Badly damaged teeth are useless in terms of eating and smiling. And eventually, if you don't treat them, they gradually break down, become infected and eventually fall out — unless you are exceptionally lucky. The best thing to do when you break a tooth is to seek immediate repair.
Dental crowns are ideal for repairing badly damaged teeth. But do you need a root canal with a crown?
Root Canals Sometimes Come Before Crowns
If you wait too long to repair a broken tooth, oral bacteria will probably invade the tooth and begin to break down its interior. And, if your tooth is broken enough to expose the soft dentin layer inside it, then tooth decay will progress much faster than it would if the bacteria were attacking the enamel of the tooth.
Since a nerve occupies the central portion of your tooth, once bacteria invade a tooth deeply enough, they infect the nerve. Once infected, the nerve will gradually die. But before that time, the infection will spread and you'll be in substantial pain. In this case, a root canal is called for.
Root canals remove the infection and the infected and dead material from inside broken teeth. This has to be done before your dentist can place a crown over the tooth otherwise, the infection will be sealed inside.
And root canals are sometimes necessary even when no infection is present. For instance, if you broke your tooth in an accident and damaged the nerve that way, it will die. Your dentist will then remove it before infection can set in.
In terms of infection, if you get to your dentist quickly enough, they won't need to perform a root canal to remove infected material.
A Crown Simply Seals the Damaged Tooth
Whether you have a root canal or not, you will need a dental crown if your tooth is badly broken. To place a crown, your dentist will need to reduce the size of your remaining tooth structure to make room for the crown. Once the tooth is small enough, they can then place the crown over the damaged tooth and seal if off from oral bacteria and food debris.
Remember, time is of the essence. If you break a tooth and hurry over to your dentist quickly enough, you might not need a root canal before your crown is put in place. But even if you do need a root canal, you shouldn't feel much pain. The root canal will certainly be less painful than a serious dental infection might be.