Even though contemporary root canal procedures have very high success rates, not every root canal treatment is permanently effective. Tooth root systems can be complex, and undiscovered and untreated canals can harbor infections that threaten the pulp of a tooth months, or even years, after the initial procedure.
If you’re experiencing pain and swelling around a tooth that’s received a root canal, visit your dentist or endodontist to have it examined. He or she may suggest that an endodontist perform an apicoectomy, which treats an infected tooth from its root end, rather than from the biting surface of the tooth.
Here’s a brief guide to how an apicoectomy can save a natural tooth that’s already received a root canal treatment.
Apicoectomy: A Step Beyond Root Canal Treatment
- Apicoectomies can be useful when a root canal retreatment won’t work. If the tooth has received a crown as part of its root canal process, or is part of a fixed dental bridge, those restorations will have to be disassembled and replaced to do another root canal. Accessing the infection through the root avoids this.
- An apicoectomy removes and seals the tip of the tooth root. During an apicoectomy, the endodontist will cut and lift the gum away from the tooth so the root is easily accessible. The infected tissue will be removed, along with the last few millimeters of the root tip. Then the endodontist cleans and seals the end of that root, removing a critical avenue where infection can manifest and cause problems.
- The preparation for an apicoectomy gives the endodontist an accurate picture of your natural tooth. Endodontists use state-of-the-art technology to perform apicoectomies, including fiber optic lights, operating microscopes and ultrasonic cleaning instruments that remove infection via high frequency vibration. Between this and the imaging technologies employed before the procedure, your endodontist will have an exceptionally clear picture of the health of your tooth, and what can be done to preserve it.
“If an infection threatens a tooth that’s had a root canal, and a retreatment isn’t an option, an apicoectomy can preserve it and keep it useful and functional for years to come,” says Dr. Susan L. Wood of the Phoenix Endodontic Group.