One oral surgical procedure that most patients have heard of is a root canal. This procedure is performed by a general dentist or orthodontist and is necessary when an infection has developed inside the canal that runs in the middle of the tooth root. Root canal therapy can be extremely beneficial when the problem is identified early; however, in some cases, the infection may persist after therapy, and an additional surgical procedure is necessary to solve the problem.
What is apicoectomy?
An apicoectomy is an oral surgical treatment performed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon and is necessary when root canal therapy can not solve an infection inside the tooth root. This treatment can be used on any teeth at any location in the mouth, whether the infection is located inside the front teeth with a single root, or in the premolars and molars with two roots.
Infections inside the tooth root cannot be easily seen from the outside because they occur deep within the canal of the root. This canal acts as a roadway for nerves and blood vessels between the apex of the root (the tip) and the inside of the crown, also known as the pulp chamber.
Many times, infections within the tooth root can be solved with root canal therapy; however, if the tooth develops another infection after treatment or the problem persists, an apicoectomy is usually recommended.
What is the purpose of an apicoectomy?
If an infection inside the tooth root is not treated properly, the infection may result in complete loss of the tooth. By treating the damaged tooth with an apicoectomy procedure, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon can mitigate the problem and help the patient avoid tooth extraction. Every patient’s teeth are unique to their mouths, and the structure and shape of some teeth increase their risk for infection. If your teeth exhibit any of the following characteristics, an apicoectomy may be recommended following root canal therapy:
- Small Root Branches. An important part of the tooth root structure are the small branches that extend out from the root and ensure that your teeth stay solidly anchored within your jaw. Patients who have branches that are smaller than average are at a greater risk for persistent infection because the branches are more difficult to clean and seal during a root canal procedure.
- Curved or Narrow Root Canals. Patients whose teeth have narrow or curved root canals run a higher risk of persistent infection following root canal therapy and may need an apicoectomy to solve the problem. This narrow or curved shape makes it difficult for a general dentist to clean the infected area properly to prevent further infection.
- Root Canal Blockage. If a patient has already undergone root canal therapy once and develops a second infection at a later date, the dentist may experience difficulty completing a second procedure. On occasion, debris from the first procedure blocks the root canal, and proper cleaning becomes extremely difficult. If this is the case, an apicoectomy may be necessary to take care of the problem.
If you are in need of an apicoectomy, Drs. Boyce and Tracy will perform a thorough oral examination during your initial consultation. Additional X-rays or 3D scans may be needed to determine the least invasive path to solving the problem and ensure optimal recovery following the procedure. This treatment can be performed in 30–90 minutes depending on the tooth being treated (front or back) and the severity of the problem.
If you are in need of an apicoectomy, we encourage you to contact one of our offices in Billings, MT, or Cody or Sheridan, WY, for an initial consultation. Our friendly front office staff is happy to assist in scheduling your appointment promptly so that you can restore your oral health, function, and smile quickly and easily.