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What will x-rays show for the dentist to recommend root canal? Also once a patient get a root canal and is having problems with it, will the x-ray show if root canal is causing infection or does the root canal has to be removed to show infection or if a file broke? And what will that look like on x-ray? Thanks.

Answer
Good morning Beth,

You ask some great questions...let me try to answer each part for you.

What will x-rays show for the dentist to recommend root canal?

The only thing X-rays do is show differences in density of an object. That means that things are black or white and all the shades of gray in between. What we are looking for is a dark area at the end of the tooth that shows bone (which shows up white because it is dense)has been destroyed. Most of the time that will mean there is an abscess. However, there are other things that can cause bone destruction, so I would NEVER rely on just an Xray to diagnosis the need for a root canal.



Also once a patient get a root canal and is having problems with it, will the x-ray show if root canal is causing infection or does the root canal has to be removed to show infection or if a file broke?

If the diagnosis was correct, a root canal was done and the dark area at the end of the tooth doesn't fill back in with bone, that will mean that the root canal was not successful and will require further treatment. You do not have to take the tooth out to make that decision and actually, once the tooth is out, it almost impossible to tell if the root canal failed or not unless there are obvious thing like a cracked root. A broken file will show up on an Xray because it is denser than bone or anything else because it is metal. Files are quite easy to see on X-rays.


And what will that look like on x-ray?

A continuing abscess will show up as a dark spot at the end of the root. A file will appear as a white, curly line down the inside of the tooth where the root canal is located.

I hope this helps explain things Beth.

Happy New Year!

Gary Backlund DMD, MSD

Dentistry

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Gary Backlund, DMD, MSD

Expertise

I am an Endodontist ( root canal specialist ) and can answer questions about root canals and their treatment. I cannot diagnose or treat online, but can answer general questions. I have been a specialist for 25 years and am Past President of the Washington State Association of Endodontists.

Experience

25 years practicing as a specialist

Organizations
American Association of Endodonists, Past President Washington State Association of Endodontists.

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