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Dental and Oral Health (Adults)

Broken File in Root Canal



I just started to a new dentist. I saw him a few days ago for the first time and after the examination and xrays he determined that I needed to have a root canal done on the tooth or in order to relieve the pain if I chose not to do the root canal I could have the tooth extracted. I wanted to keep the tooth and opted to have a root canal done. After the proceedure he was open and forthright about a file that had broken off in one of the root canals of the molar. He told me that it could cause problems later on but that there was no way to know for sure. He did not tell me what type of problems could actually arise from this though. I have another appointment to see him in ten days so that he can complete the proceedure. I understand that my tooth was in very poor condition and that the canals were extremely small which could have attributed to the file breaking. I also am in the need of two more root canals and have seen my xrays of those teeth as well. one of the next root canals has as small of canals as the one that I have just started to fix. I am apprehensive that this could possibly happen with the next one also. I really need to know what actual problems could occur and I just was looking for possible reassurance of having this dentist complete the other things that I need to have done. I do not have dental insurance that covers root canals or any other major dental services and these proceedures are going to cost a small fortune. I hate to put money into a tooth if I am going to be told that it will have to be extracted anyway because of this broken off file and I don`t want it to happen with the other two root canals that still need to be done. The dentist that I just saw told me that he had not had a file break off in a patient in over 12 years (lucky me). I`m sure he was trying to reassure me that this has not happened frequently, and it probably hasn`t, but I really just don`t know what to do. HELP


If you have concerns about what types of problems could arise with your root canal treated tooth, I would address those with your dentist at the appointment you have scheduled. A separated instrument (broken file) does not necessarily cause problems with the tooth but the concern lies with the condition of the tooth when the instrument separated. Therefore, there is no way for me to speak in specifics. I can tell you that instruments do separate during treatment occasionally. I can not predict whether this will happen with your other root canals.

I can tell you, however, that if the canals are really small and the root canals are difficult, you may want to consider seeing an endodontist for your root canal therapy since they specialize in performing difficult root canal procedures.

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Response by:

Melissa McCartney Drum, DDS, MS Melissa McCartney Drum, DDS, MS
Assistant Professor of Endodontics
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University