When the pulp of a tooth becomes infected or inflamed, root canal treatment may be able to prevent it from needing to be removed. An endodontist can save your natural tooth, potentially preserving it for years, decades, or even a lifetime, by removing the pulp and cleaning, shaping, and disinfecting the root canals. While the tooth no longer contains living pulp tissue, it is secured in place by the periodontal ligament, which ensures it can continue to function like your other teeth after the pulp has been removed. While root canals may last a lifetime, there are some circumstances in which your tooth could need to be re-treated. The following blog post answers the question, "How long does a root canal last?" and explains some of the factors that influence its lifespan.
Root Canal Treatment Success Rate
The success rate of endodontic treatment is very high. This is something we see firsthand with our practice’s patients, and scientific research backs up our observations. One of the most detailed studies on the subject examined the long-term effectiveness of 487,476 root canal treatments. According to this report, 98 percent of root canals last one year, 92 percent last five years, and 86 percent last ten years or longer. Molars treated by endodontists had a 10 year survival rate, significantly higher than that of molars treated by general dentists.
These figures are helpful in giving patients a general understanding of how long root canals last and why they're a procedure worth considering, but it's important to understand how your specific circumstances can affect the treatment's longevity.
Factors That Impact the Lifespan of Root Canals
What distinguishes a root canal that lasts a lifetime from one that needs to be retreated after a few years? What steps should a patient take to increase the chances of a good outcome? Here are some points to consider.
Timing of Treatment
Timely treatment provides better results than treatment that is postponed. Complications are more common when a tooth's condition worsens before it is treated, especially when the root canal infection spreads into the jaw.
Timing and Quality of Restoration
You'll need a permanent dental filling or crown to restore the tooth after root canal therapy. The quality of this restoration, as well as its timing, is critical. The earlier you see your dentist to get your tooth restored, the better. If you wait longer than the recommended period between your root canal and your restoration, your tooth will be at a higher risk of complications.
Location of Tooth
Endodontic care for a front tooth is less complicated since it only has one root canal. Furthermore, since these teeth are used for biting and cutting instead of grinding, they are subjected to less force and stress. Since the back teeth have two or three roots, they are more complicated to treat, and they sustain more bite force while eating. This makes them more vulnerable to problems caused by restorations that have been damaged by fracture.
Our teeth become brittle and more susceptible to breakage as we get older. This, too, will affect how long a root canal will last. When it comes to restoring molars, dental crowns will help protect the tooth from stress, so they are often preferred over dental fillings in these circumstances.
The Bottom Line
We can't say how long your root canal will last because there are so many variables involved. However, we do know that a root canal is an effective treatment option that allows you to save a compromised tooth, and when performed by a board-certified endodontist, it’s very likely that it will last a decade or more.
Schedule a Consultation
If you need a root canal treatment, contact us today to schedule an appointment for a consultation at one of our six North Shore and Boston-area locations.