This post was originally written in December 2016, and updated in July 2023.
Root canals. Just the mention of the procedure can send shivers down the spines of many. It’s understandable why there’s fear surrounding it, as the common misconception is that root canals are painful and traumatic. However, we want to set the record straight – root canals are a common dental procedure designed to save a damaged or infected tooth, and with modern dental techniques, they don’t have to be a painful experience.
What IS a root canal?
A root canal is a dental procedure performed when the soft tissue inside a tooth, known as the pulp, becomes infected or inflamed which can be painful and have you searching for an emergency dentist in your area. This can occur due to deep decay, repeated dental procedures, or trauma to the tooth. The procedure involves removing the infected or inflamed pulp and thoroughly cleaning and sealing the inside of the tooth.
Root canal procedure – broken down:
- Numbing the area: To ensure a painless experience, the first step is to numb the area surrounding the tooth.
- Accessing the pulp: A small hole is made in the tooth to access the pulp.
- Removing the pulp: Specialized tools carefully remove the infected or inflamed pulp.
- Cleaning the tooth: The inside of the tooth is then thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
- Sealing the tooth: Finally, the tooth is sealed with a filling or crown to prevent any further infection or damage.
Apicoectomy – A Solution for Persistent Root Canal Issues:
In some cases, despite a successful root canal, problems may persist. When this happens, your dentist might recommend an apicoectomy, also known as root end surgery, as an alternative solution.
What is an apicoectomy?
An apicoectomy is a minor surgical procedure performed by an endodontist, a specialist in root canal treatments. It is usually considered when a previously treated root canal does not heal as expected or when there are issues with the root tips. During an apicoectomy, the endodontist accesses the root tips by making a small incision in the gum tissue near the affected tooth.
The procedure involves the following steps:
- Local anesthesia: Similar to a root canal, the area around the affected tooth is numbed to ensure a painless experience during the apicoectomy.
- Accessing the root tip: The endodontist makes a small incision in the gum to access the root of the tooth.
- Removal of infected tissue: The infected or inflamed tissue at the tip of the root is carefully removed.
- Root-end filling: After the removal of the infected tissue, a biocompatible material is used to seal the end of the root to prevent any further issues.
- Suturing: The gum tissue is then stitched back into place to promote healing.
Does an apicoectomy hurt?
As with a root canal, local anesthesia is administered during an apicoectomy to ensure you don’t experience any pain during the procedure. The advancement in dental technology and anesthesia options has made apicoectomies relatively pain-free and well-tolerated by patients. Your endodontist will make sure you are comfortable and adequately numb before starting the procedure.
Benefits of an apicoectomy:
Preserves your natural tooth: Just like a root canal, the primary advantage of an apicoectomy is that it allows you to keep your natural tooth intact.
Higher success rate: In cases where a root canal alone may not resolve the issue, an apicoectomy can increase the chances of a successful outcome.
Less invasive alternative: Compared to more extensive procedures like tooth extraction and implant placement, an apicoectomy is a relatively minor surgery.
When is an apicoectomy necessary?
While root canals are successful in the vast majority of cases, there are instances when further treatment is required. An apicoectomy is usually considered if:
A previously treated tooth shows signs of infection or inflammation after a root canal procedure.
X-rays reveal persistent issues with the root tips or surrounding bone.
Retreatment of the root canal is not a viable option or has already been attempted without success.
If you’re experiencing ongoing problems with a tooth that has undergone a root canal, don’t hesitate to consult your dentist or an endodontist. They can assess your situation and recommend the most appropriate course of action, whether it’s a traditional root canal retreatment or an apicoectomy.
Remember, dental technology continues to advance, and procedures like root canals and apicoectomies have become far more comfortable and successful than ever before. Trust your dentist or endodontist to provide you with the best possible care and guide you toward a healthy and pain-free smile.