The primary reason for having root canal therapy is to preserve a damaged tooth, but that doesn’t mean the tooth will last forever. Dentists usually recommend root canal treatment when the tooth’s inner tissue, known as the pulp, gets infected or has been affected by decay or trauma. Pulp exposure due to decay or trauma can result in extreme discomfort. Infection within the tooth may eventually spread to the supporting bone, resulting in tooth loss. In this post, we review six factors that contribute to how long a tooth can be retained after root canal therapy.
Root Canal Therapy
During root canal treatment, an endodontist removes the diseased pulp tissue. He or she cleans out the interior of the tooth and the nerve canal(s), and then fills these with dental material-usually Gutta Percha. Finally, a filling or crown is fitted to protect the tooth and prevent reinfection. Several factors determine how long the effects of a root canal treatment will last, including:
1. The Initial Extent of Decay
The earlier a patient gets dental care for tooth decay, the better the outcome will be. In a tooth with advanced decay more tooth structure must be removed and replaced by restorative materials like composite and crowns. While dental materials have made great advances, there is no substitute for the structural integrity of real dentin and enamel. With infected teeth, bacteria may inhabit the tooth as well as the adjacent bone. In long standing infections it can be difficult or impossible to remove the infection in spite of proper treatment. Some endodontic infections result in so much bone loss that it is impossible to save the tooth. When this happens, bone support is compromised, and the tooth becomes less stable.
2. Location of the Tooth
Teeth have specialized functions based on their location. Anterior teeth have a single root, and function primarily for tearing cutting into things. Posterior teeth are specialized for chewing and are well adapted to withstand the increasable forces generated from chewing our food. When tooth structure is lost so is the strength of the tooth and its ability to withstand the forces of chewing.
3. Treatment Success
Root canal treatment should always be performed by a skilled dentist. There is no question that having your procedure performed by an endodontist is the best choice. Starting with having a specialist treat your problem is a good first step, but success depends on multiple factors. During the treatment, it’s essential for the practitioner to locate and remove as much diseased tissue before disinfecting the tooth chamber. With back teeth, this is more complex because the roots may have multiple nerve canals, all need to be accessed, located, and treated.
4. Patient Age and Health
As patients age, their teeth become more brittle and may be more likely to fracture both before and during dental treatment. Additionally, many older patients have systemic conditions that impact their oral health, either because of their symptoms or medications. Dry mouth, for example, is a factor in the development of oral infections because the body produces insufficient saliva to clean food particles from the teeth. The nerve canals may also have calcified or closed down making treatment more complicated.
5. Root Canal Failure
A root canal treatment can fail for several reasons, according to the American Association of Endodontists. These include, but are not limited to, a breakdown of the crown or its internal sealant, root fracture, or missed nerve tissue. Pain, tenderness when biting, swollen gums, loose teeth, or sinus pain can (but may not always) be symptoms of root canal failure, making it necessary for the patient to have endodontic retreatment.
6. Good Aftercare
Caring for your oral health doesn’t end with dental treatments, and the patient’s future level of hygiene plays a significant role in determining how long a treated tooth lasts. Regular examinations, teeth cleanings, and prompt treatment for any problems are imperative to achieve long-term dental wellbeing.
Root canal therapy by an Endodontist is the gold standard of care for a painful or infected tooth, and under optimal conditions a patient can expect the treated tooth to last for 20 years or more. It’s best to discuss your individual circumstances with your endodontist before deciding on a course of action to ensure you act from a well-informed position.
For more information on root canal treatment or to schedule an appointment to discuss your needs contact Endodontic Specialists today.