible to damage compared to other teeth.

The American Association of Endodontists (AAE) identified several circumstances that sometimes prevent healing after treating a tooth with a root canal. The symptoms of a reinfected root canal may be similar to the symptoms that caused you to have a dental evaluation and endodontic treatment in the first place. The procedure is likely to be more complex than the first endodontic treatment, since restorative and filling material may need to be removed to perform the new procedure. Therefore, even if you have a root canal, the accessory canal can cause the tooth to become reinfected. If you and your endodontist choose a new treatment, the endodontist will reopen the tooth to access the root canal filling material.

Endodontic retreatment is a procedure in which an endodontist removes the original fillings from the root canal and then cleans and disinfects the inside of the tooth. For any type of dental discomfort, check with your dentist to see if you have a reinfected root canal, if you need a cavity filling, or if you need endodontic surgery. While reinfection can occur due to problems during initial root canal treatment, there are things you can do to avoid this problem. When this happens, you may experience symptoms similar to those you had before you needed your initial root canal. A successful endodontic treatment saves the natural tooth and extends its life to match other healthy teeth. Some patients worry that if the root canal treatment they had years ago wasn't successful, the same thing is likely to happen again.

Unfortunately, if the root canal fails and the tooth becomes infected again, that infection won't go away on its own. Untreated root canal infections can spread rapidly through the mouth and jaw, which can cause excruciating pain and serious health problems.