Dentist Left a File Tip in My Tooth After a Root Canal

When my dentist did my root canal last week, he broke off a file tip in my tooth and left it. I heard the thing break and asked what happened before he could tell me. But then my dentist said that he would not take it out because digging around in my tooth would probably cause more irritation. My dentist said the file might not hurt the tooth. He wants to post, crown the tooth, and finish the work. I am scheduled to return at the end of next week. Won’t the post dig the file further into my tooth? I don’t know what to do. If you can advise me before my appointment next week, I would appreciate it. Thank you. Kyndall R. from Wyoming


Thank you for your question.

Your dentist is not necessarily negligent because metal files can break during root canal treatment. Sometimes, it is challenging to remove the broken piece, especially if a general dentist does not have the tools to do it—or knows how to remove it.

Leaving a Metal File Tip in Your Tooth After Root Canal

If a dentist left a metal file tip in your tooth, root canal treatment might still be successful. But your dentist must work around the broken instrument and seal the tip of the tooth root. But if the instrument piece blocks the tips, it increases the risk of root canal failure.

What If Your Root Canal Fails?

If your root canal fails, your dentist or an endodontist (root canal specialist) can repeat the procedure. But cementing a post in your tooth can make retreatment impossible. You can decline the post if your dentist would place it in the exact location as the metal file tip.

The best thing for your tooth is getting a second opinion from a root canal specialist who can retrieve the metal file tip. Although your dentist may object, your priority is to save your tooth. If you let your dentist proceed and the tooth becomes infected again, repeat root canal treatment can fail. Then, you may need tooth removal and a dental implant. But tooth removal at this stage is probably avoidable.

The treatment is your choice, but we recommend that you at least get an examination from an endodontist before letting your dentist add a post and crown your tooth.

Dr. Steve Sirin, an Elgin, Illinois dentist, sponsors this post.

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