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Dentistry/Un-capped root canal infection


I have a question in regards to my husband's tooth issue. He had an un-capped root canal several years back. He was having pain from wisdom teeth that weren't removed and I was able to convince him to see my dentist. Aside from the wisdom teeth pain, they said he had cherry tomato sized infection in this uncapped tooth. That was THREE years ago. I am doing everything I can to convince him to go back. What is the real scenario on risk here?  Infection spreading?  What are they symptoms of a bigger issue he might ready be having?  Thank you so much!!
Wife of a stubborn man

Hi Ginny,

I'm sorry to hear you are dealing with this situation. It can be VERY hard to convince someone who has a fear of dentists that they need treatment when nothing hurts.

To answer your question, your husband is dealing with a time bomb. At some point, he will have an acute flare up with swelling, pain and all the things that go with a massive infection. Murphy's Law says it will start the day before your long awaited vacation, trip or other important family activity. Once that happens, he will need antibiotics and perhaps an incision into the abscess to help it drain. None of this is especially pleasant to go through. In reality, it could be years from now or it could happen tomorrow.....the only sure thing is it will happen.

The infection will not spread to other teeth or go to his brain as we often hear talked about. We just don't see these things in reality. The real risk is that he will have a period of pain and swelling and become a dental emergency.

As for symptoms now, if he is not having any pain, there may be some swelling in the area if the abscess is getting bigger. Other than that, there are probably no symptoms which is why he refuses treatment.

I hope this helps. Good luck getting him to see the need for treatment.

Gary Backlund DMD, MSD


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Gary Backlund, DMD, MSD


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.


25 years practicing as a specialist

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

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