I've been told I need an apicoectomy, what is it?

Apicoectomy is another one of those scary dental words which strikes fear into the hearts of most of us. So what is it? Put simply, this is a surgical treatment to remove an infection from around the root tip of a tooth. When a tooth becomes infected our first line of defence is usually a root canal treatment, but if this doesn't work an apicoectomy is the next step we can take to save the tooth from extraction.

Your dentists will make a small incision into the gum to take a closer look at the infected root. If the tooth root is badly cracked, this may lead to a future infection – so the only safe option may be to perform an extraction.

However, if the tooth root is still strong, then your dentist will opt to clean away the infection from around the tooth and perform a small extra surgical step, known as an apicoectomy.

An apicoectomy gives an extra opportunity to save your tooth and involves taking away a small part of root tip along with the infection. The remaining root will be cleaned and then sealed giving more protection for the future.

What would cause you to need an apicoectomy?

There could be several reasons,

  • A blocked or inaccessible canal.

  • An anatomical irregularity, or a crack in the tooth's roots.

The procedure usually is only recommended after one or more root canal treatments have been attempted, and have failed.

Alternative to apicoectomy

If an apicoectomy cannot be carried out, the only other option is an extraction of the tooth. Several tooth replacement options are available; however, a dental implant is usually the best replacement option in this case.

After an apicoectomy

  • You may have some swelling or soreness in the area. You can control this with over the counter pain medications and the application of ice packs.

  • Avoid eating hard or crunchy foods for the first two days.

  • Brush your teeth and rinse gently at first.

  • Avoid smoking as this slows healing.

  • Stitches will fall out themselves within two to seven days if any remain after this time return to the surgery to have them removed.