Root canal treatment has long had a misleading reputation for being painful, and it has become one of the procedures patients often have many misconceptions about. Unfortunately, inaccurate information makes many patients each year hesitate to get the root canal treatment they need to save and maintain their oral health and natural teeth. Some believe that extracting, or removing, their natural teeth is a preferable alternative to a root canal treatment. In reality with today’s technology and the latest in endodontic care, a root canal is a far safer, less painful and attractive option to extraction.
Root canal treatment is performed when the soft tissue of a tooth, called the pulp, is infected or inflamed due to untreated decay, injury or trauma. During the procedure, an endodontist removes the affected pulp before cleaning the root canal and finally filling and sealing the space. Following the procedure, the tooth may undergo restorative work, after which it functions, looks and feels just like any other natural tooth.
A reflex reaction when considering a root canal, is that root canal treatment is extraordinarily painful, but in fact, if people were to take the opportunity to talk to patients who have had one recently, they would learn that many of those patients report feeling little to no pain. Not having the necessary endodontic treatment to remove an infection or inflammation is actually more painful than the procedure itself, and endodontists take care to prevent as much pain as possible during and after the procedure, and many can also offer sedation dentistry to address any patient anxiety.
If given the option to consider a root canal versus tooth extraction, it is important to consider the potential longer term impact. Once a (non-wisdom) tooth is extracted, the remaining teeth will begin to move and over time, and your bite will most likely become misaligned. This can potentially be a significant problem for your mouth and overall oral health, especially as you get older and there are visible impacts on your smile and impacts on your ability to properly chew your food. Additionally, restorative work in the future to correct this effects of tooth extraction might involved dental bridges or implants, which can cost significantly more than root canal treatment.
Discuss the benefits and potential near and long term impact of root canal therapy with your dentist or endodontist, and decide for your self if keeping and preserving your natural teeth and smile is preferable to having one or multiple teeth extracted. I would suggest that a root canal is preferable over tooth extraction for these reasons outlined above (and more), as one of the main goals of your dentist and endodontist is to help preserve and maintain your natural teeth for years to come, and root canal treatment allows them to do just that.