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Mon, Jan. 20

Increased need for root canals often comes with age

Why does it seem like I need more and more root canals as I get older?

This is a very good question and is one that I receive often from patients in my dental chair.

There are many reasons why an individual is more susceptible to root canals as they age. But first, let’s start with explaining what a root canal is and why one is performed.

Deep inside your tooth there is an area of soft tissue known as the pulp. This area contains many blood vessels and nerves that can become infected from cracks, cavities or damage to the teeth. The dentist will perform the root canal by creating a small opening in the tooth and using special tools to remove the infected area. The tooth is then sealed, and a crown is placed on the tooth to avoid further infection or complications.

So why does it seem like as we age, more and more root canals are being performed? Each individual patient has unique dental needs and medical histories, but below are some common reasons that may increase the likelihood.

Force distribution: Teeth are tough and are made for biting and chewing food; however, after many years of wear and tear, it can weaken enamel and leave teeth vulnerable to cracks or damage to the outer surface. These small fractures can allow bacteria to enter the tooth and cause an infection, which often leads to a root canal. My recommendation is that a bite analysis with the Tek-Scan is performed to see which teeth are receiving excessive force that may lead to damage. Once the problem areas are identified, the dentist will align the bite for a more even distribution. An occlusal guard or orthotic will also be fabricated for the patient which will protect the teeth from the damage of grinding or clenching at night.

Medications and Xerostomia: Xerostomia (dry mouth) is more prevalent as we age because often individuals are taking more medications with side effects, receive cancer treatments, or are diagnosed with health conditions such as Sjorgren’s syndrome. These factors can decrease the amount of and the chemical composition of saliva that is present. Saliva is important for oral health because it lubricates the oral tissues and acts as a buffer in the mouth against acids. Therefore, when a patient has a decrease in saliva, it increases a patient’s chance of cavities and decay. If untreated, these can lead to more serious dental concerns or the need for a root canal because bacteria can more easily enter the pulp.

Health conditions: Some individuals begin to have vascular and other health issues as they age. Many of these conditions such as issues with the heart cause inflammation that may negatively affect teeth and gums. Research has shown that there are many links between oral health and vascular health, because as bacteria accumulates in and around teeth it can pass into the bloodstream to the heart. There is also a correlation between diabetes and compromised oral health. Research shows that diabetes puts patients at a higher risk for gingivitis, periodontal disease and higher rates of bacteria in the mouth. This can lead to tooth loss, cavities, and risks for bacteria getting into the pulp of the tooth resulting in a root canal.

Calcification of canals: Calcification of the root occurs when calcium deposits in the root canal. The cause of calcification varies; it can be a part of the natural aging process, can be caused by prolonged trauma or infection, decay or gingival recession. This is a concern because calcification cuts off the blood supply to the tooth and therefore the tissue dies and a root canal is needed.

Acids: Acidity that comes systemically from stomach acid or from the products we consume (sugar, soda, coffee, etc.) contributes to increased rates of cavities, decay and dental demise. Aging individuals who have never addressed acidity issues, neglect important dental cleanings and procedures or don’t regularly alkalize acids in the mouth with baking soda products may have wear and tear or erosion, which has made teeth vulnerable and can lead to root canals.

There are many reasons that individuals may need more root canals as they age, but with modern advances such as the Tek-Scan and by implementing preventative protocols, some dental problems can be avoided. Even if you do happen to need a root canal, there is no need to worry. The procedure is quick and virtually painless with dental advancements and by selecting a knowledgeable dentist you trust.

Rick Farnsworth is with Pro Solutions Dental Group. He and Dr. Jason Campbell offer restorative services, dental implants, regenerative dentistry, cosmetic services, dentures and other teeth replacement options, sedation dentistry, TMJD treatments, general dentistry and more. Call a: 928-776-1208 or visit online at

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