When A Wisdom Tooth Needs A Root Canal

Posted on: 26 March 2021


There's no point in beating around the bush—root canals are an inconvenience, although they're certainly a necessary one, since they're intended to save a tooth that would have otherwise been lost. An added inconvenience is that the inflammation of the dental nerve that triggered the need for the root canal procedure can affect any tooth in your mouth. So what happens when the tooth in question is a wisdom tooth?

The Root Canal Procedure

Wisdom teeth can receive root canals, but it's not such a clear-cut process. With other teeth, it's just a matter of creating an access cavity so your dentist can remove the inflamed dental nerve from the pulp chamber. This chamber is then cleaned and filled before the access cavity is sealed. The tooth is usually finished with a dental crown for maximum strength. But why is it different for a wisdom tooth?

The Roots of a Wisdom Tooth

The anatomy of a wisdom tooth can be different to its neighboring molars, and this is particularly relevant with its root structure. These roots can be fused together, or they can branch off from each other. This adds an extra layer of complication to the root canal procedure, as the configuration of the tooth's roots can make it difficult to comprehensively remove the inflamed pulp, since there are all these extra canals which can retain the bacterial infection affecting the canal, leading to reinfection. 

Impacted Wisdom Teeth

There's also the matter of whether the wisdom tooth has fully erupted or is impacted (partially submerged in your gums). When the tooth is impacted, physical access to the internal portions of the tooth's anatomy can be difficult and might even impossible. Your dentist will need to perform an extensive examination before deciding upon the best treatment. The layout of the wisdom tooth's roots will need to be charted, and this can involve a dental x-ray.

Treatment or Extraction

Once your dentist has a better idea of what to expect, it will be decided if your wisdom tooth can receive a root canal. If it appears that the complexity of your specific wisdom tooth will make treatment difficult, with a low chance of success, you might instead need to have your wisdom teeth extracted.

Your wisdom's teeth suitability for root canal treatment really depends on the specific layout of its root structure, which can vary considerably from patient to patient, since wisdom teeth are unpredictable in this way.