Endodontic treatment, otherwise known as “root canal treatment” otherwise known simply as a “root canal” is a unique treatment in that it is one of the few dental procedures that we can use that directly contributes to the salvaging of a tooth.
This is special for a couple reasons. As one of the few treatments that, by design, eliminates infection and bacteria to clean, seal, and save your natural teeth, if you choose not to elect for root canal treatment, the most immediate course of action is to remove your natural tooth and replace it with some sort of prosthetic. It is important to note, however, that there are alternatives to a root canal treatment.
These options should only be chosen if the tooth isn’t a good candidate for root canal therapy. More or less, the only time this should be an issue is if the tooth has become damaged beyond repair. This doesn’t mean you need to remain toothless. Without a root canal, a variety of prosthetic solutions exist to make sure you regain your full smile and as much functionality as is possible.
Option 1: Extract the Tooth
It’s tempting to list “wait” as an option. Because too many patients wait too long to get tooth pain handled. Because of this, there is often the opportunity for infection or inflammation to go untreated, which ultimately leads to the kind of damage that’s simply irreversible. This makes extraction of the tooth a likely solution. While it might seem the most prudent to simply remove the tooth and “be done with it,” in the long term, tooth extraction is generally viewed as a more expensive option, due to the need for a dental prosthetic. On top of this, waiting too long to fill the gap with a prosthetic can inevitably lead to changes to your mouth’s structure, which can make sure smile perfection much more difficult and involved.
Option 2: Extraction and Replacement
If you’re going to lose the tooth anyway, extracting and replacing it is often the most direct course of action. There are a few different ways to do this, including a dental implant, a dental bridge, or a partial denture (which is removable). Your dentist’s recommendation will largely revolve around the health of the surrounding teeth. If the two teeth adjacent to the missing tooth are healthy, there’s a good chance your dentist will recommend an implant – since a bridge would necessarily strain the two healthy teeth. If multiple teeth are being replaced, a partial denture might suit you best. Or, if the teeth near the gap could serve with reinforcement in the future, the dental crowns used for a bridge might be the most helpful option.
As you can gather, the options available when replacing a tooth are many. The most important advice to follow is this, however: Have an honest conversation with your dentist. Your dentist and her expertise can help you prevent pain and unnecessary financial burden in the future. Chances are, her recommendation is the one that’s best suited to your individual situation.