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Root Canals

Broken instrument



I have a broken instrument lodged in a part calcified root canal with infection below the instrument making it impossible to fully clean out. I have been back to the dentist four times. He cannot get the instrument out. A temporary filling is in place.

I have no more tooth ach at present but I am just told to "wait" to see what happens. I seem to have landed a hefty bill for a tooth that is still not fixed. Where do I go from here? It this a frequent problem?


Instrument separation is reported to occur from about 5-12% of cases. It is certainly an unfortunate occurrence that stresses the patient as well as the practitioner. Often the instrument can be removed, but it may take special instruments and experience to do so.

If your general dentist is having difficulty, you may want to consider a referral to an endodontist. Some instruments cannot be removed without endangering the tooth itself. In those cases it may be okay to leave the instrument and see if healing occurs. If it doesn't then a surgical procedure may be needed.

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Response by:

John M Nusstein, DDS John M Nusstein, DDS
Associate Professor of Endodontics
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University