Does a Root Canal Kill a Tooth?

As an endodontic specialist—one who works mostly on the interior of teeth—we have heard this common concern. “Will this kill my tooth?” It’s a fear that a root canal treatment will cause irreparable damage and the eventual loss of the tooth. 

Will Your Tooth Survive?

A root canal treatment cleans out the inside of a tooth. We take out the tissues inside, which are infected, and replace them with a sterile filling that helps prevent re-infection. 

That might sound dangerous, but it’s not. The “pulp,” inside a tooth includes blood vessels, nerves, and other tissues. They are vital when a tooth is still growing, supplying nutrients and materials to build the tooth. But they’re no longer needed once the tooth has stopped growing and reaches maturity. 

The exterior walls of your adult teeth have already grown to their final stage and don’t need interior blood vessels or nerves anymore. In fact, the blood vessels can carry bacteria during an infection, and the nerves register tissue inflammation as pain, distracting you from your day and making the pulp a liability. 

Keeping Your Tooth Strong

Your tooth can stay strong without its interior pulp because your tooth walls are no longer growing. On the other hand, if you choose to forgo a root canal when you need one, your tooth could be severely weakened by the bacterial infection in the pulp. 

Bacteria release acid that eats away at the structure of a tooth. When we catch the infection quickly and remove the tissues, we strive to save as much of your natural tooth as possible, aiming to let you keep your own tooth for many more years. 

If your tooth has been weakened by the infection, your dentist can strengthen it with a dental crown. This is a customized tooth cap that covers the top and sides of a tooth. It creates a new chewing surface, along with reinforcing the sidewalls of the tooth. 

What Parts of a Tooth Are Touched by a Root Canal?

Here’s another way to think of the issue of a tooth being “killed.” The worries patients have is that the exterior surface of their tooth will rot away or that the tooth will loosen and fall out. But neither situation will happen from a root canal treatment. Why? Here are the parts of the tooth affected by a root canal: 

  • Pulp:

    The main nerve and other tissues inside the tooth root are affected most, as they’re removed. Sometimes, the nerve is already dead before the treatment. We remove infected, dying, or dead materials, saving the tooth from damage from infection.

  • Enamel:

    This is the exterior surface of the tooth. The interior pulp can become infected when enamel is damaged. The infection can in turn decay the enamel. A root canal treatment removes the infection, then we’ll reinforce the outer enamel, often with a dental crown. 

  • Dentin:

    This is a hard layer of tissue under the enamel. It’s produced by the pulp, so once we take out the pulp, dentin will no longer grow. But it’s not necessary to the integrity of the tooth, so a root canal will not damage your tooth more than it already is. 

  • Periodontal Ligament:

    This is the gum tissue that helps connect the tooth to the jaw. The gums can be damaged by infection or accident, but a root canal treatment can prevent more damage from happening, along with encouraging the ligament to reattach.

Root Canals Keep Your Tooth Alive

Yes, root canals remove the pulp, which contains nerves and blood vessels. If you consider that process to be killing the tooth, then in a way, you’re right. But if we can catch the infection early enough, no permanent damage will be done to your tooth, before, during, or after the procedure.

If a tooth is “dead” because the nerve and blood vessels are gone, that’s one thing. But if a tooth is “alive” because it will last for many years, looking great and functioning as you need, then our root canal treatments will keep a tooth alive and well. 

We only use a root canal treatment when it will improve your dental and oral health. We remove infections and strengthen your natural tooth material. The goal of the treatment is to save the tooth structure, prevent re-infection, and stop any pain. 

Get Your Root Canal With Creekside Endodontics

If you’re experiencing mild to severe tooth pain, contact us at Creekside Endodontics for an appointment. We can diagnose the problem, and help you decide if a root canal is right for you.