Broken File in Root Canal

I just had a root canal done today due to a deep filling I've had for a while. During the procedure, the general dentist broke the file inside the root. According to him, it should not be a problem but I am extremely concerned and don't feel comfortable having something there that shouldn't be. He said the tip broke off pretty deep. I am in a lot of pain. Could it be from the file or just the rct itself? Should I be concerned that the file broke and remains in my root canal?

Doctor Answers 10

Instrument breakage

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Any dentist that does root canal procedures will have this occur. The main issue was the tooth vital or necrotic before the procedure and was adequate irrigation performed before the break. If the tooth was badly infected and the file broke early in the procedure then the chances are high you will have problems. If the procedure was a vital case and multiple irrigation solutions were used and allowed to be in the tooth for a long period of time you have better chances. The file being in the tooth is not bad but the pathology beyond the broken file is the issue

Wichita Dentist

Broken root canal file

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While rare, it is not uncommon that a file may bind and break during root canal therapy.  I would not be overly concerned that you still have tooth pain, as it may take a few weeks for complete healing.  As far the file's effect on long term success of this tooth, it depends upon many factors and the tooth may require additional treatment to be maintained.  I would suggest giving this tooth additional time to heal before deciding whether a referral to a root canal specialist makes sense.

Daniel Melnick, DDS
Laurel Dentist

Separated Root Canal File

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This is something that sometimes happens during root canal treatment. I think being evaluated by a root canal specialist (endodontist) would be a good idea - especially if you continue to have symptoms. Often 
a separated instrument will cause no problems but it should be checked periodically. More than once I have 
found broken files in teeth during an exam of a new patient and not only were there no symptoms after 10 or 15 years but the patient was unaware it was even there. 

Paul D. Kantor, DDS
Cleveland Dentist

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Broken Instuments in Root Canal

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At times, even with the best precautions,unfortunately instruments do break in during a root canal treatment. Sometimes the pain after RCT is usually the initial part of healing process and it goes away in a week considering that you have a good antibiotic and analgesic cover. If the pain still persists ask your dentist to evaluate the tooth again and if needed refer it to the specialist. A root canal treated tooth, even with a broken instrument may not give any problem, if there is good apical seal of the root canal which means thorough cleaning and filling of the tooth is done. Best solution might be to check it periodically to compare the radiographs.

Dalvir Pannu, DDS
San Jose Dentist

Broken File during Root Canal

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Separation of a file during a root canal procedure, even though it is rare, does happen.  The long term health of the tooth may depend on where the file separated.  If the file separated at or near the tip of the root, often times there is no problem.  If the separation occur ed in the middle to top of the root, the long term success may be compromised.  In either case it is probably wise to have an endodontist evaluation to determine the severity.  Immediate post-operative pain after a root canal may not be due to the file separation, rather the fact that you just had a procedure done on that particular tooth.

Broken Root Canal File

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A broken file being left in the root canal space, especially when it is lodged deep in the canal is not a common occurrence but does occasionally happen.  It is not a cause for grave concern.  As long as the canal was cleaned and sterilized properly and the canal fully sealed to the tip of the root, a broken instrument can be incorporated into the canal filling without fear of complication.  A separated or broken root canal file usually occurs when the file binds in a narrow or severely curved canal.  It is not a reflection of the dentist's skill or ability to perform the dental procedure.  The tooth was stronger than the dental file.  Pain after a root canal procedure is fairly common, especially if the tooth was abscessed or an instrument or irrigating solution went beyond the tip of the root and into the surrounding bone.  The discomfort should subside quickly as your body heals from any residual infection.  A very small percentage of root canal procedures fail without having any apparent cause.  If the discomfort lingers, check with your general dentist as to whether a consult with a root canal specialist is needed.  Unless the broken file extends beyond the tip of the root, it should cause no discomfort and is most likely encased in the root canal filling material.

Marc Zive, DMD
Springfield Dentist

Root canal with a file in it.

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The files are known to separate in the canals, but fortunately, this is not very common. Sometimes they can be removed if it break near the top. When it is deeper in the canal, especially if there is a curvature in the root, they can be difficult to remove. Depending on whether the procedure was almost completed or just started could determine the effect. If the dentist had gotten all thedecay out and cleaned the tooth, then the file could act like a seal at the tip, along with the cement to close up the tip of the root. If it is bothering you more than a week, it may need extra attention to attempt to remove it.

Randall LaFrom, DDS
San Jose Dentist

Broken instruments

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I have both a cosmetic and specialty practice in endodontics.   rootcanalman com  As a root canal specialist i would like to tell you it does happen, but more often with general dentist.  Don't Panic.   Things to consider.  Where is the break?  Did it happen in the beginning before the tooth was thoroughly cleaned or at the end  of the root canal.  If it happened early, your tooth may hurt because they did not remove all of the nerve.  Again, do not panic,  when i here an instrument has broken, we can sometimes remove the instrument or bypass the instrument.  To remove the residual nerves or to clean the canals more.   I would recommend you visit a nearby specialist.  In the interim, you should take 800 mg of ibuprofen three times a day after the root canal. And possibly some antibiotics if the tooth had infection.       

Richard Sprague, DDS
Beverly Hills Dentist

See an endodontist.

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I would recommend an evaluation by an endodontist.  An endodontist is a specialist in root canal treatment. They could give you an idea of a prognosis for this tooth.  It may also be possible that the broken file can be removed.  Many teeth have files in them that have no problems.  The tooth would need to be removed if it had a root fracture, perforation, or an uncontrollable infection.

Kimberly Johnson Genc, DDS
Newport Beach Dentist

Broken files most of the time are a non-issue

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One thing that may be hard to understand is that the tooth separated the file, not the dentist.  What this means is that the tooth is likely beyond saving, but in an attempt to save time, money or the tooth, the dentist was being heroic.  We have all been there, so this is not an indication that the dentists skill is inferior.

Often, the broken file will present no issue at all.  The titanium material is similar to the metal used in dental implants, so it may turn out just fine.  A surgical procedure can be done to retrieve it, but it may not be necessary.

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.