One of the most mysterious and misunderstood treatments and procedures in dentistry are root canal treatments. They are associated with pain, "not working", and are viewed by some patients as a sort of medieval torture. We wanted to write something brief to try to dispel some rumors and myths about them.
Root Canal Treatments are needed when a tooth's nerve has either become necrotic, which can lead to infections, or when the tooth's nerve has become irreversibly inflamed, which can cause a lot of pain. The reason for these conditions are varied, which can range from simple trauma, like banging your tooth in a sport, to decay, to breaking the tooth due to biting on something hard, ect. Regardless of the reason, when the nerve of the tooth either dies or becomes irreversibly inflamed, the nerve needs to be taken out. The tooth is then measured, cleaned out and sealed. There is really no purpose for the nerve of a tooth once the tooth is completely formed, so there is no ill consequence to the tooth that has had a root canal treatment.
Once the root canal treatment is done, though, you will more than likely need to crown the tooth. This is because the tooth became hollowed out due to the procedure, and in order to maintain the integrity of the tooth intact, a proper crown will more than likely need to be placed. It is our experience that this is the most common reason root canal treatments "fail". People think the root canal treatment didn't "work" or "hold", but it's usually because the tooth didn't get crowned, and the tooth consequently broke because of it. Once the tooth breaks, it usually need to get extracted, hence having gone through the procedure a waste of the patients time and money. Again: teeth that have gotten root canal treatments usually need crowns. Have this in mind when you get the procedure done.
A properly done root canal treatment is one of the most predicable procedures in dentistry. They've been around for nearly a century, and there is mountains of scientific papers proving their worth in keeping the dentition. It will help you keep your tooth. And nothing, not an implant, or bridge, or partial denture, is as good as what nature gave you.
Dr. Lopez and Dr. Gely