How to choose between a root canal and a tooth extraction

When a toothache strikes and your dentist finds that the culprit is a badly decayed tooth, there are usually two options offered. The first option is root canal therapy to save the tooth. The second option is tooth extraction to remove the tooth altogether.

Your dentist will suggest which option they recommend for your specific circumstance, but as a patient, you also have a say in how your tooth is treated. In some cases, you might wonder if a root canal is really the best option or if you’re better off having the entire tooth removed.

Here’s what you need to know to make an informed decision.

Root Canal Therapy

Most root canal candidates experience these symptoms.

Root canals are usually recommended for patients who have a tooth that is badly decayed to the point that a dental filling is no longer a suitable solution. Usually the tooth in question will be quite painful as the decay has typically progressed into the dentin or pulp layers inside the tooth.

Your dentist will very likely recommend this procedure if your tooth is painful and damaged from decay, but still stable enough to save the remaining healthy natural tooth structure.

Root canals are very common and quite safe.

Many patients wonder if a root canal is dangerous. While this procedure is quite invasive to the tooth, it’s a common procedure that is very low risk for healthy kids, teens, and adults. You can think of it like a dental filling that takes a bit longer to complete.

Your dentist will also discuss potential risks that might be applicable to you, perhaps due to an existing health condition, prior to treatment.

Root canals are convenient, quick, and affordable.

Modern root canals are quite convenient for patients. They are completed within a single appointment, and most patients are ready to go back to work the next day. Root canals are covered by dental insurance and overall are an affordable route to take.

Root canals are finished with protective dental crowns.

You will usually need a dental crown placed after your root canal is complete. This is to protect the remaining natural tooth, as it will be weakened after the decay and damaged enamel has been removed.

Thanks to advances in technology, your dentist may be able to save enough natural tooth that you might even be able to have a filling instead of a crown. This is uncommon but still a possibility to discuss.

Not every tooth can be saved with a root canal.

If your tooth has been badly damaged from decay or an injury, keep in mind that it may not be able to be saved with a root canal. While this procedure will eliminate the pain and infection, and a dental crown offers protection, these treatments will only go so far if most of your natural tooth has been compromised.

An experienced dentist will evaluate the tooth and only proceed with this treatment if they believe it has a high chance of success. In rare occasions, an extraction may still be necessary after a root canal has been attempted.

Tooth Extraction

Some teeth simply require extraction.

If your dentist evaluates your tooth and believes a root canal may not be successful, opting for a tooth extraction will save time and help you get relief more quickly. Losing a tooth can be emotionally difficult, especially if the tooth in question is easily visible, but rest assured your dentist will only suggest removal if it’s in your best interest.

Patients may choose an extraction for other reasons.

Sometimes a dentist may suggest a root canal but the patient opts to have an extraction instead. There are many factors that may sway a person’s decision, but it’s important to speak with your dentist because making your final choice. In the end, you always have the final say over what happens — or doesn’t happen — to your smile.

Tooth extraction completely eliminates the problem.

Even though a tooth extraction can feel intimidating, there is the comfort of knowing that once the tooth is removed, the decay, infection, and pain are completely removed as well. There are no chances of the treatment failing or for the tooth to experience more damage, as might be the case with a complicated root canal.

Tooth extraction is invasive and takes longer to heal.

Extracting a tooth is invasive and there is a longer healing period compared to a root canal. You’ll need to be careful with eating only soft foods for a while and keeping hot or cold liquids away from the extraction site. You might also experience discomfort, swelling, and light bleeding for a few days.

Following up with a dental implant is highly recommended.

If a tooth extraction is the only option or the option you’ve chosen, keep your future oral health in mind. Leaving a gap in your smile, even if it’s a molar and not visible, can be detrimental to your smile. The bone in the jaw will shrink and the gum line on the teeth neighboring the gap may recede. These teeth might also begin shifting into the gap, changing your bite alignment.

For these reasons we highly recommend patients look into having a dental implant placed.

First Dental Associates will guide you through your root canal or tooth extraction treatment.

Knowing you have a compassionate, experienced dental care team by your side will help you feel confident in whichever treatment option you decide to pursue.

Our doctors always put our patients’ best interests at heart and will only recommend treatment options that align with the needs and wishes of our patients. Whether your dentist recommends a root canal or a tooth extraction, they’ll explain why they believe it’s the best choice and discuss any alternatives that might interest you.

You can schedule a consultation for a root canal or tooth extraction by calling our Reading office or filling out this online form.