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Is It True Metal Files Are Sometimes Left In Teeth After Root Canals?

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Root canals are fairly routine procedures that can save teeth from being completely destroyed by disease or trauma. Although this procedure has between an 85 to 97 percent success rate, complications can occur that may cause trouble for your oral and system health over time. One common thing that occurs is that sometimes part of the instrument used to clean out the tooth breaks off and gets stuck in the jaw. Here's more information about this issue and what you can do if you suffer injuries as a result.

Dental Accidents During the Procedure

To save a tooth dying from infection, the dentist will perform a pulpectomy: remove the pulp tissue inside the tooth to help eliminate the infection and allow the tooth to heal. To accomplish this, the dentist drills in the tooth, removes the pulp, and then uses a needle-shaped instrument called a file to remove the nerve and clean out any leftover debris in the canals located in the tooth's roots. The dentist usually starts with a very thin file and gradually moves to larger and larger files until the job is complete.

The trouble is the files are very thin and the inside of teeth tends to be curvy and small. It isn't unusual for a file tip to break off and get stuck in one of the tooth's root canals. Whether that becomes a problem for the patient depends on how clean the dentist managed to get the canal. If the dentist was able to get most of the canal cleaned and disinfected, then you shouldn't experience any problems with the file. Although it may be disconcerting to know you have a piece of metal stuck in your tooth, the compression forces in the root canal are fairly minimal, so it usually won't cause further damage.

If the tip snapped off fairly early in the procedure preventing the dentist from adequately cleaning out the canal, then there may be issues. The infection may continue to fester, causing inflammation, swelling, and pain. Because the canal is now blocked, it may be difficult for white blood cells to get to the infected area or for the germs causing the infection to be flushed out. This may cause the root canal to fail and the tooth may need to be removed completely.

Do These Incidents Constitute Dental Malpractice?

Dental malpractice is based on negligence. The dentist had a duty to the patient and, by his or her actions or inaction, failed in that duty. As a result, the person was injured and sustained damages and losses because of the dentist's negligence.

Whether a tip breaking off the file and getting lodged in the tooth rises to the level of dental malpractice depends on the circumstances. Strangely, having the tip break off in the tooth may not constitute malpractice by itself. While this type of incident doesn't happen frequently, it occurs often enough and is such a well-known issue in the community that it may not be considered outside the bounds of the standard of care expected of dentists in this area, which is what the courts look at when determining if the dentist acted appropriately. Unless the dentist was doing something wildly inappropriate at the time (e.g. was intoxicated), the court may chalk this incident up as a simple unavoidable accident.

How the dentist behaves after the accident, though, will affect whether you can make a good case for dental malpractice. If the dentist does nothing to fix the issue and you end up suffering and losing the tooth later, you may have cause to sue for damages. On the other hand, if the dentist does everything he or she can to fix the problem, it may be harder to prove negligence on the professional's part.

Malpractice suits are challenging to litigate, which is why you should seek out the assistance of an attorney at a law firm like the Law Office of Daniel E Goodman, LLC. An attorney can provide sound advice and help you put together a case that may help you obtain compensation for your injury.