A root canal is performed by an endodontist (or dental surgery specialist). The infected or damaged “pulp” of the tooth is removed, then the space is disinfected and sealed. However, a lot of patients wonder how a tooth can survive without the pulp—isn’t that what keeps it alive? It’s part of it, but it’s really the ligament or periodontal membrane that attaches the tooth to bone which ensures a tooth stays “living.” Basically, a tooth can be alive and healthy even with no pulp in the root canal system.
On the other hand, this doesn’t mean that all root canals will maintain a tooth alive forever. According to recent studies, a tooth that undergoes an initial and successful root canal can have a diverse longevity. For example, an infection that hasn’t spread to the bone means the root canal will probably “last” much longer. Basically, just like with any medical condition, the earlier a problem is caught and treated, the better off you’ll be. Of course, the root canal quality itself also plays a huge factor.
Remember: Any dentist can technically perform a root canal, but an endodontist is the only type of dentist with advanced, special training in root canals and other surgeries. It’s why they also fix root canal failures. Who do you want to trust your dental surgery to?
Speed Plus Timing
It’s not just getting into the dental chair as soon as possible that matters—it’s also how quickly (and well) a tooth is repaired post-root canal. A root canal is only the first half of the procedure. Most patients also need restoration that comes in the form of a crown or filling. In some cases this means two office visits, and ideally the second appointment is set for the next day.
However, also keep in mind that your teeth are all different. For example, front teeth just have one root/canal—which makes them much simpler to treat and they may not need a crown. They also don’t have as tough of a job as your back teeth, which are chewing tools with up to three roots. This makes them more challenging to treat and access.
Time Plays a Factor
Numerous studies have indicated that age and a tooth’s likelihood to fracture are intricately connected. Regardless of how many root canals a tooth has endured, over time teeth turn more brittle and prone to fracturing. This is particularly true of molars, which is why you might need a post as well as a crown following a root canal.
Only an endodontist can recommend the best treatment course for you. Just remember that research has shown root canals offer the longest solution for addressing infected teeth. They trump dental implants when possible, are faster, more cost effective and best preserve your natural teeth. They can last a lifetime if done well and maintained—and that’s the ultimate goal.