My dentist performed a root canal today and informed me that a tip of one of the metal instruments broke off in the canal. (I actually heard it and thought my tooth had broke!) He informed me that he was not going to try to fish it out. Since it was ‘sterile’ he was just going to leave it in the canal and put the post and cap on.
Is this what he should be doing? Or will it hurt me in the long run? This doctor has become notorious for not taking a lot of time with patients and overcharging, so I am nervous.
Thanks in advance for your help.
– Connie in New Jersey
These metal files can break off easily, and that happens to a lot of dentists. And while it is best to retrieve the broken piece, that can be difficult to accomplish and can be beyond the ability of many general dentists. If your dentist can negotiate around the broken piece and seal the apex of the tooth, the root canal treatment will probably be successful. If the broken piece blocks access to the apex of the tooth, the root canal treatment could still be successful but the chances for success are greatly diminished.
If the tooth has problems later, it could end up needing re-treatment for the root canal. Cementing a post in the tooth could possibly make re-treatment impossible, depending on how many roots this tooth has. If the dental post is to be in the same canal as the broken instrument, I’d advise you not to let him put the post in the tooth.
The safest thing would be to ask to be referred to an endodontist (root canal specialist), who should have special equipment to be able to retrieve the broken instrument and fill the root canal. Depending on your relationship with the dentist and your personality, you may or may not want to do this. However, if the post is needed to help hold the crown on and if it is in the same canal as the broken root canal file and that broken file blocks the canal, I would insist on seeing an endodontist. If your dentist doesn’t refer you to one, you can seek one on your own. Otherwise the risk of losing this tooth would be too great, in my opinion. Meanwhile you could wear a temporary crown on this tooth or a temporary filling.
– Dr. Hall
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