The need for a root canals typically arises when the patient has a cavity that is too deep to be filled congenitally. The cavity extends down into and close to the roots of the teeth. When this happens, the dentist will either refer the patient to and Endodontist or perform the root canal herself. Either is fine, but the root canal must be peformed properly to comply with the applicable standard of care for dental malpractice in Georgia.
X-rays or CT scans (“imaging”) are taken of the tooth to determine the extent of the decay and to determine how many canals must be accessed to perform the root canal. In order to comply with the legal standard of care for dentistry, imaging should be performed before, during and after the root canal is completed. In addition to imaging, there are many test that the dentist must perform to make sure she is performing the root canal on the correct tooth; that the tooth is not cracked (most cracked teeth cannot be cured by a root canal); and to make sure a root canal is indicated.
Most times, after a root canal, the tooth is scheduled for the placement of a crown, but if the area is not too large, a crown is not always necessary (just a filling). If all goes well, the pain from the original need for the root canal and from the drilling and pressure associated with the procedure itself should subside within a few days, at most. Similarly, the numbness from the anesthesia necessary to perform the root canal should wear off the same day.
If the numbness does not subside, or if there is intense pain in the lower chin, lip and gums after the root canal, the dentist may have deviated from the standard of care and caused an injury to a nerve that is outside the area that the root canal procedure should be limited to. The pain can be manifested in many ways: sensitivity, sharp pain, a dull ache, shooting pain inside the mouth or along the outside of the jaw (sometimes moving up to the ear), tingling, or burning or twitching can all be pain signs and symptoms of a root canal performed below the standard of care in Georgia. This type of injury is potentially serious and follow up treatment should be performed in a timely manner to understand what is causing the complications and how they can be alleviated. Timely treatment is essential because if a nerve is damaged by a root canal improperly applying pressure to a dental nerve, the situation causing the pressure must be addressed as soon as possible.
Robert J. Fleming is a partner in the law firm of Katz Wright & Fleming, LLC in Atlanta, Georgia and Decatur, Georgia. He is a personal injury attorney who has been handling wrongful death, dental malpractice, professional negligence, car accidents and premises injury cases for individuals and families who have been severely injured or died as a result of negligence since 1995. He practices in the metropolitan Atlanta area including the city of Decatur, Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Gwinnett, and Cobb counties in Georgia. If you or a family member has been seriously injured and would like to discuss your case in complete confidence, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online. We are here to help.