It’s harder to pronounce than “Root Canal” – and at first, it might sound a little scarier too. But if you’re experiencing tooth pain that a root canal can’t fix, you might be glad you’ve heard of the dental procedure called an apicoectomy. Just ask Julianne Hough, former dancer (and now judge) on the prime-time TV show Dancing with the Stars; not only did she have this treatment done a couple of years ago – she also shared some post-procedure snaps with her social media fans.
So what exactly is an apicoectomy? It’s a special type of dental surgery aimed at removing infection and preserving a tooth that might otherwise be lost. Like standard root canal therapy, an apicoectomy is an in-office procedure usually performed by an endodontist: a dentist who specializes in treating problems with the tooth’s pulp. This soft tissue, made up of blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue, is found in the small, cavern-like root canals, deep inside the tooth.
When pulp tissue becomes infected – through untreated decay, a fractured tooth, or another cause – it can produce intense pain and result in serious dental problems, including tooth loss. The first-line treatment for pulp infection is root canal therapy. In this routine procedure, the diseased and dying pulp tissue is removed through a small hole in the tooth’s chewing surface; the canals are then disinfected, and the tooth is sealed up from outside. Most of the time, this treatment works very well; occasionally, however, it isn’t enough to stop the infection.
In cases where the infection remains (sometimes due to blocked canals, an anatomical irregularity or an accessory canal that can’t be treated), it may spread out from the tip (apex) of the tooth’s roots into the surrounding hard and soft tissues of the jaw. That’s when an apicoectomy may be recommended. Unlike a root canal, this procedure begins with a small incision in the gum that gives access to the tooth’s roots. Any infected tissue that is found can then be removed, along with a small portion of the root tip itself. Then a small filling is placed on the root, and the incision is closed with sutures (stitches). The procedure usually requires only local anesthesia (a numbing shot), and may last from 30 to 90 minutes.
Sometimes, a close examination of the tooth’s roots reveals a previously undiscovered fracture; if this is the case, extraction may be a better option than apicoectomy at this time. But in most cases, the procedure has a good chance of success. The benefit of an apicoectomy is that it allows you to preserve a tooth that is in danger of being lost. And while there are excellent methods of tooth replacement (such as dental implants), preserving your natural teeth is generally preferable… not to mention less costly. So even if you can’t remember exactly how to spell the name of this procedure (as Hough correctly did in her post), don’t forget that an apicoectomy offers a second chance at saving a tooth. Call us at 1-800-238-5163 to find out about how dental savings plans can help make quality dental care affordable.