Is A Root Canal A Lifelong Fix?

The thought of having a root canal is far from pleasant, yet root canal treatment can save your tooth when the pulp inside gets infected. How long a root canal will last varies, depending on a number of factors. Often, however, with proper restoration and care, a treated tooth will last for a lifetime:

Increased Chances for Success

Early treatment is a key contributor to the success of a root canal. Therefore, it's important for your dentist or endodontist to get to the tooth before the infection spreads.

How soon you get the tooth repaired afterward can make a difference as well. Sealing off the space where your dentist removed infected tissue from inside the root canal with a permanent filling or crown helps protect the tooth.

You can also aid the long-term success of root canal treatment by practicing good oral hygiene and scheduling regular dental checkups.

The Tooth Involved

It matters whether the tooth that needs root canal treatment is a front or back tooth. Front teeth are easier to get to. Therefore, a simpler root canal procedure may involve little or no discomfort and fewer potential complications.

Also, since you don't use your front teeth for chewing, your dentist may be able to restore a front tooth following a root canal with a filling and no crown.

Back teeth are harder to get to, and may involve a more complicated root canal procedure. Your molars take a lot of wear and tear when you chew food, which makes them more prone to cracks and chips. If you don't restore a molar with a crown, eventually the tooth may fracture, and you will need to get it pulled.

Unlike front teeth, which usually have only one root and one root canal, back teeth generally have two or three roots and three or four root canals. The number of roots involved can make a difference in the success rate, as the procedure can be more difficult to perform on a tooth that has more nerve canals.

Condition of Teeth

Studies suggest that dentin below tooth enamel becomes more brittle with age, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. As a result, teeth can fracture more easily as you get older -- a factor your dentist or endodontist will take into account.

But even for younger individuals, a tooth that has a root canal isn't as strong as the other teeth. After a root canal, the blood flow to the tooth stops. In time, the tooth dries out and becomes brittle, increasing the risk for fracture.

Because of the force involved in chewing food, your back molars are at particular risk for later damage. Although placing a crown on the tooth following root canal treatment can help protect it from cracks and fractures, any future problems with the crown or filling can weaken the tooth.

Unsuccessful Root Canal Treatment

Sometimes during a root canal procedure, the dental file will break off inside the canal. But this doesn't necessarily interfere with the long-term success of root canal treatment, especially if it breaks near the tip of the root. Still, your dentist should check it periodically.

You could have problems if the file breaks in the middle or at the top of the root. In that circumstance, a surgical procedure may be necessary to retrieve the broken piece of file.

In rare cases, you may have to have the tooth extracted following a root canal if it fractures between the roots during the procedure, is perforated by a dental instrument, or infection persists.

If you lose the crown on a treated tooth, or the filling breaks down over time, tissue in the canal can become reinfected years after initial treatment. But unless there are additional complications, a dentist can usually treat the tooth by doing another root canal. To learn more, contact a company like St Anthony's Family Dentistry with any questions or concerns you have.