When the pulp of your tooth becomes infected, your dentist will likely recommend a root canal in order to save it. This procedure removes the diseased pulp and replaces it with a substance that keeps the tooth stable. Afterward, you'll have a crown placed over your tooth to protect it from infection and further strengthen it.

However, what happens when your tooth already has a crown on it? In general, it depends on both the condition of the crown and the underlying tooth. It's possible to save the crown in some cases and continue using it, but sometimes it needs to be replaced. After all, your dentist has to drill through your tooth in order to access the pulp, and this can cause damage to the crown in the process. To learn more about whether or not it's possible to reuse your existing crown after a root canal, read on.

Can a Dentist Remove Your Crown Before a Root Canal and Replace It Afterward?

Sometimes the crown can simply be removed and re-cemented after the root canal procedure is done. This can happen when tooth decay seeps underneath the crown, which damages the connection between the dental cement and your tooth. The crown becomes loose, which makes it easier for a dentist to remove it without damaging your tooth. If the crown is still structurally sound, it's often possible to re-cement it to the tooth without needing to make a new one.

However, your dentist first needs to check the integrity of your crown. When a tooth with a crown needs a root canal, it's sometimes due to the fact that the crown has developed deep chipping and cracking. This allows bacteria to invade your tooth, where it then infects the pulp. When a crown is chipped or crack, it always needs to be replaced with a new one in order to reduce the risk of tooth decay.

What Happens When You Need a Root Canal and Your Crown Can't Be Removed?

Unfortunately, it's not always possible to remove a crown. Remember that dental cement is very strong — many modern crowns will last for decades. If a crown is still intact and it's not possible to remove, your dentist will need to access your tooth's roots through the crown.

For this procedure, your dentist will drill an access point through your crown. Your infected pulp will be removed, your root canals will be shaped and filled with gutta-percha in order to seal them, and then the drilled hole will be filled in order to protect the tooth's interior from infection.

This procedure is exactly the same as a root canal on a tooth without a crown. However, there's a risk of causing damage to the crown during the process. Modern crowns that are made of strong materials such as zirconia are not likely to be damaged. If a crown doesn't suffer damage during the procedure and still adheres well to your tooth, there's no need to remove it and replace it.

Crowns that are made of porcelain or ceramic composite, on the other hand, are softer and more prone to being damaged by the drill. If the crown is chipped, your dentist will need to remove it after the procedure is finished in order to replace it with a new one.

To sum it up, root canals can be performed when you already have a crown on your tooth. However, it's not always possible to save them. Sometimes the procedure is necessary because they've already sustained damage, and sometimes the crown is damaged during the procedure. Both of these indications require your crown to be removed and replaced with a new one. When you schedule a consultation with a dentist, he or she can examine the condition of your crown to determine if it needs to be replaced during the procedure or if it's likely the procedure will damage it.