Can a Root Canal Be Done Through an Existing Crown?

There’s no doubt about it–root canals can cause a lot of anxiety or fear. They’ve become a pop-culture icon for a painful dental procedure, and are one of the things many folks dread most about dental care or a trip to the dentist office. Despite their unpleasant popularity, many misconceptions abound around root canals and many folks misunderstand what they are. One of the most common questions we face is whether or not a root canal can be done through an existing dental crown. It’s a surprisingly complicated and (we think) interesting issue, so let’s take a further look.

First things first, let’s briefly discuss what a root canal is. When a tooth becomes damaged, an infection may set in and affect the nerves inside of it. If that gets bad enough, the dentist may suggest a root canal. This involves removing the damaged portions of the tooth–including the nerves and blood vessels–and replacing them with a rubbery material called gutta-percha. A cap is then placed on the tooth and sealed. After a relatively short recovery period, the root canal tooth functions just like a natural tooth does. 

It’s important to remember despite all the bad press a root canal is a routine dental procedure in most cases. Complications are rare and most patients do not experience serious discomfort. While your situation is unique and your dentist can give you more personalized advice, in general, there’s nothing to fear. 

So that brings us back to the central question–can a root canal be done through an existing crown? Sometimes the answer is yes. In those cases, the procedure is performed just like a standard root canal, with the damaged tissue and tooth being removed and the drilled hole sealed. However, there are exceptions, and sometimes a root canal cannot be performed through an existing crown. These may include: 

  • When the damage or decay made the root canal necessary is too advanced.
  • When the crown itself is damaged during the procedure. Typically this happens when a large piece of porcelain breaks off and leaves the crown beyond repair. 
  • If further damage to the tooth is discovered during the course of the root canal. This typically means your dentist discovers a root fracture–damage to the root of the tooth–which means the tooth needs to be extracted. 

In these cases, various courses of action are open to your dentist who will select the right one for your individual case. Unless the tooth is so badly damaged an extraction is necessary, most of the time the root canal will take place as planned and your dentist will simply replace the old crown with a new one. This adds some time and expense to the procedure, but as with most root canals, it’s generally free of complications or undue patient discomfort. Again, your dentist will give you personalized guidance about your own situation, but this is a general idea of what is likely to happen. 

Root canals sound scary, but they let you preserve your smile and your teeth for years to come. As with all patient care, Plage Dentistry works to ensure our patients enjoy a lifetime of dental health and wellness. Get in touch today and make an appointment so we can help you with your oral care needs.