To Save or Not to Save a Terrible Tooth: Choosing Between an Extraction and a Root Canal
May 3, 2017 - 6:23:37 AM
This decision can be a tough one: you know that there will be pain involved, both physically and to your wallet. But you need to make the right decision, no matter what, that is best for your health. It’s best if you get all of the facts on root canals and the procedures for extractions so you can make the most informed decision. Here’s a quick guide to the two procedures.
What is a Root Canal?
A root canal is an oral surgery procedure that repairs badly damaged or infected teeth. If done in enough time, a root canal can save a tooth from needing to be pulled, but the procedure is painful and can cost a lot of money, even with insurance.
When a dentist performs a root canal -- most likely to fix a cracked, broken or cavity-filled tooth -- they remove the damaged area of the tooth, cleaning it and refilling and sealing it for protection. The term “root canal” comes from the fact that the dentist cleans the canals inside the root of the tooth.
The procedure will require X-rays so the dentist can pinpoint the area that needs to be fixed and local anesthesia to numb the pain. Once you receive the anesthesia, the dentist will remove the infected or damaged area and then refill and seal it. The procedure usually takes two visits, the first for the X-rays and evaluation and the second for the operation itself.
What is Tooth Extraction?
Tooth extraction occurs when a tooth is too damaged to save. The dentist will physically remove the ruined tooth, which will fix the problem but will leave you with a space in your teeth.
If you choose to have a tooth extracted, the dentist will numb your mouth with anemia. They then use a tool called an “elevator” which helps to loosen the tooth while it’s still in its socket. Then, the dentist uses a pair of forceps to remove the tooth completely.
Unlike a root canal, this procedure is pretty quick and can usually be done in one session. If the tooth that gets extracted is in a conspicuous place, you can opt to have an implant or bridgework so you can still have the same smile you’ve always had.
What to Expect After Each Procedure
Root canals and tooth extractions are pretty big oral surgeries, so you can expect some pain and some bleeding, whichever procedure you choose to have.
After a root canal, the bleeding is kept to a minimum because of the filling and sealing. The pain will linger for a few days and it may be fairly intense at times. You can usually control the pain after a root canal with over-the-counter pain killers, but if the pain is too great, you can consult your dentist to see if there are any prescription options available.
With a tooth extraction, you can expect some bleeding. Directly after the procedure, you will need to bite down on gauze for 45 minutes to an hour to stop the initial bleeding, and then small amounts of blood may still occur as far out as 48 hours after the procedure. Just have some gauze handy and bite down where the bleeding occurs and it should be easily controlled. Pain can be regulated with aspirin or other pain killers but, as with a root canal, if the pain is too great, consult your dentist.
Which Procedure to Choose
While you are always free to ultimately decide on your health care, your dentist will give you the best explanation for why you should go with a root canal or an extraction. They are very knowledgeable and have your best interests in mind, so you should seriously consider their advice, even if it’s the opposite of what you would like to hear.
Both procedures have their advantages and disadvantages. Price can also be a factor, so ask your dentist for a price comparison as well. The ultimate decision will be up to you, so make sure you know everything you need to.
Oral health is a big deal, so make sure you can make the right decision when it comes to oral procedures.
Max Summers is a cab driver by day, but loves to write in his spare time, both fiction and non-fiction, his article ideas coming from everyday events or stories he’s heard that spark an idea whilst at work.