Root canal treatment (RCT) or endodontic treatment is a procedure that dentists use to treat infected, or dead, teeth. It involves removing the dead or dying material, then ‘filling in’ the root canals inside the teeth.
Reasons for root canal treatment
A tooth becomes infected when bacteria enters the nerve (pulp) of the tooth. This can occur due to:
- Dental decay, (this can include decay around existing fillings)
- Leaking fillings, (a filling is said to be leaking when the side of the filling doesn’t fit tightly against the tooth)
Usually, you will become aware of an infected tooth due to toothache – and you should visit your dentist for a check-up as soon as possible. If an infection is left untreated, this can lead to a dental abscess; which is a collection of pus in the bone underneath the infected tooth.
Root canal treatment process
Root canal treatment (RCT) should be initiated as soon as possible after a tooth infection is diagnosed. Before your dentist commences RCT, your tooth will need to be x-rayed so that the anatomy of the root can be assessed. At this stage, your dentist may decide that the procedure would be best performed by a specialist endodontist.
Simple, single-rooted tooth RCT can be completed in about an hour, whilst multi-rooted teeth and more complex cases may take several dental visits to complete.
RCT is often performed under local anaesthetic on teeth, which are isolated from saliva and soft tissue by a sheet of rubber placed over the tooth called a ‘rubber dam’. Once the rubber dam is in place, your dentist will drill directly into the tooth to gain access to the root canal system in the centre. He will then look for the entrance to the root canal(s). Once all of the canals have been found, they are cleaned and shaped using various instruments. The length of the canal(s) is determined by x-rays and/or an electronic device.
The canals are then permanently filled to prevent bacteria from re-entering the canal system. A final x-ray will be taken to check that the canals have been filled completely and to the correct length.
Root-filled teeth are more likely to fracture than healthy teeth and you will usually require a crown to protect and reconstruct your tooth after the root canal treatment has been done.
After RCT, you may experience a little discomfort for a few days, but this should then disappear, leaving a tooth which feels normal, just like its neighbours.
Root canal compensation claims
Root canal treatment is an invasive form of treatment, so complications can occur during or after the procedure, reducing the chance of the treatment being successful. Root canal patients may be eligible to make a claim if their dentist:
- Fractured an instrument inside the root canal and failed to inform you
- Failed to remove the nerve completely
- Perforated instruments through the side of the tooth.
- Failed to clean, shape or fill the canals appropriately, which resulted in infection (this can be judged by the x-ray taken at the end of RCT)
- Did not gain informed consent
- Did not advise them of alternative, less costly treatments
- Made errors during the root canal procedure, resulting in pain or infection.
When RCT has failed, immediate action is required to prevent the infection from worsening. Possible options include:
- Repeat RCT
- Surgery – removal of the infected root tip (apicectomy)
If you have had a root canal treatment and have been injured as a result, contact the expert dental negligence claim solicitors at the Dental Law Partnership today.
Can you sue a dentist for a bad root canal?
Yes, in some cases you can sue your dentist for a bad root canal treatment if the procedure was not performed to an acceptable standard, or if your dentist neglected their duty of care, resulting in unnecessary pain, harm and suffering. It may also be possible to claim compensation for loss of earnings, as well as for needless pain and any corrective procedures you may need to undertake. You may be able to claim compensation if your dentist:
- Did not gain your consent to treatment
- Did not advise of alternative, less costly treatments
- Made errors during the root canal procedure, resulting in pain or infection
- Did not clean out the root canal completely
- Did not shape or fill the canal properly and this resulted in further infection
- Fractured an instrument inside the root canal and did not inform you
- Perforated the root of the tooth