If you've had a root canal, you can expect your tooth to survive for about 11 years, researchers say.
For a time, root canals can maintain teeth affected by cavities or other problems, but the tooth eventually becomes brittle and dies. To learn more about just how long that process might take, researchers analyzed data on more than 46,000 patients who had root canals at 99 community dental practices across the United States.
The findings "provide real-world data on a wider range of patients, not just those receiving care in large health systems or those who are insured," said study first author Dr. Thankam Thyvalikakath. She is director of dental informatics at the Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University School of Dentistry, in Indianapolis.
"This information can be used to inform dental practice, and help patients and dentists make better care decisions," Thyvalikakath said in an institute news release.
The median survival time of a tooth after a root canal was 11.1 years — meaning half lasted longer, half for less time, the study found.
But several factors can extend or shorten how long a treated tooth lasts, the study found:
- Teeth that receive a root canal and then a filling and crown last about 20 years.
- Teeth that receive either a filling or a crown after a root canal last about 11 years.
- Teeth that receive no restorative work after a root canal last about 6.5 years.
The study also revealed wide regional disparities. Root canals lasted 20.5 years in the Northeast; 11.2 in the Midwest; 9.1 years in South Atlantic states; 9 years in the South Central U.S.; and 8.7 years in the West.
Insurance status also had a significant impact on tooth survival time, according to the report published online recently in the Journal of Dental Research.
"This data could also inform dental insurance coverage by demonstrating the value of crowns and permanent restoration options," Thyvalikakath said. "Oral health is a public health issue that significantly affects people's overall health. Leveraging dental records can help us better understand ways to improve treatment, identify causal relationships and maintain the health of teeth and gums."