‘How successful is a root canal procedure?’

Nov 25, 2019
One Starts at 60 reader is concerned about getting a root canal procedure. Source: Getty

Q: I’m booked in for a root canal procedure, however, the specialist says there’s 85 per cent chance of success. I’ve had a lot of conflicting advice. I’ve tried a few different methods for self healing – I think it’s helped a little bit. What ideas can you offer? I would be so appreciative.

Our teeth are like hollow tubes that house nerves and blood vessels which communicate with the rest of our body. For many reasons, the nerves and blood vessels in our teeth can die, causing pain and infection. To remove this infection and keep the tooth, we need to clean, disinfect and fill this hollow tube on the inside. Unfortunately, this means that nothing we do to the tooth on the outside can help. I always say, its like washing the outside of your car, but wondering why the mats inside are still dirty.

The option to undergo root canal treatment is also very personal thing. Some questions you might want to ask your dentist/specialist as well as yourself are:

  • What would happen if I lost this tooth?
  • Does it have a mate that it bites on to?
  • Will I miss this tooth when I am chewing?
  • How many of my other back teeth have I already lost?
  • Is this tooth important to support a denture or a bridge?
  • What options do I have to replace the gap if I lose this tooth?
  • If I decide to have a root canal treatment, will this tooth need more work done to it afterwards? For instance, will it need a crown?
  •  Can I afford the cost of the treatment?

As with all medical procedures, all treatments carry some level of certainty. In most instances, root canal treatment is quite successful and can help you keep your tooth. However, if you decide to have it removed, it’s always good to understand what other options are available to you.

Q: My 71-year-old brother is complaining that his mouth on one side waters too much. He’s had all his teeth removed. We got tested for and infection but nothing was detected. What can be the cause? 

This is a tough question to answer without doing a proper exam on your brother. In the first instance, I think it would be best to visit a dentist who can help your brother with this issue. There are many potential reasons why his mouth waters too much on one side, and this is best figured out by a dentist or perhaps a doctor.

On the positive side, while extra saliva might seem inconvenient, it is actually really good. Most people with low saliva suffer from dry mouth which affects their quality of life. People with low saliva flow suffer from more holes in their teeth, have trouble eating spicy or dry food such as biscuits, wake-up throughout the night, are more prone to fungal infections in their mouth… and the list goes on. So if the amount of saliva is tolerable, it may be best not to interfere with it too much.

If you have a question for Starts at 60’s health experts, email it to [email protected].

Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up