If you search for effective ways on how to prevent cavities, you’ll likely find several options. However, if your teeth have extensive damage or decay, you often only have two options: root canal or extraction.
Naturally, it is ideal that you have a clear understanding of what each procedure entails so you can make the best and most informed choice.
Root Canal: Saving the Tooth
A root canal treatment is carried out to eliminate bacteria from the root canal, prevent reinfection, and save the tooth. During the procedure, the infected or inflamed pulp is removed, and the inside of the tooth is meticulously cleaned and disinfected, then filled and sealed.
If your dentist prescribes a root canal procedure to treat a diseased or damaged tooth, you need not worry. Millions of natural teeth are treated and saved each year through the procedure.
A root canal treatment is similar to a routine filling and can be completed in a single appointment. Of course, whether it will entail more or not will depend on your circumstances and the severity of the damage/decay.
Fortunately, the root canal procedure is not only painless but also beneficial. You’ll be back to biting, chewing, and smiling with ease in no time. Saving the natural tooth through root canal treatment has many benefits, including:
- Reasonable biting force and sensation
- Efficient chewing
- Protects other teeth excessive strain or wear
- Natural appearance
Also known as endodontic treatment, root canal is a standard procedure performed by specialists regularly.
Will the procedure hurt?
Since anesthesia will be given, a root canal won’t hurt, just like most dental procedures like filling or getting a single tooth replacement. However, you will likely feel some soreness or numbness after the procedure. It is perfectly normal to experience very mild discomfort following the treatment.
Am I a good candidate for root canal treatment?
Root canals are often recommended for a deep cavity, cracked tooth secondary to genetics or injury, or issues from a previous filling. Patients typically need a root canal when their teeth become sensitive to hot and cold sensations.
Some symptoms that indicate you’re a good candidate for the procedure include:
- Severe pain when biting or chewing
- Cracked or chipped tooth
- Pimples on the gums
- Tender or swollen gums
- Darkening of the gums
- Deep decay
- Lingering sensitivity to hot or cold
Can I go to work or school after a root canal treatment?
While you’ll likely be numb for 2-4 hours after the procedure, most patients return to work or school directly following the procedure. However, it is recommended that you don’t eat anything yet until the numbness is completely gone.
How much does a root canal cost?
Root canal cost often varies depending on how complicated the procedure is and the tooth affected. For instance, since molars are more difficult to treat, they’ll most likely cost more. Fortunately, many dental insurance companies provide coverage for endodontic treatment.
Surprisingly, endodontic treatment and restoration of the natural tooth are far less expensive compared to tooth extraction. Why? When a tooth is extracted, it needs to be replaced with a bridge or implant to restore its chewing force and prevent the adjacent teeth from shifting.
Tooth Extraction: Letting the Tooth Go
While many teens and adults get their wisdom teeth removed, there are other reasons why tooth extraction may be necessary. One common reason for removal is a tooth that’s badly damaged or decayed. Other possible reasons include:
Once damage or tooth decay has extended to the pulp, bacteria in the mouth might enter and cause infection. Similar cases are often corrected through root canal therapy. However, when the infection is too severe, extraction may be performed to prevent it from spreading.
At times, dentists might need to extract teeth to prepare the mouth for orthodontia. Orthodontia’s goal is to properly align the teeth, something that’s not possible if your teeth are too big.
Likewise, if a tooth cannot erupt or break through the gum because there is not enough room in the mouth for it, the dentist might recommend extraction.
Risk of infection
If the immune system is compromised (for instance, if you are having an organ transplant or receiving chemotherapy), the risk of infection in a specific tooth may be reason enough to extract it.
Periodontal or gum disease
Periodontal disease is an infection of the bones and tissues that support and surround the teeth. It can also cause loosening of the teeth. When this happens, pulling the tooth might be recommended.
What can you expect during tooth extraction?
Dentists and oral surgeons carry out tooth extractions. Before pulling the tooth, a local anesthetic is used to numb the area. If the tooth is impacted, the dentist might need to cut away gum and bone tissues covering the tooth and rock it back and forth gently to loosen it from the ligaments and jaw bone.
Once the tooth has been extracted, a blood clot typically forms in the socket. A gauze pad is placed in the socket, and you will have to bite down on it to stop the bleeding. Sometimes, self-dissolving stitches are placed to seal the gum edges over the extraction site.
Is tooth extraction safe?
The procedure is considered very safe. However, it is recommended that you inform your dentist of your complete medical history and the supplements and medications you are taking before the procedure. If you have any of the following conditions, you must tell your dentist about it:
- Impaired immune system
- Congenital heart defect
- Man-made or damaged heart valves
- Liver disease
- History or bacterial endocarditis
- Artificial joint, such as hip replacement
What can you expect after the procedure?
It is normal to experience minimal soreness and pain once the anesthesia has worn off. For the first 24 hours after the procedure, expect some swelling and residual bleeding. However, if pain or bleeding is severe and lingers for many hours after the procedure, get in touch with your dentist right away.
You should also get in touch with your dentist when you experience the following:
- Signs of infection including chills and fever
- Vomiting or nausea
- Swelling, redness, or excessive discharge from the affected area
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
While a missing tooth is easy to replace, it will not be the same as the natural tooth. Healing from a tooth extraction also takes longer compared to healing from a root canal treatment.
However, tooth extraction might be the best and recommended option in certain situations. While the decision of whether to save or keep a tooth is yours to make, it would be a good idea to talk things over with your dentist so you can determine the best course of action.