Root Canal Infections: What Every Patient Should Know

Did you know that the oral cavity is home to over 700 species of bacteria?

While not all bacteria are “bad,” many are and can cause infections. They can invade the cavities in the roots of the teeth, also known as root canals.

So if you’ve always wondered if root canals can get infected, the answer is yes, they can.

But how exactly can a root canal get infected in the first place? What are its consequences, and what are your treatment options?

We’ll answer all those questions in this guide, so read on.

How Can a Root Canal Get Infected?

The bacteria that cause a root canal infection can invade this part of the tooth via a crack or a chip. These problems often result from dental trauma to the mouth or face, such as during accidents.

Falls, in particular, are the leading cause of dental trauma in the U.S., accounting for 65% of all cases. Other causes are bicycle, motor vehicle, and sporting accidents.

An infected root canal also often results from untreated tooth cavities. The decay can be so severe that it allows harmful bacteria to penetrate the innermost parts of the tooth. The germs can then travel to the root canal and infect it.

Sometimes, even just biting too hard can already damage the teeth. When the tooth enamel (the outermost layer) cracks, bacteria can enter. 

What Are Its Consequences?

Not everyone with an infected root canal may feel symptoms. However, those who do may feel unpleasant, even downright painful symptoms. 

Here are some signs of infection after root canals get invaded by bacteria:

  • Tooth sensitivity or pain
  • Tender, swollen, and red gums
  • Bad breath caused by the harmful germs
  • Discoloration of the affected teeth
  • Wobbly or loose teeth

If you experience any of those symptoms, please visit a dentist ASAP. That way, they can determine if you have an infected root canal or another oral disease. Correct diagnosis is essential for proper treatment.

Also, note that untreated root canal infections can give way to tooth loss. This can happen if the infection spreads to other parts of the mouth, such as the bones that anchor the teeth. If the bones get infected, too, they may no longer be able to secure the teeth.

How Do Dentists Treat It?

If your dentist finds an infected root canal, they’ll recommend root canal therapy. It may either be conventional or microscope-assisted treatment.

In a conventional treatment, the dentist creates an opening in the tooth crown. This gives them access to remove the infected and diseased tissues. The dentist may also insert or inject medications to kill remaining germs.

After that, the opening gets sealed to prevent further bacterial invasion.

A microscope-assisted treatment, as its term suggests, involves using dental microscopes. One example is the Zeiss dental microscope. According to, this technology magnifies and illuminates the tooth.

With magnification and better lighting, dentists can better see infected root canals. As a result, they can provide targeted and more precise treatment.

Get Infected Root Canals Treated ASAP

And there you have it, the guide answering the questions, “Can a root canal get infected, and if so, how?” Now you know that it can, primarily due to the harmful bacteria in the mouth. However, you also learned that it is treatable, but time is of the essence.

So if you suspect you have an infected root canal, please don’t delay visiting your dentist. The sooner they see your tooth, the sooner they can treat and save it.

Check out our other recent blog posts for more health guides like this!

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