When your tooth has been compromised due to severe decay, injury or lack of bone support you may be presented with different treatment options: saving or extracting the tooth. Saving the tooth often involves the need for a root canal. If the tooth is extracted, then replacement can be done with a newer treatment option, dental implants. The two procedures may have similar final aesthetic results, but involve very different procedures with different requirements.
A root canal preserves your natural tooth, but removes the decay within its structure and any infection within the root. Dental implants are a more complex dental surgery procedure that involves the extraction of your diseased tooth and its replacement with a prosthesis or “artificial tooth”. Our goal as dental professionals is always to preserve as many of your natural teeth as possible. Root canal treatments preserve 17 million teeth a year. However, due to the increasing predictability and reliability of dental implants, this alternative can be a very good option when the prognosis of a tooth restored with root canal is still questionable.
Despite the “fear factor” the term root canal often creates, root canals are actually a simple and relatively pain free procedure. In a root canal the source of your tooth pain, infected or inflammed nerve tissue, is removed. The tooth is cleaned and filled with a biocompatible material, then sealed with a crown. The procedure is relatively painless with modern dental anesthetics. Implants require surgically extracting the tooth and a separate surgery later to insert an artificial tooth root into the jaw bone. After sufficient time to properly attach to the bone, the replacement crown is affixed to the implant.
There are many factors to evaluate before deciding the course of treatment. The integrity and amount of remaining tooth structure as well as the amount and quality of surrounding bone will profoundly affect the long term prognosis of a tooth restored by root canal treatment. The bone also affects the possibility of anchoring an implant. Also, some people with certain medical conditions should avoid dental surgery whenever possible and for them root canal therapy may be the best option.
If you have lost several teeth, dental implants can present a very attractive alternative to dentures, or even be used in conjunction with full or partial dentures to provide a much more secure anchor to hold the dentures in place.
The most common type of dental implant used today is called a root form implant. These are post-like devices usually made of titanium alloy that are placed in the bone to serve as artificial tooth roots to which the dentist can then securely attach a crown or bridgework or an anchor for a denture.
Every situation is different and if you are experiencing tooth pain or have recently broken, cracked or otherwise damaged teeth seek the advice of a dental professional to discuss the right restoration option for you.