Root Canal Treatment Side Effects: Is it Worth the Risk?

Posted by Dr. John Paul Gallardo, DDS, PA
Root canal treatment can also lead to complications such as infection, bleeding, and nerve damage if not done properly by an experienced dentist.
Root canal treatment can cause pain and swelling around the treatment area that may last for a few days after the procedure.

Root canal treatment, which is considered a common dental procedure, is performed to save a decayed or damaged tooth. It involves drilling a tiny opening in the tooth, removing the damaged pulp, and refilling it with a biocompatible substance called gutta-percha. Although root canal treatments are generally successful, there are potential side effects that patients should be aware of before undergoing the procedure. This article will discuss the possible risks of root canal treatment and factors that may increase the likelihood of experiencing these complications.

Understanding the Endodontic Treatment

A root canal treatment is an endodontic procedure that focuses on the removal of infected or inflamed dental pulp. The dental pulp is a soft tissue inside the tooth that contains nerves, connective tissue, and blood vessels. When the pulp becomes infected or inflamed due to deep decay, an untreated cavity, or a crack or chip in the tooth, a root canal treatment is necessary to save the tooth and prevent further damage.

During the procedure, the area is numbed by the dentist and the tooth is isolated using a dental dam. The root canal is cleaned and disinfected after the infected pulp is carefully removed. The canal is then filled with biocompatible resin and adhesive cement to seal the tooth and prevent reinfection. A permanent crown is placed a few weeks after the procedure to protect and restore the tooth’s function and appearance.

Potential Side Effects Associated with Root Canal Treatment

Although root canal treatments have a high success rate and are generally safe, some patients may experience side effects after the procedure. Root canal treatment may cause these common side effects:

Pain and Discomfort

Discomfort and mild pain after root canal treatment is common and usually last for a few days. This can be managed with over-the-counter painkillers and should gradually subside as the tooth heals.

In some cases, patients may experience a bit of pain and sensitivity in the surrounding gum tissues. This is normal and should not be a cause for concern. Practice good oral hygiene and avoid chewing on the treated tooth until the permanent fillings or dental crown is placed. This will help minimize the risk of infection and ensure the effectiveness of root canal therapy.

Swelling and Infection

In some cases, swelling and infection may occur after a root canal treatment. This might be from inadequate fillings, improper sealings, or an abscess forming around the tooth. If you experience progressive swelling, severe pain, or signs of infection, contact your dentist immediately.

To prevent infection and promote proper healing, your dentist may prescribe oral antibiotics or recommend using a topical antibiotic on the affected area. It is crucial to follow your dentist’s instructions and complete the full course of antibiotics to ensure the bacterial infection is effectively treated. Maintaining good oral hygiene and attending follow-up appointments will also help prevent complications and ensure the success of the root canal procedure.

Numbness and Tingling

Numbness and tingling sensations may occur around the treated tooth and surrounding area due to the local anesthesia used during the procedure. This sensation should subside within a few hours after the treatment.

Tooth Discoloration

Following a root canal treatment, the treated tooth may become slightly discolored due to the removal of the nerves and blood supply. Tooth color can be addressed with professional teeth whitening or the placement of a dental crown.

Fracture or Damage to the Tooth

Sometimes a root canal-treated tooth may become more fragile and susceptible to fractures or damage because the tooth’s structure is slightly weakened after the removal of the dental pulp and blood supply. To prevent a tooth fracture or damage, a dental crown is often placed over the treated tooth to provide additional strength and protection.

Infection is another side effect that can occur if bacteria is not thoroughly removed from the tooth or if not enough antibiotics are used during the treatment
Some patients may experience temporary pain and/or swelling in the treatment area following a root canal procedure

Root Canals May Cause Serious Side Effects

Although rare, there are some serious side effects that can occur following a root canal treatment. These complications may require additional dental treatments or, in severe cases, extraction of the tooth.

Allergic Reaction

Some patients may experience an allergic reaction to the materials used for the procedure, such as the gutta-percha or the sealer paste. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include itching, rash, or swelling around the treated area. If you suspect an allergic reaction, contact your dentist immediately.


In extremely rare cases, patients may experience a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This life-threatening condition requires immediate medical attention and may present with symptoms such as difficulty breathing, rapid or weak pulse, and swelling of the face or throat. If you experience any of these symptoms following a root canal treatment, seek emergency medical care immediately.

Nerve Damage

During the root canal procedure, there is a small risk of damage to the nerves surrounding the tooth. This may result in persistent numbness, tingling, or pain in the affected area. In most cases, nerve damage is temporary and will resolve over time. However, if the symptoms persist, consult your dentist for further evaluation.

Sinus Problems

In some cases, root canal treatment on upper molars may inadvertently result in a perforation of the sinus cavity. This can cause sinus problems, such as congestion, pain, or infection. If you experience sinus issues following a root canal treatment, consult your dentist for further evaluation and possible treatment options.

Factors That May Increase the Likelihood of Side Effects

Certain factors may increase the risk of experiencing side effects following a root canal treatment. These factors include:

The Severity of the Tooth Infection

Teeth with more severe infections or extensive decay may be at a higher risk for complications during and after a root canal treatment. This is because the tooth’s structure may be more compromised, making it more difficult to clean and seal the root canal effectively.

The Skills and Experience of the Dentist

The two factors that contribute the most to the success of a root canal treatment are the experience and skill of the dentist who is performing the procedure. Choosing a qualified and skilled endodontist or dentist can help minimize the risk of complications and side effects. With over 25 years of expertise, John Paul Gallardo, DDS, PA, is considered South Florida’s foremost periodontist and implant specialist. Dr. Gallardo’s patients receive the very best in dental care and treatment for root canals.

The Patient’s Overall Health

Patients with pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes or a weakened immune system, may be at a higher risk for complications or side effects following a root canal treatment Miami. These patients should discuss their medical history and any potential risks with their dentist before undergoing the procedure.

The Type of Dental Technology Used

Advancements in dental technology have significantly improved the success rate and reduced the risk of complications associated with root canal treatments. However, not all dental practices use the latest technology, which may increase the likelihood of side effects. You’ll want to choose a dental practice that embraces modern technology and stays updated with advancements in the field.

Conclusion: Is it Worth the Risk?

Root canal treatment is an effective, common procedure that can save a damaged or decayed tooth, preserving its function and appearance. While there are potential side effects and risks associated with the treatment, the majority of patients experience successful outcomes with minimal complications.

The key to minimizing the risk of side effects lies in understanding what can influence the likelihood of complications and choosing a skilled and experienced dentist, like Dr. Gallardo in Miami, FL. With proper care and regular dental check-ups, a tooth can last for many years, if not a lifetime, after a root canal. To schedule your dental checkup, please contact the office at 305-447-1447 or click here to fill out the online contact form.