How long can a tooth with no pain that needs a root canal go for without getting the procedure done?
– Maria from New Jersey
How long should you go with a tooth that needs a root canal treatment and you haven’t done it yet? That is hard to say and without seeing your tooth I’d hesitate to guess. If it’s hurting, of course, you want to do it right away. Even if it’s hurting just a little bit or if it has been hurting recently but the pain has gone away. All of these situations indicate an active infection that is growing.
Also, if you have drainage in your mouth or a pimple in your gums right where the tip of the root of this tooth is, the same applies. This is an active infection, and the tooth should be treated promptly. It’s not an emergency that has to be done immediately, but schedule it at your convenience and to fit into the dentist’s schedule, and get it done.
But if it’s not hurting and hasn’t for a long time, it may or may not cause problems to delay. I had a patient who had an infected tooth that needed a root canal treatment for over ten years and he didn’t know it. It was an arrested infection, and while it affected his system, the effect was so subtle he didn’t notice it. We did the root canal treatment, he noticed that he felt a little better, and everything turned out fine. But you run the risk of what is called external resorption – where the infection slowly eats away at the root of the tooth to where the tooth becomes not saveable. And then if the infection is from active decay, the decay will keep growing until the tooth is destroyed. But if the infection is latent and the tooth is intact with no active decay, you may be able to safely wait.
– Dr. Hall
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