Posted by Dr Katherine Fowler - 03 Apr 2019
After multiple appointments and some expense, you’re out of pain and have successfully completed root canal treatment. So, what’s the next step? Prior to commencing root canal therapy (RCT) your dentist may have mentioned the future need for a crown, sometimes referred to as a ‘cap’. Crowns are recommended following RCT for a number of reasons. They help to strengthen and seal a weakened tooth, improve aesthetics and increase the lifespan of that tooth.
Root canals save teeth, but they also weaken them. Following removal of decay and infected pulp the tooth can be thought of as being somewhat ‘hollowed out’. Consequently, they have a higher propensity to fracture. In most instances we recommend a crown to protect these increasingly brittle teeth. Exposure to everyday functions like eating can make your fragile tooth more susceptible to damage. A durable dental crown can cover this tooth to make it stronger for use while preventing fractures or chips.
Following RCT, the surface of the tooth is also at a greater risk of infection. To avoid recontamination, a dental crown should be placed over the tooth to seal it off from harmful leakage. A crown may supply the finishing touch after a root canal - sealing the tooth and strengthening it for the long term
Another advantage of crowns is that they can cosmetically improve the appearance of your teeth. Some teeth suffer colour changes following RCT. If a tooth looks gray or discolored, a crown can restore a more natural-looking appearance and a whiter color to match the other teeth.
There is some debate about when best to tackle the crown following RCT. However, most dentists agree that 3-9 months after successful RCT (i.e after treatment completion and resolution of symptoms), the tooth should be suitable for its final restoration.
As for how long a crown lasts unfortunately there are no guarantees, although usually you can expect at least 7 years. That being said, in many instances people will have them for the remainder of their lives. It’s all about how well you care for your crown. Oftentimes the crown itself is fine, but the tooth underneath it has developed a cavity. Therefore, maintaining good oral hygiene and regular checkups with your dentist, are incredibly important
Thus we can see why crowns have been considered the restoration of choice for endodontically treated teeth for some time. Ideally these freshly RCT’d teeth should not be left in a vulnerable condition and a dental crown acts to protect and enclose them. Proper care (brushing, flossing, diet) and regular dental visits are also important to ensure they are not susceptible to future cavities and will help your RCT and crown last even longer.