You might think that a dental filling is applied to the exterior of your tooth. This is true when a dental cavity must be filled, but sometimes it's the interior of a tooth that needs to be filled. A root canal involves the removal of an infected (or already dead) nerve from the dental pulp chamber. This chamber is then irrigated and filled before the tooth is sealed. Ever wondered if it's possible to overfill a pulp chamber?
The Pulp Chamber
Although it's a rare occurrence, overfilling during a root canal is possible. Dental pulp chambers aren't always uniform, and there can be variations in size and layout. Through exercising the greatest caution to fill each part of the pulp chamber, it's conceivable that more filling material than is required will be added to the chamber. Ideally, this will be utterly harmless, although it can create problems in some cases.
Compression and Expulsion
The preferred filling material is gutta-percha, which is a type of latex. Whatever the filling material, when too much is added, it can be compressed downwards and expelled out via the root tip. Not much will be expelled, and in many cases you won't even be aware of it. It's often painless, although there can be discomfort for some people.
The Root Tip
When the root tip was infected, you're unlikely to notice the expulsion of any excess filling material. When the tip was healthy, the introduction of this filling material into the tissues surrounding the tip can cause minor pain. This usually won't last, and your discomfort should dissipate without the need to take further action. However, when this discomfort persists or worsens, you must schedule a followup appointment. This appointment should be immediate, if possible, as your discomfort is in danger of escalating.
Correcting an Overfilled Pulp Chamber
Your dentist may wish to examine the pulp chamber with a radiograph. The tooth will usually need to be reopened. Your dentist will then apply a substance called xylene to soften the gutta-percha, which allows it to be removed. The canal can then be refilled, more conservatively than the last time, and this should be the end of the matter.
It's an unfortunate outcome when a root canal results in overfilling, but remember that it's a rare problem. Some discomfort is natural after the procedure, but when there's lingering or worsening discomfort, the root canal must be inspected. For more information about root canals, reach out to a dental professional.