Some of the most common questions from people considering a root canal is ‘How long does root canal treatment last?’; ‘What is the lifespan of an endodontically treated tooth?’; ‘Should I opt to retain my tooth and have root canal therapy or have the tooth removed and replaced with an implant-supported tooth?’; ‘Do I need to have the root canal treated tooth protected with a crown?’
Thankfully, modern dentistry has come a long way in recent decades and in most cases, a root canal is a straightforward procedure with a relatively short recovery period.
In our latest blog, we cover everything you need to know about root canal treatment and also provide a detailed comparison between 2 options:
- Root canal treatment on my existing tooth.
- Replacement of my existing tooth with an implant-supported tooth.
It is important to understand the options and be able to discuss them with your dentist.
What is a root canal?
Root canal treatment (endodontic therapy) is a common procedure used to treat teeth with dead nerves, or otherwise severely infected or abscessed teeth. The purpose of root canal treatment is to retain (mummify) the tooth so that it is comfortable to chew on it. Hopefully, there is sufficient tooth structure remaining (after the decay has been removed) to allow for stable and long-term restoration of the tooth in order to bring it back to a healthy state.
A root canal is typically performed in the chair and involves the dentist cleaning out the inside of the tooth, removing both nerve tissue and blood vessels that would otherwise supply the tooth. Once the tooth has been hollowed out, it is then refilled with material to prevent infection, and left to heal, before a permanent restoration is applied to the top of the tooth. A crown is typically applied to the tooth to provide protection, as the lack of blood supply to the tooth can make the tooth quite brittle.
How long does a root canal last?
Although many patients will report at least 10 years of reliable service from the teeth that have had root canal treatments, the literature will indicate that 50% of these teeth will sustain a fracture during the ten years after treatment. Unfortunately for many of the fractured teeth, this happening will be a terminal event for these teeth.
The success rates of endodontic treatment (root canal therapy) to salvage teeth and implant replacement of teeth can vary depending on several factors, including the specific case, the skill of the dentist or endodontist, and the patient’s overall oral health. Here’s a general comparison:
Pros & cons of Root Canal treatment
- Endodontic Treatment (Root Canal Therapy) – Endodontic treatment is successful 85% to 95% of the time.
- This treatment preserves the natural tooth structure, which can maintain proper function, appearance, and sensation.
- Similar overall cost compared to implant placement, especially when considering that root canal treatments will require a crown to protect the tooth.
- Usually requires less invasive procedures.
- Success rates can vary based on the complexity of the case.
- Retreatment may be necessary in some cases if the initial treatment fails.
Pros & cons of Implant Replacement of teeth
- Success Rate: Dental implant success ranges from 90% to 95% or more.
- Offers a permanent long-lasting solution
- Doesn’t affect adjacent teeth.
- Long-term success is quite predictable
- Tooth removal and implant placement can be completed in a single appointment
- Involves a more invasive surgical procedure.
- Healing and integration of the implant can take several months.
It’s important to note that the choice between endodontic treatment and implant replacement should be made on a case-by-case basis. Factors such as the condition of the tooth, the patient’s overall health, aesthetic concerns, and cost considerations should all be assessed when determining the most appropriate treatment option. Additionally, consulting with your dentist, endodontist and implant specialist surgeon is crucial to assess individual circumstances and make an informed decision.
What to expect during recovery from root canal and implant treatments?
The majority of people experience mild discomfort during the root canal recovery period that typically improves over the course of between a week and 10 days. Depending on the extent of infection experienced before the procedure, some patients may actually feel less discomfort after root canal than they did before.
For most patients, the recovery period from implant placement lasts for 1-2 days. Occasionally longer in patients that require bone grafting as part of implant placement.
Tips to minimise recovery time from root canal treatment and implant procedures –
At some stage during your consultation, your Specialist Surgeon will talk you through everything you need to know about proper root canal aftercare. To give the root canal procedure the greatest chance of success, it’s important to follow this advice.
You can also help speed up the healing process with some simple steps:
- Avoid chewing or drinking hot liquids until after the anaesthetic has worn off. While your mouth is numb it’s easy to bite incorrectly, or otherwise damage your tooth, without realising it.
- Avoid hard or crunchy foods like nuts, ice and carrots that could damage the tooth.
- Take the prescribed pain medication to keep inflammation at bay.
- Avoid chewing on the side of your mouth that has had the root canal treatment while it’s healing. This will help to alleviate the pressure placed on the tooth and surrounding gums.
- Maintain good dental hygiene after the procedure, making sure to floss and brush your teeth regularly and use an antiseptic mouthwash. This is important for preventing infections.
- Ensure you schedule a post-procedure check-up with your dentist so they can make sure the tooth is healing as it should be.
- Make sure to schedule an appointment with your dentist to have your permanent restoration applied to the tooth within the timeframes they recommend, to prevent reinfection or damage to the tooth.