Don't Let a Missing Tooth Hold You Back in Life

Root Canals Versus Extraction For Damaged Teeth

by Wyatt Morgan

For serious damage that affects the interior pulp of a tooth, such as a deep fracture or bacterial infection, there are two possibilities for treatment: a root canal or extraction. Root canals have a reputation for being painful and complicated procedures, which leads many people to wonder whether it might be simpler to just pull the damaged tooth out completely. After all, dental implants have come a long way in recent years.

So why do most dentists recommend that a tooth be saved with a root canal if possible?

The Painful Root Canal Myth

Root canals are one of the most misunderstood dental procedures; many people who have not had a root canal expect them to be difficult and painful. But according to a survey conducted by the American Association of Endodontists, most people who have actually had root canals found them to be "virtually painless." The procedure itself is conducted under local anesthetic, so there should be no sensation at all. After the procedure, most people have only mild discomfort or pain, which is relieved by over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen.

The Cost of Replacement

It might seem like having a tooth extracted would be simpler and less expensive than a root canal. But this doesn't take into account the cost of replacing a missing tooth. When a tooth is extracted, either a bridge or an implant is necessary to fill the gap left behind, and these procedures can be expensive and time-consuming.

Bridges, for instance, require removing enamel from the teeth on either side of the gap and placing crowns on these teeth to support the bridge. Dental implants are usually a better choice as they don't require working on adjacent teeth; however, they are more expensive than bridges and aren't covered by all insurance plans.

The Effects of Tooth Gaps

Since replacing an extracted tooth can be complicated, it might be tempting to simply leave the gap in your teeth, especially if it will be far back in your mouth and not visible to others. But a missing tooth is more than a cosmetic issue.

When a missing tooth is not replaced, the teeth on either side of the gap can shift into the open space. As the teeth spread, the extra space between them leads to more food being trapped between teeth. The shifted teeth can also cause bite problems as they no longer line up properly with their opposite teeth.

And perhaps most seriously, the jaw around a missing tooth will begin to lose bone material — you may have seen this in the way that a person who loses their teeth and doesn't wear dentures ends up with a sagging face due to weakening bone structure.