root canal

Root Canal Infection: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

It’s common to experience minor pain and sensitivity after a dental procedure like a root canal treatment. But, when post-treatment discomfort becomes a persistent pain, it might indicate an infection after root canal treatment.

But what are the symptoms of the infected tooth after root canal treatment?

Let’s explore post-root canal infections and what you can do about them.

What Is a Root Canal Infection?

A root canal infection is a bacterial infection in the inner parts of the tooth, specifically in the canal system where the pulp tissue is situated. The infection can occur for multiple reasons, including severe tooth decay, dental trauma, a cracked or broken tooth or a root canal treatment complication.

This infection often causes teeth to become abscessed, leading to severe pain and tooth sensitivity. It can also potentially affect the underlying bone structure. If not treated in time, a root canal infection may result in tooth loss or the spread of infection in other parts of the body.

What Are the Signs of a Root Canal Infection?

Severe Pain and Tooth Sensitivity

One of the most common signs of an infected root canal is intense pain when biting, chewing, or in extreme temperatures. The pain can occasionally be mistaken for a sinus headache or mistaken as pain referred from other areas.

Foul Taste and Bad Breath

An unpleasant taste in the mouth or unusually bad breath, which are symptoms of infection after root canal surgery, may indicate an infected root canal. These signs can also be mistaken for other oral issues, but they are often due to the presence of harmful bacteria causing the infection.

Swollen Lymph Nodes

Swelling of the lymph nodes around your jaws can also be one of the infected root canal complications. They may become tender to touch and can sometimes cause difficulty in opening the mouth.

Prolonged Gum Swelling

Prolonged gum swelling around the treated tooth may be due to a root canal infection. A persistent abscess or “pimple” on the gums signifies that the infection is not fully eradicated.

Discolored or Darkened Tooth

A discolored or darkened tooth is a sign of an infected pulp and needs to be examined by a dental professional. This discoloration can range from a faint darkening to a noticeable black or grey hue.

How Can a Root Canal Tooth Get Infected?

1. Tooth Decay and Deep Cavity

Untreated tooth decay and a deep cavity can allow bacteria to enter the tooth root, leading to an infection in the dental pulp. Over time, the infection can spread to the pulp chamber, causing a root canal infection. This is often the case after neglecting oral care or avoiding regular dental visits, letting tooth decay progress unchecked.

2. Failed Root Canal Treatment

Improperly cleaned out canals or incomplete initial treatment can leave residual nerve tissue and contribute to a post-root canal infection. This can be due to a variety of factors, including uncommon root canal shapes or obscured canals that were not addressed during the initial treatment.

3. Cracked or Damaged Dental Crown or Filling

A cracked dental crown or a defective filling can expose the root canal to harmful bacteria, causing an infection. In these cases, the protective barrier created by the crown or filling has been compromised, giving bacteria easy access to the vulnerable inner tooth.

4. Delayed Dental Crown Placement

After a root canal procedure, a temporary filling is placed to protect the tooth. If the permanent crown is not placed soon, it can lead to an infection. Delays in follow-up appointments and final crown placement create a window of opportunity for potential bacteria invasion.

5. Oral Infections and Gum Disease

Existing oral infections or gum disease can contribute to a root canal infection. Advanced gum disease or periodontitis can also cause root canal infections as harmful bacteria penetrate the tooth root through the diseased gum tissue.

How Can You Treat Root Canal Infection?

Treating a root canal infection can often seem daunting. However, restoring your oral health is essential, especially when dealing with root canal complications. The treatment generally involves removing the infected or inflamed pulp from inside the tooth, carefully cleaning, disinfecting and then filling or sealing the area.

This reduces pain and halts the spread of infection, preventing further damage to the affected tooth. Remember that treatments can vary based on the particular condition, the severity of the infection, and the patient’s comfort level.

Additionally, a well-executed follow-up plan, including dental hygiene and regular check-ups, is crucial to avoid post-procedure complications and ensure the longevity of the treated tooth. If not treated promptly, root canal complications could eventually lead to tooth loss. Don’t hesitate to ask your dentist any questions you may have about the procedure.

How to Prevent Root Canal Infection

  • Maintenance of Oral Hygiene. Making brushing and flossing a regular part of your daily routine can help ward off infections. Use a high-quality fluoride toothpaste and a good toothbrush to maintain optimal dental hygiene.
  • Regular Dental Checkups. By visiting your dental professional regularly, potential issues can be caught early and treated promptly. These visits can help identify and address issues at their onset, reducing the risk of infection.
  • Avoiding Acidic Foods. Limiting your intake of highly acidic foods and drinks can protect your teeth from decay. Acidic foods and drinks can erode enamel, which can then expose the underlying dentin or root of the tooth.
  • Using Antiseptic Mouthwash. Regular use of an antiseptic mouthwash can help keep harmful bacteria at bay. This is not a replacement for brushing and flossing but another tool in your oral hygiene routine.
  • Wearing a Protective Barrier. Using a night guard or sports mouth guard can protect your teeth from injury and subsequent infection. Wearing a protective barrier provides a physical shield against potential injury or damage.

Don’t Ignore the Warning Signs of Root Canal Infection—Contact Dedicated Dental Studios Today

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of an infected root canal, do not ignore them. At Dedicated Dental Studios, we put our patients’ oral health first. We offer convenient, comfortable, and comprehensive dental care. Our dedicated team will take the time to explain your treatment and answer any questions you may have.

Contact us today to book an appointment. We look forward to providing you with the best in dental care.


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