When it comes to dental procedures, there can be a lot of confusion about what’s the right choice for you. Do you need a root canal or tooth extraction? What are the procedures like, and what should you expect afterwards?
In general, teeth that have been damaged by a cavity (pulp damage) should be treated in one of two ways: with a root canal or an extraction. In some cases, both options may be viable. This article will provide an overview of the benefits and risks associated with each treatment to make an informed decision about which is suitable for you.
When Can Teeth Be Saved?
Teeth can often be saved if they undergo a root canal procedure early on before the infection has spread too deep into the tooth. However, there are instances where the tooth is too damaged, or the infection has spread too far for a root canal to be effective, and the tooth must be extracted.
When Should They Be Extracted?
It is generally recommended that teeth with advanced pulp damage be extracted. This means that the infection has progressed beyond the point where a root canal procedure would be effective. Additionally, there are some instances where teeth should be extracted even if they have not yet developed advanced pulp damage. These include:
- Teeth that have been severely damaged by trauma.
- Teeth that are impacted (stuck in the jawbone).
- Teeth that are severely decayed and cannot be saved with a root canal.
- Teeth that are infected and causing pain even after a root canal procedure.
Root Canals: Procedure and Aftercare
How Do You Know If You Need A Root Canal?
There are a few signs that you may need a root canal. If you experience pain when biting down or drinking cold or hot liquids, you may need a root canal. Other signs include:
- Toothache that lasts more than a week.
- Sensitivity to heat and cold, swollen gums.
- Bad breath.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is best to see your dentist as soon as possible.
What is a Root Canal Procedure?
A root canal procedure involves the removal of decayed pulp from inside the tooth, followed by the insertion of rubber-like filling material (called gutta percha) to seal off the empty chamber where the pulp used to be, and finally, a permanent filling placed overtop.
The purpose of this procedure is to save all or as much of your original tooth structure as possible while destroying only the infected or damaged parts that cannot be saved. You will walk out with a healthy-looking tooth that should last you for many years – if it is done right!
Root Canal Aftercare
It’s always best to follow up any dental procedure with proper aftercare. This is especially important for root canals, as there is a greater risk for infection after the procedure.
Be sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day (after every meal if possible) and floss once a day. If you are experiencing any discomfort or pain, be sure to take the appropriate medication and antibiotics as directed by your dentist.
Tooth Extraction: Procedure and Aftercare
How Do You Know If You Need A Tooth Extraction?
If you have a severely decayed tooth and the dentist has indicated it should be pulled, or if you have a tooth with advanced pulp damage (decay) even after your root canal, you will need to have the tooth pulled.
What is a Tooth Extraction Procedure?
A tooth extraction procedure involves scaling, root planing, curettage, and suturing or stapling. The dentist will numb your mouth to be relatively painless despite what is happening inside your mouth.
Scaling involves scraping away plaque from underneath the gums surrounding teeth to prevent further infection of the gum tissues. This is done with special tools designed for this purpose called scalers.
Root planing is essentially smoothing out rough spots and the roots of the teeth where plaque accumulates. Curettage is the surgical removal of any infected or dead tissue around the tooth socket. Suturing (or stapling) involves closing the gum tissues around the extraction site with either stitches or staples.
Tooth Extraction Aftercare
It’s always best to follow up any dental procedure with proper aftercare. This is especially important for tooth extractions, as there is a greater risk for infection after the procedure.
Making Your Decision
Now that you have a better understanding of when teeth can be saved and when they should be extracted, you may still be wondering which option is right for you.
Keep in mind that each situation is unique, and the best decision for your oral health will depend on your circumstances. Here are some things to consider as you make your decision:
1. How severe is the infection or decay?
If the infection or decay is very severe, the tooth may need to be extracted regardless of whether or not you opt for a root canal. However, if the infection or decay is less severe, a root canal may be viable.
2. How much of the tooth is affected?
If only a small portion of the tooth is affected, you may be able to save it with a root canal. However, an extraction might be your best option if most or all of the tooth has been compromised and is unlikely to be saved.
3. Does the tooth have an exposed nerve?
If yes – root canal treatment may not be an option. An exposed nerve typically means that the pulp has been irreparably damaged and cannot heal on its own without removing the nerve first. In this case, extracting rather than saving could prevent further damage.
Please note: If you are aware there is a problem before it’s exposed, you can take measures to prevent infection from reaching it by capping over the exposed nerve with a filling material until you can see the dentist.
4. How much time and money are you willing to spend?
Root canal treatment is typically expensive and takes more time than a tooth extraction. However, if the tooth is severely damaged or the infection has spread, a root canal may not be possible, and extraction may be your only option.
5. Are you comfortable with the idea of having a root canal?
Some people are apprehensive about getting a root canal because it is a surgical procedure. If you are nervous about the procedure, you can talk to your dentist about your concerns, and they will be able to answer any questions you have.
6. Do you have any other health concerns that affect your decision?
If you have a condition such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or compromised immunity that puts you at a higher than usual risk of infection or poor healing after an invasive procedure, your dentist may advise you to opt for extraction instead.
However, if the benefits of saving the tooth outweigh the risks associated with treatment, they may recommend a root canal instead.
7. How bad does it hurt? (Note: not always as relevant as some people seem to think)
Typically, the pain will resolve after getting a tooth pulled, but if it doesn’t, ask your dentist what could be wrong and report whether it is still hurting at follow-up appointments. There will likely be no pain involved if it’s just a decay issue, and there might be some sensitivity on one side of the nerve that is dying.
In the end, the best decision for your oral health will depend on your circumstances. If you are still unsure which option is right for you, talk to your dentist, and they will be able to help you make a decision that is in your best interests.