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How Long Does A Root Canal Last?

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Root canal treatments have long been a source of fear for many dental patients. However, the reality is that these procedures are essential for preserving our natural teeth and maintaining good oral health. But how long does a root canal last, and what factors determine its longevity? In this blog post, we’ll explore the ins and outs of root canal treatments and provide valuable information to help you better understand this crucial dental procedure.

Quick Facts about Root Canals

👉A root canal procedure is performed to save a natural tooth that is severely decayed or infected.

👉The procedure entails removing the infected pulp from the tooth, cleaning the root canals, and sealing them to prevent further infection.

👉General dentists typically perform root canals in treating the dental pulp (living pulp tissue) and root canal system.

👉Common symptoms that may indicate the need for a root canal include severe toothache, tooth sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures, swelling, and abscesses.

👉After a root canal, dental crowns are often placed on the treated tooth to provide strength and protection.

👉Root canals are typically performed under local anaesthesia, so patients usually experience minimal discomfort during the procedure.

👉Root canals have a high success rate; they can last up to 15 years or even a lifetime with proper care.

Why Do We Need Root Canal Treatment?

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Root canal treatment, referred to as root canal therapy or endodontic treatment, is necessary to remove the infected pulp, eliminate bacteria, and save your natural tooth. It is crucial for patients who have an infected tooth, which may be due to tooth decay, a cracked or broken tooth, or other dental injuries. The root canal process involves:

  • Opening the crown of the affected tooth;
  • Removing the infected pulp; and
  • Cleaning and sanitising the interior of the tooth before filling and sealing it.

The benefits of this treatment are numerous. It can effectively reduce tooth pain, decrease the likelihood of a serious dental infection spreading to adjacent teeth, and prevent a decrease in bone density in the jaw. Filling and sealing the tooth after a root canal treatment protects the tooth from becoming reinfected and causing further tooth decay.

Understanding why root canal treatment is necessary and how it works is the first step in realising its importance in maintaining good oral health. Now let’s delve deeper into the longevity of root canals and the factors that can affect their lifespan.

How Long Does a Root Canal Last?

While the procedure is effective, a common question among patients is, “How long does a root canal last?”

The lifespan of a root canal varies, but with proper care and treatment by a certified dentist, it can last a lifetime, potentially preserving natural teeth. However, it is important to note how long root canals last can be influenced by various factors, such as the quality of treatment, tooth structure and location, the extent of decay, the patient’s age and health, tooth restoration, and aftercare.

With this in mind, let’s explore the key factors that can determine the longevity of a root canal and how to maximise its lifespan. Understanding these factors can help patients make informed decisions about their dental treatment and oral health.

Quality of Treatment

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The quality of treatment, including the expertise of the dentist and the materials used, can impact the success and longevity of a root canal. The beneficial aspect of root canal treatment involves the comprehensive elimination of the infected pulp and meticulous cleaning and shaping of the root canal system, followed by consistent and dense filling of the canals to prevent reinfection.

A dentist should be proficient, devoted to patient comfort, well-versed in current medical technologies, and competent in the procedure. Choosing a skilled dentist increases the likelihood of a successful and long-lasting root canal treatment.

Tooth Location and Structure

Tooth location and structure play a role in root canal longevity, with front teeth typically having a longer lifespan than back teeth due to their simpler structure. Front teeth possess one root canal and are comparatively easy to treat, whereas back teeth have two or three roots canal and are complicated to treat.

The tooth structure of back teeth necessitates laborious work during the procedure and exposes them to greater pressure and bite force, thus resulting in a decreased lifespan.

Extent of Decay

The extent of decay can affect the success of the root canal treatment and its longevity. When decay reaches the pulp chamber part of the tooth, comprising the nerves and blood vessels, it can lead to infection and inflammation.

In cases where the decay is severe, it may be difficult to completely remove it during the root canal treatment, which can lead to a shorter lifespan for the root canal.

Patient Age and Health

A patient’s age and overall health can impact the durability of a root canal, with younger patients generally having good results. Generally, younger patients may experience rapid healing and a favourable prognosis, whereas older patients may have a slower healing process and a less desirable prognosis. 

Certain difficulties may be encountered during root canal treatment for elderly patients, such as the nerve canals becoming calcified or sealed. However, regardless of age, proper care and attention to oral health can help enhance the chances of successful root canal treatment.

