Root Canal On An Abutment Tooth: Is It Possible?

The specifics of a root canal might sound a little crude. After all, a dentist must make an access hole in the tooth, extract the inflamed dental pulp (the nerve) that has been troubling you, before thoroughly cleaning the tooth's hollow, filling it, and then sealing the tooth. But this is the simplest form of treatment when a tooth's pulp cannot recover. Its goal is to return the tooth to full functionality. But what if the tooth that needs root canal treatment serves a dual function? What's involved in a root canal on an abutment tooth that's used to secure partial dentures?

Abutment Tooth

Partial dentures often make use of a remaining natural tooth for maximum stability. Such a tooth is referred to as an abutment tooth, and it has a clasp attached to it which helps to secure your partial dentures. It's probable that an abutment tooth has had a dental crown fitted to reinforce its structure. 

Structurally Sound

It's unlikely that a tooth will be used as an abutment without a dental crown, although this is possible, assuming the tooth is structurally sound with a healthy root structure. In most cases, an abutment tooth that needs a root canal will already be capped with a dental crown. But won't this complicate the root canal procedure?

The Root Canal

A dental crown doesn't create much of an obstacle in these circumstances. A dentist must drill into a tooth to perform a root canal, with the tooth's crown (consisting of its enamel and underlying dentin) creating a natural barrier. The ultra-thin ceramic crown is simply an artificial barrier, and its presence doesn't necessarily make the task any more complicated. Your dentist can simply make an access hole through the dental crown. In some cases (such as an older or damaged crown that's coming to the end of its service life), a new crown may be required. 

Finishing the Task

Once your inflamed dental pulp has been removed from the tooth, with the empty pulp chamber irrigated and filled, the tooth will be sealed with a temporary filling. The dental crown can later receive a permanent filling and can once again serve as your abutment tooth. The process is fairly simple but essential.

Delays Are Unwise

No necessary root canal should be delayed, but the matter becomes even more urgent when the procedure is to be performed on an abutment tooth used to secure partial dentures. Ensuring the tooth's stability is critical, and if the tooth deteriorates to the point that it becomes mobile (loose in its socket), it can no longer serve as an abutment tooth. Without this abutment, the configuration of your dentures will no longer match your mouth, and you're likely to need an entirely new pair. 

It's never wise to delay a root canal, but you simply mustn't delay a root canal on an abutment tooth.