Our family spent last week at the beach in FL. A toothache that has been bothering me for the past few months got worse, and my gums around it felt hot. I searched online for a dentist who was willing to see me the same day. The tooth is my lower right first molar that had a root canal two years ago. Although I was taking a chance to find a dentist online, she was pleasant, numbed my gums, and injected a pain reliever. The dentist said I probably need to see an endodontist for a procedure called an apico to save the tooth. The dentist did not give any details about the process but said an apico is like a root canal. Unfortunately, I have only seen a dentist once since COVID, and I moved to Arkansas in July 2021, so I don’t have a dentist here. What is this procedure, and do I need it to save my tooth? Thanks. Walton
Thank you for your question.
It is good that the dentist was able to see you right away and relieve your pain. The dentist is referring to an apicoectomy.
What Is an Apicoectomy?
An apicoectomy is a dental procedure that accesses a tooth from its root tip instead of through the crown, as with root canal treatment. If root canal treatment fails, a specialist may recommend an apicoectomy to save the tooth.
A root canal specialist may take these steps to complete the procedure:
- Numb your gums
- Make a small incision to expose the tooth’s root tip
- Use ultrasonic instruments or a dental laser to remove infected tissue
- Disinfect the area
- Add bone grafting to fill in areas damaged by the infection
- Seal the tooth root
- Close the gum tissue with stitches
The jawbone will heal around the tooth root in a few months.
What Happens If You Delay Treatment?
Delaying an apicoectomy allows the infection to spread further into the bone and possibly to other teeth requiring more complex and costly treatment. If you are unsure whether you need the treatment, schedule a second opinion with an endodontist (root canal specialist) or a dentist with advanced root canal therapy training.
Dr. Siny Thomas, a Sugar Land, Texas dentist, sponsors this post. Dr. Thomas is a graduate of the surgical program of the Pikos Institute in Trinity, Florida.