You’ve been presented with a seemingly difficult choice: undergo a root canal surgery, or have your tooth fully extracted. While neither of them sounds like an ideal choice, there is a lot more information that you should know that can make your decision easier—and give you peace of mind about the future of your smile. From combatting some of the common myths about root canals to finding what a modern tooth extraction entails, let’s take a look at what you should know before choosing a root canal vs extraction.
What Are Root Canals?
Root canal treatment is technically considered major surgery, and it’s done to prevent the spread of corrosive bacteria into the nerve ending or “root” of the tooth, where it can cause pain, sensitivity, and infection. Root canals have been maligned for decades now as painful and dangerous procedures, but modern root canals are fairly simple operations wherein a dental surgeon accesses the root of the tooth to extract the pulp, nerve endings, and blood supply, before sealing it with an antibacterial compound. This prevents the spread of infection and allows the patient to keep their natural tooth.
This is one of the major pros when considering a root canal vs tooth extraction—although your natural tooth may require porcelain or ceramic cap called a “crown” to prevent discoloration in the absence of a constant blood supply. While recovering from a root canal can be uncomfortable for the hours and days immediately following the procedure, most patients actually report that the pain caused by infection before root canal treatment is much greater, and is immediately relieved afterward.
What Is a Tooth Extraction?
Tooth extraction can conjure up images of teeth tied to slamming door knobs, but medical tooth extractions are far more deliberate—not to mention safer! Typically, teeth need to be extracted when the damage to the enamel is too great to safely reconstruct, or if the risk of infection cannot be curtailed by root canal therapy. During an extraction, your dentist will place you under anesthesia (either partially or generally) before gently removing the tooth from its socket with manual pressure. It is uncommon for dentists to recommend extraction unless it is seen as a last resort for the health of your mouth and remaining teeth.
Considering a Root Canal vs Extraction: Pre-treatment Questions
Both of these procedures are aimed at providing the best possible care for your overall oral health depending on what the situation calls for. When considering tooth extraction vs root canal options, there are a few questions you and your dentist will need to consider:
How Severe Is the Decay or Damage?
Typically, your dentist will try to save your natural teeth by any methods available. Root canals allow you to keep your natural teeth, but are not a guaranteed cure for the underlying problem. If the decay or damage to your tooth compromises too much of the enamel, nerve, or blood supply, the chances of a root canal being effective are reduced.
Root Canal vs Extraction Cost?
Because root canals are more time and resource intensive, they are generally more expensive than an extraction. Consult with your dentist and your insurance provider about which kinds of treatment are covered by your plan and how much you are willing to invest in potentially saving your tooth.
Does Your Tooth Have an Exposed Nerve?
This level of damage is usually unsalvageable with root canal treatment and will almost certainly require an extraction. Exposed nerves are unlikely to heal on their own and indicate serious damage to the inner structure of the tooth called the “pulp” which contains the tooth’s blood supply.
Do You Have Any Other Medical Conditions to Consider?
Conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or compromised immunity can sometimes mean you have a higher risk of infection or poor healing after an invasive procedure like a root canal. Your dentist may advise you to choose extraction instead.
Root Canal vs Extraction Pros and Cons
Considering an extraction vs root canal comes down to the potential benefits and drawbacks of each procedure based on your goals for your overall oral health. Some of these include:
1. Root Canals Aren’t a Guaranteed Fix
Because root canals are aimed at arresting decay and infection, there’s no guarantee that your dentist will be able to access and remove all of the infected material beneath your gum line. This could potentially mean that after sitting through a one or two-hour procedure, it may ultimately fail and the decay will continue to spread throughout the treated tooth—and potentially the others.
2. Gaps in Your Teeth Can Cause Problems Later On
Having a tooth fully extracted will remove any possible source of infection and pain, but the resulting gap could potentially mean that your teeth will move in your mouth over time, causing issues like crooked or unsightly teeth or a misaligned bite. Dental implants or prosthetics are a viable option, but they are usually expensive and time-consuming to construct and place.
3. Aftercare for Either Procedure Will Determine Its Effectiveness
Complications from a root canal vs extraction are always possible, and both require attentive aftercare like delicate cleaning, temporary dietary restrictions, and taking all required medications. The good news is neither procedure will cause you undue pain, as modern dental tools, procedures, and medications have come a long way since the days when these treatments developed reputations for being painful. However, you must still consider how willing you are to adhere to an aftercare protocol when deciding between the two.
So, Which Is Best?
When choosing between a tooth extraction vs root canal, most dentists will tell you that it is always better to do what it takes to keep your natural teeth—and with good reason. Your natural tooth is already the correct size and shape to prevent the kinds of drawbacks associated with tooth movement after its removal. The option for tooth replacement after an extraction is always possible, but the costs associated with crafting and implanting a prosthetic tooth will almost certainly outweigh any savings you might get from choosing extraction. The main drawback to choosing a root canal is the possibility that will fail, but the chances of this happening can be minimized by choosing to see an endodontic specialist.
At Advanced Endodontics of Nevada, our experienced and dedicated staff of specialists has the tools and procedures to maximize your success with a root canal procedure and save your tooth. If you still have questions about which kind of procedure is best for you, don’t hesitate to call and book an appointment with one of our specialists today.