Root Canal Horror Story

Even in the best case scenario, a root canal can be a traumatic experience. In the worst case, a root canal gone wrong can affect you for life. A root canal is a dental procedure where the dentist or endodontist drills out the nerve and pulp from the inside of your tooth, seals it and then fills it. The procedure is similar to a regular dental filling but much more invasive.

Root canal broken drill bitRoot canals are done when a tooth is badly decayed or becomes infected, which allows bacteria to breed inside of the tooth. Eventually a puss-filled pocket will form around the roots of the tooth. This is called an infected or abscessed tooth.

Untreated abscesses can cause a host of other health problems including infections of the jawbone, face, and even your brain. Dental abscesses can also cause inflammation of your heart as well as sepsis, which is a serious form of blood poisoning. These complications can be life threatening, which means you can die from an untreated tooth abscess.

Several factors contribute to a tooth needing a root canal. Untreated cavities, multiple dental procedures on the same tooth, overlarge fillings, or damage to the tooth such as a crack or chip may eventually lead to the necessity of a root canal.

The procedure for a root canal is to drill down into the tooth and remove the nerve tissue, pulp, decay and bacteria from the tooth. Root canal files are used to strip out the affected areas, starting with a small file and working up to larger files. A non-electric root canal file looks much like an icepick with a drill bit on the end. There are also root canal files that attach to a rotary drill, similar to a dentist’s regular drill but which rotates slower.

The tooth is then flushed with water or an antiseptic. The drilled out tooth may be permanently sealed, or it may have a temporary medicated filling inserted for a period of time before the final sealing is done. The permanent seal usually starts with a sealing paste and a natural rubber called gutta percha from the gutta percha rubber tree, which is considered biocompatible with the human body and unlikely to cause adverse reactions. Once the root canals are filled, the rest of the tooth is filled with a regular dental filling. Sometimes the tooth is then crowned depending on the condition of the tooth. A root canal can be done in one sitting, or it may take several sittings.

Root canal broken drill bitA successful root canal can last a lifetime. An unsuccessful root canal can plunge the patient into years of abject misery. In my case it was the latter. I’d had a successful root canal once before so I was not anticipating problems this time. Nothing could have prepared me for the events which followed.

I had gone to an endodontist, which is a dentist who specializes in procedures such as root canals. Once the endodontist had completed the procedure, she sent me home instructing me that the root canal was finished and that I should look into getting it crowned, though she did not state that a crown was necessary, only recommended. Expecting the tooth to be sore for a few days, I was not concerned during that first week when the tooth pained me. After that first week however, the pain continued and I called the endodontist repeatedly. Every time I was told that the pain and sensitivity were normal, and to give it time as the tooth needed to settle down.

The pain never did settle down and the endodontist did everything in her power to blow me off. She clearly considered the pain to be all in my head, a sort of phantom pain. She explained that it was not possible for the tooth itself to have a toothache as the nerve had been removed. She stated that sometimes the force of the procedure could make the jaw sore, and that was likely what I was experiencing, and kept urging me to give it time. I suffered this tooth for a long time. Root canals are supposed to take the pain away, not make it worse, but for me the root canal had turned into a permanent toothache. I later found out why, leading to my permanent mistrust of dentists.

Root canal broken drill bitMy regular dentist did a series of x-rays and he could not believe what he discovered. The endodontist had not only left the root canal unfinished, she had broken a drill bit in my tooth and left it there. The drill bit was sticking out of the bottom of the tooth and into my gums. I’d suffered such agony with this tooth for so long that I told my dentist to pull it out. I’d had enough of endodontists and root canals and being lied to, and the only other option was to go to an endodontist. I had paid her out of my own pocket as I did not have dental insurance, so I would have either had to go back to her, or pay another endodontist to fix what she’d left behind. At my instruction, the dentist pulled the tooth and I kept it for posterity.


Today’s digital cameras did not exist back then nor did the incredible digital microscope that I bought for my husband for Christmas decades later. Our digital microscope took these photos of the drill bit sticking out of my tooth. Unfortunately, which I’m sure the endodontist counted on, by the time I discovered what she’d done I could not find a lawyer to sue her. Believe me, I tried. Apparently there was a statute of limitations involved which had lapsed. In the State of Georgia at that time, if you did not file the lawsuit within two years, the perp got away with it. I had just passed the two year mark when I began to contact attorneys. It is my belief that the endodontist intentionally put me off as long as she could in the hopes that I would not discover her dirty deed in time to sue her.

Malpractice exists in the world of dentistry, so do yourself a favor… if something doesn’t feel right to you, don’t let your dentist blow you off as mine did. Trust your instincts. Get a second opinion, get x-rays, and if necessary, get a lawyer. If I’d been able to sue her for what she did to me, I would have had the money to pay for restorative procedures. Instead, I am left permanently unable to eat on that side.

