It’s never a great feeling to hear that you need to decide between a root canal and having your tooth removed. Trust me, it’s not fun to have to tell a patient this from the dentist’s side either. (Especially since we know this situation could often have been avoided with regular dental care, but that’s a topic for another article.)
There are several reasons that you may end up needing to make this decision for your teeth. The most common is that a cavity or a crack in your tooth has gotten so large that it has created a path through your tooth to the dental pulp at the center of your tooth. This path lets bacteria from your mouth travel to the nerve of your tooth, causing what’s commonly called an abscess. Note: This might be the first time you notice pain with your tooth! Most cavities don’t cause pain until they get to this point—and by then it’s too late for a “just a filling”!
So what are some things you should consider when making your decision?
- It’s best to keep your own tooth if you can. There’s nothing like your natural tooth! (The root canal allows you to keep the hard part of your natural tooth. It only removes the central part that’s causing the pain.)
- A root canal is less invasive than removing a tooth (which is considered oral surgery).
- Tooth removal can release between 64-84% more bacteria into your blood stream than a root canal does.
- In many cases if you remove a tooth, you should consider replacing the tooth for your best dental health. (So while removing a tooth sounds much less expensive than a root canal, by the time you factor in replacing the tooth, you may be spending as much or more than you would have if you’d done the root canal.)
- Losing too many teeth can affect eating, chewing, and looks. And not just front teeth! Losing too many back teeth can collapse the face and cause wrinkles. It can also cause your front teeth to flare out (think “buckteeth”).
Some other things you may want to consider:
- How much of your own tooth is left. If there’s very little of your natural tooth above the gumline then removing it may be the better option.
- Do you already have other missing teeth and wear a removable appliance? If so, in some cases it may be less expensive to remove the tooth and add it to your removable appliance.
You can learn more about root canals and the effects of tooth removal, as well as options to replace missing teeth, in the Dear Doctor Patient Education section of my website www.drjrobb.com
It’s never an easy choice to make, and we’d much prefer to try to prevent you from reaching the point of this decision than to have to help you try to choose between the two options. But hopefully, if you’re ever faced with this decision, you’ll now have some questions to ask to help make this decision.
Dr. Jennifer Robb is a general dentist with an office at 1612 Cooper Foster Park Rd., Lorain, OH 44053. Reach her at 440-960-1940. www.drjrobb.com or join our facebook page at www.facebook.com/DrJenniferRobb