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Why Some Teeth Need A Dental Crown After A Root Canal

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A tooth often needs to be fitted with a porcelain dental crown after a root canal. But how often? The dental crown reinforces the tooth, and whether it's needed depends on the location of the tooth, or is determined on a case-by-case basis. So how is the decision made? 

The Root Canal Procedure

Root canal treatment involves opening the tooth to access its pulp, which is the living nerve at its center. This pulp is infected, and its removal will stop the pain you've been experiencing while restoring the tooth to full functionality. The pulp chamber is now empty and filled with gutta-percha—a type of latex used in dentistry. And now the tooth is ready to be sealed, either with a permanent dental filling on its own, or a filling followed by a dental crown.

Molars and Premolars

If the tooth is a molar or premolar, it will need a porcelain dental crown. This is fitted over the tooth and will fully encase it, giving it some necessary extra strength. But why is it necessary? Molars and premolars handle most of your chewing. These teeth are the workhorses of your mouth, constantly grinding food to make it ready for swallowing. This creates a lot of pressure on these teeth.

Adding the Crown

A molar or premolar that has undergone root canal treatment and was only finished with a dental filling could easily break under all that pressure. The filling simply wouldn't give the tooth's structure enough strength, as some of that structure would have been removed to access the infected dental pulp. The crown will at least cover the tooth's upper cusps and biting surfaces, but it may not need to be a full crown. Depending on the location of the access point made by your dentist to access the tooth's pulp, a partial, or three-quarter crown may be sufficient. But what about the other teeth in your mouth?

Canines and Incisors

Canines and incisors (towards the front of your mouth) are more concerned with gripping and tearing food. They do less chewing, so they experience less pressure. These teeth generally only need to be finished with a permanent filling made of tooth-colored composite dental resin. But still, this is decided on a case-by-case basis. A tooth that needs a root canal may have experienced significant decay. Additionally, some of its structure may have been removed to reach its pulp. If the tooth is thought to be too weak to survive without a crown, a crown can be added. 

So when it comes to the teeth that do most of your chewing, you'll need the protection of a dental crown after your root canal treatment. For all other teeth, it happens as needed.