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Can You Expect Your Root Canal to Last for a Lifetime?

Let’s be honest; if you ever undergo a root canal treatment, you would expect it to last for several decades, if not for a lifetime. That’s because the process is no cakewalk. It requires multiple visits to a dentist (or an endodontist), several intricate procedures, and a hefty fee.


After going through all the trials and tribulations, would you want the process to last only for a few years? Certainly not! So, in this blog post, let’s understand what a root canal is all about and how long it’s expected to last.


Why is a root canal procedure so complex?


As per the American Association of Endodontists, every year nearly 25 million root canal procedures are completed. This means a weekly average of 287,000 and a daily average of 41,000 root canal procedures. But the treatment is one of the extremely difficult and painstaking procedures in the field of dentistry. Let’s explore why that’s so.


A root canal is a precise and painstaking dental procedure that involves the removal of inflamed or infected pulp from a decayed or decaying tooth. The treatment is designed to remove bacteria and pus from the infected root canal as precisely as possible.


Being extremely narrow, the root canal is extremely hard to operate on and it involves several intricate processes. An endodontist will use a variety of files to widen them and change their shape to remove the damaged pulp and drain the abscess. After that, the dental practitioner will thoroughly clean and fill the canal as well as add a crown.


This particular procedure usually takes several hours and may require a series of visits to be completed. Even after the process is completed, a patient needs to regularly visit their dentist to make sure that the operated tooth is fine and there is no danger of reinfection.


How long can a root canal last?

As per the latest research published on PubMed on May 12, 2022, the median life of a root canal is about 11 years. The research, led by Dr. Thankam Thyvalikakath (the director of dental informatics at the Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University School of Dentistry), studied 46,000 patients who had root canal procedures at 99 community dental practices across the US.


It found that the root canal has a median survival time of 11.1 years. The research also gave valuable insights into a wide range of patients, including the ones who had dental insurance coverage or received care in big healthcare organizations.


As per the research, the average life of a tooth that received a filling and crown after a root canal treatment is revealed to be nearly 20 years. The average survival time of a tooth that received either a crown or a filing following a root canal procedure is found to be almost 11 years. The average age of a tooth that received neither a crown nor a filing following a root canal procedure is about 6.5 years.


Speaking on the findings, Dr. Thyvalikakath said the data show the value of permanent restoration options and crowns as well as it can help dentists and patients make better decisions.


Factors that reduce the survival of a root canal treatment

Even though a root canal procedure is extremely effective for infected or abscessed pulp and tooth, some factors can affect its longevity and long-term results. Here are some of those:


  1. Patients’ negligence: The sheer negligence of patients is one of the major reasons why many root canal treatments fail much before their average lifespan. After the procedure, if a patient does not adopt healthy oral hygiene and falls back into the unhealthy practices then there is a chance of relapse. Also, not visiting the dentist regularly after the procedure can make matters worse.


  1. Improper tooth restoration: If a tooth isn’t properly restored then it can’t withstand the daily grind and is more likely to yield to the pressure. The tooth must be restored anatomically following the procedure. That’s why it’s extremely necessary to choose an experienced and expert endodontist to perform the procedure.


  1. Fracture of teeth: Sometimes, a tooth that has a root canal procedure done, may fracture after some years. It can happen if the patient clenches or grinds their teeth during the procedure. If there is a fracture on the tooth after the procedure, it can exacerbate with time and can cause pain in the operated tooth.


  1. Supernumerary roots: Though this is a rare condition, it still is one of the major reasons for root canal failure. In this, a tooth has more than one root. If there is an infection in any one of the roots, it may exacerbate and can infect the entire tooth.


  1. Problems in the filling or the sealant: In some cases, the filling used in a root canal procedure can weaken over time or the sealant can deteriorate. When it happens, it becomes easier for bacteria to get inside the tooth and cause infection.


How to take care of root canals and make them last longer?

After getting a root canal treatment, it’s the responsibility of the patient to take good care of the operated tooth and make it last longer. Here are some tips to increase the longevity of the root canal:


  1. Practice good oral hygiene: This is the most important step for a healthy and long-lasting tooth. Brush at least brush twice a day and floss at least once daily. Use an antiseptic mouthwash. Reduce snacking between meals and cut down on sweets and sugary beverages. If you are a smoker, try to quit.


  1. Go for all necessary restorative works: Some people tend to get the root canal procedure done but forego the necessary restorative works such as fillings and crowns. By doing so, they reduce the longevity of their root canal treatment. As the new study revealed, the average age of a tooth that didn’t receive any restorative work is nearly half of a tooth that received just one of the two restorative works.


  1. Visit your dentist regularly: Once the root canal procedure is complete, it’s easy to feel that everything is perfect with the teeth and there’s no need to go for regular dental checkups. That can be quite dangerous. Even months after the procedure, the tooth remains sensitive and prone to relapse. Regular checkups are the most effective way to ensure the root canal remains healthy.


  1. Select an experienced endodontist for the procedure: An Alley study reveals that the success rate of root canal procedures performed by endodontists was 98 percent, whereas the success rate of procedures performed by general practitioners was 90 percent. This tells us the importance of choosing a professional for as precise and as sensitive a procedure as the root canal treatment.


Taking everything into account,

Being one of the most complex and painstaking dental procedures, a root canal treatment is deemed to be successful when it lasts long. The recent study has revealed many things about the longevity of an average root canal procedure and the factors that affect its survival rate. But the study also found that, with proper care and restorative works, a patient can make it last much longer. At the end of the day, it’s your personal hygiene, habits, and choices that make all the difference.


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