Knowing the outcome of root canal treatment (RCT) is determinant to substantiate the clinical decision making process, especially when RCT is weighed against the extraction of natural teeth or replacement by prosthetic elements. The ideal scenario in all clinical situations should combine healing/prevention of disease (apical periodontitis) and the functional retention of the tooth. Understanding the risk factors associated with endodontic failure is a key factor to increase the chances of success. The logical action is to reverse the existing disease, which requires intervention to neutralize the bacterial invasion and disrupt the bacterial biofilm within the complex anatomy. Success is more predictable when the immune host defenses are favorable. However, success has different meanings to the dentist, to the patient and to the tooth itself. The life of an endodontically treated tooth depends on the accuracy of the diagnosis and planning, excellence of disinfection, instrumentation and filling procedures (antimicrobial strategies, root canal shaping and coronal and apical seal) and finally the rehabilitation management. The interpretation of constant or intermittent pain and/or discomfort associated with apical periodontitis (AP) in endodontically treated tooth may be suggestive of endodontic failure. The success features of RCT, namely absence of pain, regression of AP, tight seal of canal and coronal spaces, and recovery of tooth function, must be reevaluated over time. In case of doubt between success and failure, cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) could be indicated for detection and precise localization of AP. The possibility of map reading on CBCT images characterizes the real multidimensional structure, providing accurate information on the presence, absence or regression of AP. The survival of an endodontically treated tooth implies understanding the biological and mechanical outcomes as multifactorial events over the individual's life span. The objective of this review of literature is to discuss relevant factors associated with patient's health, tooth and dentist that could account for a successful RCT.
success; failure; outcome; apical periodontitis; healing