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A root canal is the treatment of choice in order to save a tooth that would otherwise die and need to be extracted. Many patients believe that removing the problematic tooth is the solution, but in reality, extracting a tooth may cause significant problems for adjacent teeth, and ultimately be more costly.


You may need a root canal if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • An abscess on the gum
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold
  • Severe toothache pain
  • Swelling and/or tenderness

 It’s important to remember that some people who need a root canal may never have any symptoms. That’s why regular checkups with your general dentist are so important.

Endodontics is the branch of dentistry concerning dental pulp and tissues surrounding the roots of a tooth. “Endo” is the Greek word for “inside” and “odont” is Greek for “tooth.”


Root Canal Therapy

Dentists and endodontists typically recommend root canal therapy for one of three reasons:

  1. Decay has reached the tooth pulp (the living tissue inside the tooth)
  2. An infection or abscess has developed inside the tooth or at the root tip
  3.  Injury or trauma has occurred to the tooth

 In order to save the tooth, we remove the pulp (the living tissue inside the tooth), nerves, bacteria, and any decay. We then fill the resulting space with special medicated dental materials, which restore the tooth to its full functionality.

Root canal therapy is highly successful and can last a lifetime, although a tooth will sometimes need to be retreated due to new infections.

Root Canal Retreatment

In rare cases, a root canal may fail to work as expected. This can happen for a number of different reasons:

  • Treated tooth may not have healed properly
  • A patient might experience post-surgical complications that jeopardize the tooth Cracked crown or leaking filling material
  • Curved or narrow canals not treated during the original procedure.
  •  New decay to the tooth
  • New fracture in the treated tooth
  •  Saliva entered the restorative structure
  • Undetected complex canal structures

A root canal retreatment involves the removal of the previous packing material, cleansing the root canals, re-packing the tooth, and possibly re-crowning. In short, root canal retreatment is almost identical to the original procedure, aside from the structural removal.


For most individuals, root canal retreatment is a better alternative than extraction. If a tooth has good bone support, a solid surface and healthy gums beneath it, it stands a good chance of being saved. Opting for root canal retreatment can be far less expensive than the alternatives. Dental implants, extensive bridgework and the creation of aesthetically pleasing prosthetic teeth cost far more than working with the natural tooth. They also require maintenance and feel less natural than a “real” tooth.

 Though the prospect of more endodontic surgery might not be pleasant, root canal retreatment is fairly simple. In general, the whole treatment can usually be completed in 1-2 visits.


A root canal procedure is typically performed by an endodontist (root canal specialist). The procedure begins with numbing the tooth, then opening the top of it in order to access and clean. Dr. McClammy is well-versed on the latest root canal techniques and uses the GentleWave® system to clean the tooth’s root system more efficiently, with less pain and a lot less chair time than the older, more traditional technique. Once the tooth is thoroughly cleaned, the roots are filled and sealed with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha. Dr. McClammy then places a temporary filling to cover the opening on top of the tooth until a crown can be placed. The crown will protect the tooth and prevent the root canal from breaking while restoring it to its full function.

After treatment, your tooth may be sensitive, but this will subside as the inflammation diminishes and the tooth has healed.


The first step in a root canal retreatment is to administer a local anesthetic. Next, Dr. McClammy will gain access to the inner tooth by removing any crown or post that has been placed. He will then remove the filling material and obstructions that block the root canals by using an ultrasonic handpiece that vibrates loose any unwanted material. Tiny, specialized instruments will then be used to clean and reshape the root canals. When Dr. McClammy is confident the root canals are completely clean, he will pack the space with gutta-percha. This rubbery material seals the canals to prevent bacterial invasion. Finally, a temporary crown or filling is applied to tooth. Your general dentist will make a crown for the tooth, if needed. Many times the existing crown can be saved and a permanent filling is used to fill in the access opening.