closeup of older woman's mouth during dental care procedure

Tooth longevity can range from nine to 20 years after a root canal procedure, depending in part on where one lives, a new study has found.

The study is the first of its kind to include community dental clinics, where most Americans receive their dental care, and not only large healthcare systems or among the insured, the authors said. 

Overall, a tooth will survive about 11 years post procedure with added restorative treatments such as a crown, the authors found. But a tooth can last 20 years if the patient has both a subsequent filling and crown. In contrast, tooth survival drops to 6.5 years with no such support, investigators from Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University School of Dentistry reported. 

Northeast tops in root canal longevity

But outcomes also ranged widely depending on geographic location, they added. In the Northeast, patients typically kept their root-canal treated teeth for about 20 years. In contrast, affected teeth lasted about 11 years in the Midwest and Southwest, and approximately nine years in the remaining U.S. regions. 

Root canals are often needed to retain and preserve teeth in older age, according to the authors of a 2019 clinical overview. And increased life expectancy will be reflected in the increased need for these therapies, they added. What’s more, although clinical comorbidities may affect care considerations when seniors consider a root canal, age itself does not appear to significantly affect success rate, a systematic review has found.

The results of the current study can be used to help clinicians and their patients make better decisions, the authors said.

“This data could also inform dental insurance coverage by demonstrating the value of crowns and permanent restoration options,” Thankam Thyvalikakath, DMD, MDS, Ph.D, said. “Oral health is a public health issue that significantly affects people’s overall health.”

The study was published in the Journal of Dental Research.

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