Root canals and tooth extractions are two procedures dental professionals can use to treat damaged or infected teeth, each chosen differently depending on the condition of the tooth/teeth. Which do you choose, though, and how do you know when one is preferred over the other? By understanding the differences between a root canal vs. tooth extraction and what each provides by way of procedure — and knowing the costs and benefits to both — you will be well-informed to make the right choice.
What is a Root Canal?
The thought of a root canal may give reason to shudder if you aren’t familiar with the procedure. However, there are common myths or misunderstandings when it comes to endodontic treatments like root canals.
Root canals are needed for a cracked tooth, a deep cavity, or issues from a filling. There are a few symptoms that might indicate a need for something like a root canal, such as:
- Severe pain while chewing or biting
- Pimples on the gums
- A chipped or cracked tooth
- Lingering sensitivity to hot or cold
- Swollen or tender gums
- Deep decay or darkening of the gums
With a root canal procedure, the inflamed or infected pulp inside the tooth is removed and the inside of the tooth is carefully disinfected. Then, it is filled with “gutta-percha,” a material that replaces damaged pulp. A crown or filling is then placed on top of the tooth to help restore its appearance and strength.
One visit is usually required for your root canal, but more may be necessary depending on the condition of the tooth. Since patients are provided with anesthesia, a root canal isn’t any more painful than a standard dental procedure, like a filling or removal of a wisdom tooth. It can be sore or numb for a day or two after the procedure but overall is relatively mild. In fact, many patients return to work or school within two hours of having the procedure completed.
What is Tooth Extraction?
Sometimes your dentist or endodontist can’t save a tooth, and decide that it must be extracted in order to prevent further decay or harm to your health. This is also the case if you have a large cavity that compromises your tooth’s structure, making it too weak to repair. If your tooth has a severe fracture or infection, extraction may be what’s recommended.
If you need the tooth extracted, the infected area is numbed and an appliance known as an elevator loosens your tooth while it’s still in its socket. Dental forceps will then be used to extract the tooth. Pressure during this procedure is normal, but not overwhelming.
After a tooth is extracted, you’ll bite on a piece of gauze to clot the blood flow. Ice packs can also be provided following an extraction. Light bleeding for on and off the day after the procedure is normal along with facial swelling, but continued use of ice packs can reduce the inflammation. In general, it can take at least two weeks for the extraction site to heal, meaning patients should take great care to eat soft foods and clean the area well.
Which is Preferred — Root Canal vs. Tooth Extraction?
The pain and cost of avoiding root canals in favor of tooth extraction or a wait-it-out approach can and should be avoided. The longer you postpone treatment, the more you risk losing your tooth. Keeping a natural tooth is always preferred as it allows you to have normal bite patterns, normal appearance, and less overall discomfort.
Endodontic treatment and restoration of a natural tooth is also less expensive than the alternative of having the tooth extracted. An extracted tooth must be replaced with an implant or bridge to restore chewing function and prevent adjacent teeth from shifting. These procedures tend to cost more than endodontic treatment and appropriate restoration.
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As always, when it comes to the care of your natural teeth, Endodontic Specialists of Colorado are here to discuss your options and walk you through what to expect should you need a root canal vs. tooth extraction procedure (with the hopes that a root canal will be your best option for the sake of your natural teeth).
Your evaluation includes reviewing your medical and dental history, discussing your concerns, performing diagnostic tests, and analyzing x-rays. We then prepare treatment options with the goal of relieving pain, restoring your smile and enabling natural tooth function.
Feel free to reach out to schedule an appointment and an evaluation today!