Timing and Quality of Tooth Restoration

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The timing of treatment and restoration is of great importance to the longevity of a root canal, as delays can lead to complications and reduced lifespan. After a root canal, the tooth needs to be restored with a dental crown or a dental filling. The selection of restoration depends on the extent of damage to the tooth. A well-fitted dental restoration not only provides structural support but also prevents reinfection. 

Working closely with your dentist to ensure prompt treatment and restoration will help maximise the lifespan of your root canal and minimise the risk of complications, thus ensuring root canal safety.


Good aftercare, including proper oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups, can help prolong the life of a root canal. Brushing and flossing regularly; using an antibacterial mouthwash can help remove plaque and bacteria that may lead to tooth decay and reinfection. Regular dental appointments are crucial for professional cleanings and examinations and should not be neglected. Abstaining from hard or sticky foods can also assist in guaranteeing the root canal persists for as long as possible.

By following your dentist’s recommendations for aftercare and maintaining a healthy oral hygiene routine, you’ll be taking the necessary steps to ensure the success and longevity of your root canal treatment.

Bonus: The Impact of Tooth Grinding on Root Canals

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Teeth grinding (or bruxism) can significantly impact root canals. Root canals are performed to remove infected or damaged pulp from the tooth’s root canal system. However, excessive bite force can pressure the teeth and put undue stress on the treated tooth, leading to cracks or fractures that may cause the root canal filling or dental crown to become loose. These cracks can create pathways for bacteria to enter the tooth, potentially causing infection and inflammation in the root canal.

Patients with bruxism may be advised to wear a mouthguard to protect their teeth while sleeping. Additionally, avoiding habits like nail biting and chewing on hard objects can help prevent unnecessary strain on the tooth.

Identifying the Signs of a Failing Root Canal 

While root canals have a high success rate, complications or failure can occur over time. It is crucial to be aware of the signs that indicate a potential problem. If you experience any of the following, it is essential to consult your dentist promptly:

  • Persistent pain/discomfort around the treated tooth
  • Swelling or tenderness in the surrounding gums
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
  • Recurring abscesses or pimple-like bumps on the gums
  • Darkening of the tooth

Early detection and timely intervention can often prevent further complications and the need for additional dental procedures.

How to Care For Your Treated Tooth? Maximising Their Lifespan

The longevity of root canals depends on various factors, as mentioned above. On average, a well-performed root canal can last a lifetime. However, there are instances where the tooth treated may require retreatment or extraction to maximise the lifespan.

Woman during a dental procedure. -

Root Canal Retreatment 

In some cases, a root canal may fail due to reinfection or other complications. If the initial treatment does not adequately clean or seal the root canal, bacteria can re-enter and cause an infection. Signs of a failed root canal, as mentioned earlier, should prompt a visit to the dentist. In such cases, retreatment may be necessary to remove infection and salvage the tooth.

Tooth Extraction 

Despite the efforts to save a tooth with a root canal, there are situations where extraction becomes the viable option. This can occur if the tooth fractures develop severe decay or experience other complications that compromise its long-term viability. The extracted tooth can be replaced with dental implants, bridges, or dentures to restore functionality and aesthetics.


Root canal treatments are essential dental procedures that can help preserve natural teeth and maintain good oral health. By understanding the factors that influence the longevity of a root canal and recognising the signs of potential problems, individuals can enjoy the benefits of a successful root canal for many years to come. Consulting with your dentist is crucial for personalised advice and treatment tailored to your needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can root canals last a lifetime?

Root canal treatment most likely cannot last a lifetime. While root canal treatment may not last a lifetime, it can still significantly extend the lifespan of a tooth when performed with proper case selection and technique.

How often do root canals need to be redone?

Root canals are generally a successful treatment, and if performed correctly and the patient maintains proper aftercare, retreating them is usually unnecessary. In some cases, however, it may need a root canal to be repeated due to infection or other complications.

What can cause a root canal treatment to fail?

There are several reasons why a root canal treatment might fail or require retreatment. Some common causes include:

  • Incomplete removal of infected tissue during the initial treatment
  • Untreated canals and inadequate filling of the canal
  • Breakage or leakage of the dental restoration placed after the root canal
  • Development of new infections due to untreated or undetected cracks or fractures in the tooth
  • Poor oral hygiene leads to recurrent decay or gum disease

Do root canals hurt?

Contrary to popular belief, root canals are generally not painful. The procedure is done under anaesthesia; most people feel little pain afterwards. Modern techniques have enhanced the process, so it’s virtually not painful.

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