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I had a crown put on tooth #7 (right lateral incisor) about 40 years ago but no root canal. My dentist said I now need a root canal on that tooth due to decay under the crown. I’ve had no pain, abscess or any indication of infection. The dentist attempted a root canal through the back of the crown and after 2 hours he gave up and said the canal is calcified and he is unable to locate it. He put a temporary filling in the crown and said I will need an endodontic specialist to perform the root canal. Because I am not in pain, the endodontist booked me an appointment 4 weeks out. Well it’s been 2 weeks and now my crown (with some tooth inside) has broken off and I don’t know what to do. I’m elderly and can’t spend a fortune on this tooth issue when it probably should have been left alone in the first place. Should I just get an implant? Attempt a root canal? I doubt there is enough tooth left to put a new crown on even if the root canal is successful. I bought some DenTek at the drug store today and can reattach the crown myself. I would greatly appreciate your perspective on this.
I’m going to start by trying to answer a question that you were too polite to ask: Whose fault is it that this tooth broke off?
Your dentist was drilling inside this tooth for two hours looking for the root canal and not finding it. It’s hard not to believe that doing so seriously weakened the tooth and is the reason it broke off. And having done that, he didn’t pass that information on to the endodontist or do anything in the meantime to strengthen the tooth. Hopefully he has learned a lesson from this, but meanwhile you are victimized here. It seems reasonable to me that he should accept some of the responsibility for the fix you are in.
With there being decay under the crown, the logical way to proceed here would seem to me to be to take the old crown off (it will have to be replaced anyway), get rid of the decay, and then finding the canal would be much easier. If the tooth really got infected, then the decay penetrated into the canal. But even if it didn’t, having the crown off greatly increases visibility and access.
Meanwhile, to answer the question you actually asked, if the tooth is down to a stump then yes, it may be difficult to put a crown on it and you could lose the tooth and need an implant. However, if your bite isn’t particularly stressful, the right kind of dental post in the tooth could enable it to hold a crown, even if there isn’t much of the tooth left. But after the fiasco you’ve been through, I’m doubtful that your current family dentist has enough expertise to pull that off. The placement of the post or posts would need to be done in such a way as to brace the restoration against rotational forces, and that can be tricky. Posts are round and lateral incisors are kind of round in cross section, and it doesn’t take much twisting force to loosen a crown and post in this situation.
– Dr. Hall
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About David A. Hall
Dr. David A. Hall was one of the first 40 accredited cosmetic dentists in the world. He practiced cosmetic dentistry in Iowa, and in 1990 earned his accreditation with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is now president of Infinity Dental Web, a company in Mesa, Arizona that does advanced internet marketing for dentists.