Understanding Root Fractures During A Root Canal And How They Are Repaired

If you have a tooth infection that has affected the internal tooth pulp, then your dentist will need to complete a root canal procedure. Root canals are quite common. In fact, about 41,000 root canals are completed every day, and this works out to be about 15 million procedures in a single year. This means that your dentist has likely performed quite a few root canals, and there is simply nothing to worry about. You should know that you may experience a complication during the procedure, like a root fracture. To learn more about the complication and how your dentist will deal with the problem, keep reading.

Root Canals And Root Fracture Issues

When a root canal is completed on a tooth, a hole is drilled in the top and the infected pulp is removed. Your dentist will create the smallest hole possible in the tooth crown, so a substantial amount of dentin and enamel can be left behind. The professional will use small tools called root canal files or reamers to break the pulp free from the tooth and extract it. Before this occurs, the dentist will measure the roots of your teeth. Your x-ray images will be used for this purpose so the correct file size can be used. This will help to keep the dentist from forcing the file through the end of the tooth root and damaging the bone and periodontal ligament that sits beyond the root. 

Small lines or measurements will sit on the handle of the root canal file so the dentist knows how far to place it in the tooth. In many cases, dentists will use surgical scopes to inspect the tooth roots once the upper part of the tooth is cleaned out. This helps the professional to locate small fractures or other issues that may cause the roots to break away from the tooth. 

When your dentist is ready, the file will be used to clean out the dental root. Afterwards, the root must be shaped or opened a small amount so that filling materials can successfully fit into all open areas of the tooth. This is necessary to prevent bacteria from forcing its way back into the tooth. During the shaping process, the dental root may fracture. This is likely if the tooth is already brittle or decayed. In some cases, the root of the tooth will simply be too thin, and the shaping process will cause the bottom of the tooth to crack.

Dealing With The Fracture

Since your dentist will work extremely carefully to clean and shape your tooth during a root canal treatment, root fractures are typically noticed right away. If the fracture is small and the very end of the tooth root has broken away, then the small piece of tooth will likely be removed. The end of the root will connect the tooth to its blood supply. However, the tooth will be dead with no blood moving through it once a root canal is performed. This means that removing the end will really not have any negative effect on the tooth once treatment is over. Once the removal is completed, the tooth will be filled with a rubber filling material called gutta percha.

If a large portion of the tooth has broken away, then more significant treatment may be required. In rare cases, a full extraction will be needed. However, this only occurs if a large portion of the root cracks and the upper tooth crown is completely unstable. Typically, the tooth root and the crack area will be filled with a mineral trioxide aggregate material. This material is an extremely strong type of silica-based cement that will solidify the tooth root in place. The rest of the tooth will be filled with gutta percha afterwards. Follow the link in this article for additional reading.