Thursday, February 26, 2015

Is a Crown Necessary After a Root Canal?

Many often wonder if it's absolutely necessary to crown a tooth after it has been treated with a root canal. Well, nothing is absolutely necessary. It all depends on the desired outcome. If losing a tooth is not of much concern, then a crown is not necessary. It all depends on each person's priorities. If the desired outcome is to keep the tooth for as long as possible and hopefully for a person's entire lifespan, then YES, a crown is necessary.
Take a look at the chart below. Here we see that the percentage of teeth that fracture is significantly higher when the tooth is not protected with a crown. These percentages change depending on the timeframe we're looking at. I got the chart from Google Images and therefore do not know what timeline we're looking at. 

I see numerous fractured teeth almost daily in my practices. People often ask how long they have until the tooth will fracture after a root canal if a crown is not placed to protect it. I cannot answer this question with preciseness. It may take as little as a couple hours or it may take years. One thing is certain though, as time increases, the percentage of teeth that fracture also increases. So if we want to keep a tooth for many years to come, then a crown is absolutely necessary.

A common occurrence when a crown  is not placed

So why is a root canal treated tooth more susceptible to fracture when not crowned? 

In the diagram below, we see a depiction of a tooth treated endodontically (with a root canal). Here we see a hollow tooth. The problem with this is that when subjected to chewing forces, microfractures develop at the weakest points. These fractures spread just as windshield fractures do. The fracture will inevitably spread. A crown encompasses the tooth and redistributes the forces. This will protect the tooth from undesirable forces and thus significantly prevents fractures.

Weakened tooth structure

In conclusion, if you place enough value on your smile and your ability to chew food adequately, then you must a crown a tooth that has been treated with a root canal.

Dr. Cisneros maintains a practice in Freeburg and Columbia, IL. Both are in the Greater St Louis, MO area. For more information on a wide variety of subjects, please visit

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