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Broken front tooth and failing root canal..what are my options?



Junior member
Nov 1, 2020
About 4 years ago I broke my left front tooth its its feeling like the worst mistake of my life. I get very anxious about the pain and going to the dentist for help with it.

The story is, I broke it and had effectively a big filling on the bottom half, as only a small amount of the nerve was exposed, and the dentist seemed to believe that she had saved the tooth (she also treated me like an idiot for falling down the stairs and breaking it, quite mean as I was only 17 and it was an accident). Anyway, until around April 2020 all was fine then got very bad toothache. I had antibiotics to get rid of infection. In the summer I saw a dentist who said it was abcessed and had been dying since it broke. Managed to get a root canal (NHS) and then a zirconia crown fitted (private) which my dentist who i then trusted recommended as it was a front tooth.
Coming to now, toothache again. I didnt expect it, my dentist didn't explain that a root canal has the potential to fail..
And I'm in a different city now and don't have my previous NHS dentist here, and I cant go back as its 5 hours away, dont drive, work full-time, lockdown, etc. The NHS waiting list here is years long, I managed to find a private dentist with space a few weeks ago. Saw him was very nervous but he calmed me down and he gave antibiotics, he thought that the root canal was a little high and there is a very small infection in a gap. He said that if an infection happens yearly and I just need antibiotics every so often he thinks that's alright to leave, and if it happens more often then to rethink... a few weeks after this appt and the antibiotics -the pain is back the same as before, not too bad but I know it will get worse. I am going to call the new dentist first thing Monday. But I am SO anxious about what ifs and cant stop googling, also if I am wasting the dentists time as the pain isn't too bad now but I feel strongly it will get worse again.

What are the options for my tooth - could the root canal be redone through the crown or will i need to pay for more treatment and a new crown? Or will it be something more, ive been researching implants and root tip removal? Has anyone that had any of these procedures had relief?

With money and going private I am so concerned but I dont feel like I have an option but to just pay for whatever the dentist recommends for, does anyone have any advice about feeling like that too

I am only 21 and I am so afraid of losing this tooth or looking awful as its the front one, or having pain and discomfort for all my life, it makes me feel awfully down and when I get pain which reminds me I cant stop thinking about this fear of more dentistry. Also with the new lockdown will dentists be closing again i am scared of being left in pain

Any advice welcome thanks for reading if anyone does as its long post xxx
I’m not a dentist, but you absolutely do have options - the best person to help you would be the dentist who can look at your tooth.

It might be possible to redo the treatment through the crown, or you could have the tooth extracted and a replacement. That could be an implant, a bridge, or a denture. The dentist would be able to talk through the options and which one would best suit you.

I had a tooth re-treated a few years ago (it cost a lot of money, which is a factor!) but it was a back one. The most useful question I asked was “if it was your tooth, what would you do?”. In my case my dentist said she would have the treatment done by a root canal specialist, not by her, because it was complicated, so that was what I did.

I hope you can get an appointment to see someone before lockdown, but really wanted to say, don’t panic. There is NO way your dentist is going to leave you walking about with no front tooth!
Hi chloemask,
If you are getting recurring problems with a tooth that has had a root filling, then it needs some form of treatment other than antibiotics. Taking repeated courses of antibiotics, even at yearly intervals is not ideal and will not cure the problem.
It sounds like it may be possible to redo the root treatment. This can be done either through the existing crown, or by removing the crown and placing a temporary crown to maintain the appearance of the tooth during the treatment. For best results you should see a dentist who is a root canal specialist, or, very experienced in providing root canal retreatments. They may well be able to save your tooth.
The guidance we have just received in the UK is we can still carry on working as normal during this second national lockdown. This means that most private practices will be working as normal but most NHS practices will be offering very limited services.
Hope this helps

Thank you both I appreciate the responses. As mentioned root canal specialists -how would I go about finding one in my area?
Thank you both I appreciate the responses. As mentioned root canal specialists -how would I go about finding one in my area?

My dentist had a person she refers people to, and I was happy to take her recommendation. She sent them an email with a form for referring patients, and they called me the same day to arrange an appointment. I had to go for a consultation with the dentist, which cost £50, and he did more x-rays and examined me, then we booked appointments in for the following week. Mine was a big back tooth and needed two appointments at 1h 45 minutes each, then I had to go back to get it checked a few months later. After that he signed me off back to my own dentist, who crowned the tooth. It was a long process - my consultation was between Christmas and new year, the actual treatment was done in January, then it was Easter before I went for the follow up. I think it was almost the summer holidays before the crown was complete. (I teach so think in school terms!)

I think a front tooth is less complicated so it might be a faster process for you.
If you cannot get a referral from a trusted dentist - the British Endodontic Society used to have a search for members of the public on their website, but they decided to get rid of it. However, Google is pretty good these days for finding local results, so a search for your town/city (or nearby towns) and "endodontist" should bring up some results! You can cross-check that they are on the endodontics specialty register using the GDC's search function (enter their last name and select the specialty at the bottom):

The update is that I spoke to reception this morning and they got a dentist to call me back. She explained that I very likely will need an retreat on the root canal or an apicoectomy and I'm seeing the dentist tomorrow so they can look at it, talk about the options and said that they would do a referral to a specialist.

I am so anxious at the idea of having loads of treatment either way, the how expensive it will be and then the treatments just failing again :( I hope that getting all the information for my anxious questions from the dentist tomorrow will help. I will ask them what they would do it was their tooth as you suggest @Judythecat thank you!

And damn coronavirus lockdown..I was going to go stay with my boyfriend for the duration but he lives in the different city and looks like I will be stuck here just to go the dentist being stressed
The dentist gave me more antibiotics and said he thinks best option is to go for an apicoectomy as he thinks the root canal is very well done. He's referring me to the hospital to get it done on the NHS? I assumed it would be private and expensive but it's the opposite, he said that's where he refers patients. Any thoughts on this? I'm worried that NHS is less likely to be successful, which means more dentistry and anxiety.. worst case scenario is an implant so fingers crossed this apico works.. Do you think I should try and find somewhere private to do it? Or wait for the referral to come through -he said he would be surprised if I get it before new year due to waiting list
My dentist said there was no point in referring me to the hospital as it was a back tooth which I could do without, and they would only treat me if I was medically unable to have the extraction. She said it would be different with a front tooth. So that sounds about right, although I am in Scotland and things are different here re dentistry.

Is it a teaching hospital? Here I would feel really confident that the staff are training the dentists of the future, and would do a great job!

You need to make the best choice for you, but the only advantage I could see in going privately would be to speed it up. If you are in a lot of pain, and the wait is long then that would make sense.
Hi, I've had an apicoectomy done in an NHS hospital. They are well appointed and able to cope with emergencies, plus they do many of them so your surgeon will be well qualified. I had a root canal that wouldn't settle and it cured it immediately and it has never given me bother since, and that was about 20 years ago.
Amazing -that is is so so good to hear first hand thank you @Chancery ! The pain is very manageable at the moment with a few painkillers so fingers crossed it doesn't get too bad until I finally get the appointment. Thanks for the support!