The term “root canal” usually refers to a non-surgical treatment to address infections or damage within the pulp of a tooth. However, the phrase “root canal” can be somewhat ambiguous, as it can refer to the anatomy of the tooth (the part of the pulp chamber that extends into the root) or to the non-surgical treatment process itself. The standard root canal treatment is not considered surgery.
That said, there are surgical procedures related to the root canal system of a tooth, and one of the most common is called an apicoectomy or root-end resection. This procedure becomes necessary when a standard Root Canal Treatment isn’t sufficient to heal the periapical tissues (the tissues at the tip of the root).
Here’s how an apicoectomy typically works:
- Local anesthesia is applied to numb the area.
- The dentist or endodontist makes a small incision in the gum tissue to expose the underlying bone and the root end of the tooth.
- The infected or inflamed tissue is removed, along with the very tip (or apex) of the root.
- A small filling may be placed in the root’s end to seal the root canal. This can help prevent further infection.
The gum is then sutured back into place.
This surgical procedure becomes necessary when:
- An infection persists even after a root canal treatment and retreatment.
- There are complicated root structures or blockages that make a non-surgical root canal treatment challenging or ineffective.
- There’s damage to the root surfaces or surrounding bone.
- However, it’s essential to emphasize that most root canal treatments are non-surgical. The surgical approach (like an apicoectomy) is reserved for situations where the non-surgical treatment is unlikely to be effective or has already failed.