Endodontic therapy–or root canal therapy–is a common dental treatment for a number of reasons. These include caries (decay) or fractures of a tooth. Root canals are necessary to save the tooth. In most cases, the options are either root canal therapy or extraction. Loss of teeth is detrimental to the long term oral health (and overall health) of an individual.

Root Canal DiagramNot all teeth are equal when it comes to root canal therapy. Some are easier than others. Some teeth require a specialist. Others can be done by a general practitioner. Usually the GP is the gatekeeper and decides who treats the tooth. If the GP feels he or she can do the case, that is great. It saves the patient from additional appointments and travel to another office. However, if the GP chooses to do the case they are held to the same standard as if a specialist does the case. This is important to remember.

When done correctly, root canals have a greater than 95% success rate. There can be a failure due to circumstances beyond the dentist’s control, namely the fracture of the tooth. However, if you have a failure on your hands, the dentist must determine the cause. Is it iatrogenic (illness caused by physician) due to the standard of care being violated?

If you have a failure and the case was done by a GP and the reason for failure is not evident, seek the opinion of an endodontist. An endodontist is a dental specialist with an additional two years of training and only does root canals. Many times a tooth can be retreated successfully. However, the success rate declines to approximately 75%.

Determine the cause of failure and then decide your options when deciding if dental malpractice has occurred.

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