When the root canal of a tooth becomes infected, it can lead to serious dental problems, including bone and tooth loss. In order to treat deep infections within a tooth, root canal therapy may be required. This treatment can save a tooth from extraction, but it can’t preserve tissue that has already been lost to decay. In many cases, a dental crown is the best way to ensure the future health of a tooth following root canal therapy. We look at what root canal treatment is and why a crown is necessary.

 What is a Root Canal?

Root canal treatment is the removal of the tooth’s pulp: a small, thread-like tissue in the center of the tooth. The pulp is the soft area within the root canal, which is the natural cavity within the center of the tooth. When the pulp inside a tooth is infected or no longer living, dentists can treat the tooth through a root canal by removing the pulp. Once the damaged, diseased or dead pulp is removed, the remaining space is cleaned, shaped and filled. This procedure seals off the root canal. When performing routine root canals, a dentist will drill through the tooth and then remove infected and decayed enamel, dentin and pulp. For this reason, teeth with large cavities are weak even when the cavities are filled. Because root canals also remove the pulp, the teeth involved can no longer function as living things. Over time, this deficit causes them to lose strength and become likely to fracture. Years ago, teeth with diseased or injured pulps were removed. Today, root canal treatment saves many teeth that would otherwise have to be extracted.

What is a crown and why are they needed?

A dental crown is a tooth-shaped “cap” that is placed over a tooth to restore its shape and size, strength, and improve its appearance. The crowns, when cemented into place, fully encase the entire visible portion of a tooth that lies at and above the gum line. On average, dental crowns last 5-15 years. The life span of a crown depends on the amount of “wear and tear” the crown is exposed to: how well you follow good oral hygiene practices, and your personal mouth-related habits. (You should avoid such habits as grinding or clenching your teeth, chewing ice, biting fingernails, and using your teeth to open packaging.) After performing root canal work, dentists apply permanent fillings to protect the treated teeth from bacteria and to strengthen them in the process. For many root canal procedures, however, fitting crowns over the filled teeth is necessary because of the high risk of fracture without the extra protection crowns provide. Another advantage of crowns is that they restore the natural appearance of your teeth.

Is a Crown Always Needed?

For incisor and canine teeth that are relatively intact, a root canal without crown placement might be fine. Teeth at the front of the mouth, experience less physical stress than premolars and molars because they are not used for chewing. In fact, the effectiveness of crowning front teeth after root canals, includes only incisors or canines that have been extensively excavated during the procedure. In these cases, you may need the strength crowns provide. Premolars and molars that are at low risk of fracture may also be suitable for filling-only restorations after root canals. Your dentist can ultimately help you determine the best option for restoring a tooth after a root canal. Front teeth may not need a crown for strength, but you might still refer the improved appearance a crown offers.

If you have any questions about root canals or crowns, call Winning Smiles to schedule an appointment with your dentist – 716-332-2444.