Even if you’re diligent about oral hygiene, bacteria can still sneak past your defenses and work their way into your teeth and gums. And if you don't address it right away, the decay burrows deeper into your tooth and down through the root. Cracks, chips, and fractures are prime targets for progressive decay that erodes the inside of your tooth and degrades it from the inside out.
When faced with these dire dental conditions, you’ll likely need to choose between one of two treatments: either save the tooth with a root canal or extract the tooth and replace it with a dental implant.
Fortunately, you don’t have to decide on your own. Our experts at Dental Art of South Bay in Torrance, California, can help you navigate your dental health options and help you choose the best treatment.
Should I get a root canal?
Underneath the hard enamel shell, your teeth have a soft center called the pulp. During your childhood, the pulp fed your teeth and helped them develop. Now that you’re an adult, your teeth can survive without the nerves and blood supply if need be, which is good news if you develop an infection in your inner tooth.
Here’s where a root canal comes in.
When the inside of your tooth is decaying, but the outside is still in good condition, a root canal is a great solution. We simply drill a small hole in the top of the tooth, clear out the decayed material and all the pulp tissue, fill the tooth with gutta-percha to maintain its structure, and top it with a crown to ensure strength and durability.
That’s it. A root canal saves your tooth and its root, so you can go on chewing and speaking without gaps, pain, or problems. Before we recommend a root canal, we consider several issues, and so should you:
Is it possible to repair the tooth?
Tooth damage is tricky. We can repair a cracked, chipped, or fractured tooth with restorative treatments like fillings, veneers, and crowns, but if you have severe decay in the pulp and root, it may not be repairable.
Likewise, if decay has significantly rotted your tooth, there may be little left to save, and a root canal would be a waste of time and money.
What’s the expected life of the tooth after a root canal?
Although a root canal can save your tooth and delay or eliminate the need for a dental implant down the road, not all teeth treated with a root canal survive forever. Statistics show that you can expect your tooth to remain viable for about 11 years after a root canal if you also receive a filling or crown and only 6.5 years without those additional treatments.
Root canal pros:
- Keep your tooth
- Costs less
- Less time and fewer appointments
- Relatively painless
Root canal cons:
- Abscesses are common
- Root canals don’t always save the tooth
- Complications can lead to tooth loss
When you come in for an exam, our experienced dental team answers all your questions and lets you know whether a root canal is an option.
Should I get a dental implant?
When you have a severely decayed or damaged tooth that a root canal can’t save, sometimes the best answer is to extract the tooth and replace it with an artificial tooth called a dental implant.
After removing your damaged tooth, we anchor a titanium post to your jawbone where the old tooth root was once attached. The top of the post has an abutment that allows us to attach a crown that serves as your new tooth. Here’s what you should consider before choosing a dental implant:
Can the tooth be saved?
It’s always best to save a tooth that’s worth saving. That means that if we determine your tooth will be strong and healthy after a root canal, then a root canal is the way to go. If not, then a dental implant is better.
Can you afford a dental implant?
Dental implants are sturdy, long-lasting solutions to missing or irreparable teeth, but the procedure takes several appointments and several months of healing. And if you require bone grafting to shore up your jaw and prepare it for an implant, it can take even longer.
Implants are also more expensive than root canals, so talk with our team and make sure you know what to expect.
Can you afford not to get a dental implant?
Decayed teeth infect your bloodstream and send bacteria throughout your body, so ignoring them isn’t an option. Extracting a tooth and ignoring the vacancy isn’t wise either because the pressure loss in that spot leads to bone atrophy and further complications. So, if the tooth must come out, your dental and overall health may deteriorate without a dental implant.
Dental implant pros:
- Full tooth function
- Looks and feels like a natural tooth
- Usually lasts a lifetime
- 95% success rate
Dental implant cons:
- Lengthy treatment process
- Longer recovery period
We hope this guide has helped you understand what’s involved in a root canal and dental implant procedure and when we recommend each treatment. But if you still have questions, schedule an appointment or call our friendly Dental Art of South Bay staff at 310-272-5490.