Question: “Dr. Arnold, I’m supposed to get a root canal next week. If that is supposed to take care of my toothache, why do I also need a crown?”
Answer: The most common purpose of root canal therapy is to eliminate pain, and in most cases people experience immediate relief from their pain once local anesthetic is administered. Additionally, performing root canal therapy makes the restoration of a compromised tooth possible. The only other option for pain relief is removal of the tooth.
Teeth are covered by enamel, the hardest structure within the human body. Beneath the enamel layer is the dentin, which is also very hard. The dentin layer surrounds the pulp chamber, where the nerve and blood vessels reside within each tooth. Root canal therapy is generally necessary due to the infection of this nerve.
Once the nerve and blood supply has been removed, the tooth often becomes brittle. That makes the tooth more likely to fracture if it is not restored in a timely manner. If the tooth is generally intact, and the access opening to perform root canal therapy is small, it can sometimes be closed with a simple filling.
If the tooth structure is severely compromised, and the risk of fracture is significant, the tooth will generally need to be restored with a crown or onlay. An onlay will cover the portion of the tooth that is most at risk, and a crown will cover the entire tooth. Your dentist will make the recommendation as to which restoration is most appropriate.
Root canal therapy should generally be a comfortable, effective treatment to alleviate pain and save teeth. With the amazing technology available to dentists and endodontists, (root canal specialists), including “rotary” instruments, digital radiography, and magnification, this treatment is more comfortable and predictable than ever. With the proper restoration in place following endodontic treatment, the long-term prognosis for the respective tooth should be excellent.
Dr. Jim Arnold is a practicing dentist in Chesterton and Valparaiso. He is also a clinical mentor with the Hornbrook Group and serves on the Advisory Board for the Academy of Comprehensive Esthetics as the Fellowship Chairman. You may send questions to his office at: 1830 South 11th Street, Chesterton, IN 46304 or email them to: drarnold@SmilesByArnold.com. More information on this or many other dental topics can be found at www.SmilesByArnold.com.