Root canal or extract the tooth?

In the case that a severely decayed or infected tooth cannot be repaired with a filling alone, patients are generally given a choice between a root canal or a tooth extraction.

Before deciding, it’s important to understand the consequences of both procedures.

Steer towards saving the tooth

Natural teeth look, feel and function better than an artificial replacement. Despite incredible gains in dental prosthetics, your dentist will usually recommend saving the tooth when possible.

Think long term

Some patients may be inclined to choose extraction due to price. While it’s true that an extraction will cost less in dental fees today, replacing a pulled tooth later can be significantly more expensive.

The root canal myth

The term “root canal” elicits thoughts of pain and discomfort. This myth is long since outdated. Modern treatment is not significantly more painful than having a cavity filled.

Dealing with a missing tooth

Following an extraction, patients can either leave a gap where their tooth was or opt for a bridge or implant. Leaving a gap can lead to unwanted side effects. Over time, your other teeth may shift and your jawbone could deteriorate.

What to expect from a root canal

Once the affected area is numbed, the dentist makes an opening in the tooth. Diseased or dead pulp is removed and the pulp chambers are cleansed to be sure no bacteria is left behind. Gutta percha, a dental material that replaces tooth pulp, is then used to fill the hollowed pulp chambers. Depending on the severity of the damage to your tooth, a crown may be placed on top to restore strength and appearance.

What to expect from an extraction

A local anesthetic will be injected into the area around the tooth to be extracted. Once numb, the dentist will use an elevator to loosen the tooth from the socket. Next, forceps will be used to grip the tooth and extract it from the jaw.

It is rare that a dentist will suggest extraction for a tooth that can be saved. In most cases, saving the tooth with a root canal is the preferred treatment option.