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What Happens to a Tooth After a Root Canal?

What happens to a tooth after a root canal?

Close up after much of the decay and loose root canal felling material removed.

This photo shows a tooth that has had root canal treatment but the patient did not go through with any follow up care.  Close up photo shows what is left of a tooth after much of the decay and loose root canal filling material removed.

What should you know and understand about having a root canal so that your treatment will have the best success?

As a refresher, you should know the following:

  • And Endodontist specializes in root canal treatment.
  • Root canal treatment is the removal of the vital material inside a tooth – the nerve and blood supply – followed by cleaning and shaping of the now empty canal and then filling the root of the tooth with a safe material that the body will not reject
  • Root canal treatment is intended to eliminate infection and pain and allow the saving of a tooth
  • A tooth with a root canal can be saved for many years or a lifetime with proper care.
  • Root Canal treatment is about 95% successful

One of the endodontists, Dr. Clark, that our office works with sent this message to several local dentists (my additional comments are in italics),  “It has always been surprising to me when patients spend the time (and money!) on a root canal but do not return (to their dentist) for their full coverage crown.  I have to attribute that decision on how busy our patients are!  I have found that patient education in Western Colorado is very high: over 75% of my patients are aware when a crown is needed after their treatment.  (so their dentist has done a good job in educating patients about their tooth health after a root canal) But, they may not know that having the crown completed ASAP is vital to the long term success of the tooth! As you will see in the attached article (not included here), patients that delayed having their crown placed were more than three times more likely to have the tooth extracted!  (the bold comment was my addition!)  And that was only a delay of four months!

Tails of the previous unprotected endodontic (root canal) filling material, severe decay, and the most awful odor!

This photo shows tails of the previous unprotected endodontic (root canal) filling material, severe decay, and fractures.   The tooth had the most awful odor and will now require extraction!  The crowned tooth shown also has had a root canal and has been functional for many, many years.

Most endodontists remind and encourage patients to schedule their appointment with their regular dentist the week following root canal treatment, as they know how busy the patients are and also how busy their dentist’s offices can be. Our office recommends the following so that you will have the most successful outcome possible:

  • If you are getting a root canal completed on your tooth, find out if a crown will be needed before you start the root canal treatment and get that appointment scheduled as well.
  • Find out if the endodontist can complete the final restoration.  This may be possible if your tooth has an existing crown and the crown is functionally sound.
  • Find out the prognosis for your tooth.  Best estimate of success so that you can make good choices about your care.  Both the dentist and the endodontist should be able to tell you this.

When our office sends our patients to an endodontist to have a root canal completed, we strive to communicate with the endodontist’s office carefully so that they will help our patients seek the needed follow-up care.  The endodontists usually send their post operative letter and radiographs back to our office within 24 hours of treatment.  Please call our Grand Junction, Colorado office at (970) 242-3635 if you have questions about having a root canal and what we can do to help.  We always welcome your feedback!

Yours for better dental health,

Julie Gillis DDS, PC

Restoring Smiles/Restoring Health