Undergoing a medical procedure can be intimidating — especially when you don’t know anything about the process involved. Fortunately, both tooth extractions and root canal treatments are pretty straightforward and easy procedures to understand. Once your dentist has taken you through the specifics of your case, you can feel comfortable choosing the treatment that works best for you.
What’s The Difference Between a Tooth Extraction & a Root Canal?
If you develop a deep cavity or experience a chip or crack in your tooth, bacteria will begin to gather in the connective tissue or ‘pulp’ that sits at its centre. This gathering of bacteria can lead to a painful infection. A tooth’s nerves can also be inflamed or infected by repeated procedures or large fillings, as well as trauma to the face. Whatever the cause, the infection will need to be resolved with root canal treatment or a tooth extraction. Your dentist will recommend one procedure over the other based on your exact circumstances, but the ultimate decision will usually be yours to make. This is why it’s important to understand the differences between each procedure and the reasons why one might be preferred over the other.
What Is a Root Canal?
Root canal treatment is a procedure that is carried out with the purpose of preserving the tooth that is decayed. A root canal can only be conducted if the infection has yet to spread too deep into the tooth. The process involves numbing the area and making an opening in the infected tooth, before removing the diseased or dead pulp and nerves. The inside of the tooth is then cleaned, and packed with a rubbery substance called gutta-percha, which seals the tooth. Additionally, a crown may be fixed to the tooth to restore both appearance and strength.
What Is a Tooth Extraction?
A tooth extraction essentially becomes necessary when the tooth is too damaged to be helped by a root canal treatment. You may also undergo teeth extraction if your mouth is overcrowded, if you are suffering from gum disease or if your wisdom teeth require removal. During a tooth removal, your dentist will numb the relevant area and use a lever-like tool known as an elevator to loosen the tooth. They will then use forceps to actually remove the tooth.
What Are the Advantages of a Root Canal?
As a general rule, root canal treatment is preferred over tooth extraction because it means keeping your teeth and thereby preserving your natural smile. It is also a very simple procedure that is almost always successful. Root canal specialists will confirm that any pain you experience after the procedure will most likely be fairly minor, and will only last a few days. If you do experience discomfort, it should be manageable via the use of an over-the-counter painkiller.
What Are the Disadvantages of a Root Canal?
One downside of root canal treatment is that it can take several visits to your dentist before the entire process is complete. Firstly, x-rays will need to be taken to check the shape and condition of your teeth, as well as to establish where signs of infection are located around your tooth and bone. Once the basic root canal process has been completed, you’ll need to return for a follow-up appointment to get the tooth filled with a sealer gum and gutta-percha. Depending on the exact circumstances of your root canal, your dentist may need further sessions with you to fully repair the tooth.
There are also some risks associated with root canal treatment. If the dental restoration is inadequate, it is possible for further infections to occur. Additionally, there is no guarantee that the tooth will be completely clean once the procedure is complete. It’s important to keep in mind that your tooth will be hollow after treatment, meaning that it might be brittle and prone to fractures.
What Are the Advantages of a Tooth Extraction?
When infection or decay is too severe, a tooth extraction is the only way to find relief from debilitating pain and discomfort. A tooth extraction is also a pretty efficient and affordable procedure, especially if you don’t plan on getting it replaced with an implant.
What Are the Disadvantages of a Tooth Extraction?
Even if you have the most experienced dentist possible, a tooth extraction will probably be at least a little uncomfortable in the days following the procedure. Immediately after the tooth is extracted, you will have to bite on a piece of gauze for up to 45 minutes to clot blood flow. You will then continue to experience light blood loss for 24 hours, followed by two weeks of sensitivity. During this time, you might have to stick to soft, cool foods, and brush your teeth very gently.
Having a gap in your teeth will cause them to shift, which will subsequently lead to changes in your bite that could become uncomfortable. To avoid this, you will need to have the tooth replaced by an implant, which will also allow you to bite and chew properly. With the addition of an implant, the process involved in getting a tooth removed becomes more expensive than a root canal. It’s also worth noting that an implant will be unlikely to look, feel or function quite as well as a natural tooth. However, it will be a pretty close match.
Why Would a Dentist Pull a Tooth Instead of a Root Canal?: Understanding the Factors at Play
While root canal treatment is generally preferred, there are reasons why a tooth extraction might be the better option of the two. This would depend upon many factors, but the easiest way to go about this decision is to ask yourself the following questions:
How Severe Is the Infection or Decay?
If the infection or decay is severe enough, you may not have the option to save your tooth with a root canal. If there is an exposed nerve, for example, this means that the pulp has been irreparably damaged and cannot heal without the nerve being removed. In this case, extracting might be the best way to prevent further damage. Your dentist will advise you on whether tooth removal is the best choice.
How Much of the Tooth is Affected?
On a similar note, an extraction will be necessary if most or all of the tooth has been compromised and is unlikely to be saved. If only a small portion of the tooth is damaged, you should be able to save it with a root canal.
Do You Have Any Relevant Health Concerns?
Conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or compromised immunity will put you at higher risk of infection or poor healing after an invasive procedure. As a result, a tooth extraction might be a better option for you than a root canal.
Ask Your Dentist About What’s Right for You
If you’re struggling to make a decision between these procedures, or simply looking to have some questions answered, you should feel free to communicate any queries to your dentist. Our friendly staff at Stanley Street Dental are always happy to explain and advise you on both root canal treatments and teeth extractions. If you require dental treatment, book an appointment with us today.