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    4 Responses to Root Canal Horror Story

    1. Anonymous says:

      Thank-you Allie for your response! Yes, I agree that there are probably more people being injured by these root canals than what anyone is aware of. When the root canal is in the sinus cavity & it leaks, it creates blockages, which also can cause a persons sugar to go up. A lot of ppl that had their ENT remove blockages from their sinuses don’t relalize the blockages came from their root canal.
      I may start an advocacy group in the future to try to protect the public & make them aware of the dangers that dentist do not explain to them. I have heard the ADA’s policy is for Dentist to not criticize another dentist root canal.
      They r to refer that person back to the person who performed the root canal. It’s a flawed policy that is set up to fail patients. So, nobody is allowed to tell u when something is wrong with a root canal, only the guy that performed it & of course he isn’t going to tell u bz it’s his root canal that he screwed up on u.

      Yes, Formaldehyde is used in some root canals. I forgot to mention, it also causes cancer in the body, if it leaks. One Oncologist in Germany found 99% of his patients who had breast cancer had a root canal on the same side.

      Thank-you for your kindness Allie and smart idea about with the digital microscope!

    2. Annonymous says:

      Allie, you are very lucky u had a dentist to tell you the truth. So many of us do not and as a result, the problem gets worse! I had a root canal that pierced a hole into my sinus cavity and was leaking bacteria into the sinus & for over 3 years NOBODY told me!!!! Because the dental professionals did not tell me, I could not tell the Oral Surgeon. The surgeon pulls the tooth that has a opening into my sinus cavity without sealing that area up(they r supposed to do that whenever there is a opening from the tooth socket into the sinus cavity). As a result, I got an infection from the socket that goes into my sinus cavity & down into my right lung, liver, pancreas. NO DOCTOR would treat me bz they didn’t want a lawsuit. I was told like you, “it’s in your head”. I had a dentist in another state that told me what had been happening just months after the surgery—I got lucky but, most will not be honest. One thing u may not know is a lot of root canals r done with embalming fluid, which, if it leaks, causes tissue erosion! If there is any physician that is willing to treat me, I am willing to waver all legal right to a lawsuit & will sign those rights away. I am in a lot of pain & just wish God would take me up. I don’t want to experience any more of this.

      • Allie says:

        That’s awful! Wow! I hope you find help somewhere. My current dentist wants to do all sorts of dental work, but I don’t want it. I don’t trust it. And he tells me things I know aren’t true. We’ve talked about doing implants where I had those teeth pulled, but my head is so tiny that the sinus cavity sits right on the jaw, so they’d have to surgically lift it up and out of the way. He said it was safe, a simple surgery, nothing to worry over. I said No Way, and chose to live with missing teeth and cannot eat on that side. I don’t want any more “side effects” or things gone wrong. There is no such thing as safe, simple, nothing-can-go-wrong surgery in any venue.

        I had not heard about the embalming fluid. I believe there are dentists who still use amalgam dental fillings, and I’ve personally heard dentists claim they are safe. Yet other countries have banned them, and the doctor that I trusted most in this world, told me they were NOT safe. He passed away a couple of years ago. It broke my heart to lose him.

        I hope you figure out a way to get help for the worst of it. I believe there are more of us than anyone is aware of. Good luck to you!

      • Michal says:

        I do not know how good the translation will be. As a child, I went to the front door in the playground. It was cold, and a fool of the entrance made the ice bad. The places were ice, concrete concrete. I did not know it and on ice skates, I made two front teeth. No one even knew it was a moment. When I fell into hell. Not only did I undergo a two-year treatment of these teeth in about 10 years, the root canals in which I caught the inflammation, the dentist cleansed these canals several times a week. For the overwhelming time, and 90% of the whole procedure, I did not get any mishaps. Nerve cracking, channel cleaning, all alive. In these treatments, I was fainting in my chair, I was 10 years old! It took a year, 2-3 weeks .. I got used to the pain. The doctor was overworked, she was a school dentist, and she had 3 schools at one time, that’s 1000 children, she was offensive with sadistic tendencies. After this two-year hell. At the last cleaning, the tooth broke the root of the tooth, closed the tooth, and made it like nothing. On the following pain, I ate antibiotics. And I moved the pain. This experience has created such a complex within me. That I became a doctor and a dentist myself, I understand my cannon, and I did something that today’s medicine would say is a miracle. I know how to cure, almost perfectly any dental problems, without a drill. I stopped 4 deep dental decay, and sealed, with success. I had such problems, huge sores on my face, I literally dying, it took 15 years … it destroyed my childhood and adolescence. I’m surprised I did not become a psychopath, a mass murderer, or something. It is my guardian angel who helps me all the time, God, or aliens, they do not let me die. You have to fight, you have to understand your body, you have to learn how it works, you have to know the truth. It’s hard, but that’s life.

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