Is it Serious Enough for a Root Canal?

Cute Young Lady has a ToothachePerhaps you’ve noticed lingering sensitivity in a certain tooth when you drink your morning coffee of enjoy an iced tea at lunch. Perhaps you experience zingers when you bite down with one side of your mouth or perhaps a dull throbbing ache in your mouth has kept you up for several nights. No matter the specifics, one of your teeth is damaged or infected, and the resulting discomfort is intruding on your ability to enjoy life. You know you need to make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible, but will the problem be serious enough for a root canal or is a total extraction of the tooth the best option?

When Possible, Save the Tooth

If you have a severely infected tooth (or, in some instances, if trauma has exposed the sensitive pulp within a tooth), your dentist may recommend a root canal if he believes that the tooth’s hard structure can be saved. During this procedure, your dentist will remove the infected pulp tissue, fill in the empty pulp chamber with a flexible, biocompatible compound to provide structural support, and then cap the tooth with an inlay, onlay, or crown. Once the initial soreness wears off in a few days, your tooth will look and function without discomfort.
Commonly held dental wisdom holds that saving a tooth – whenever possible – is always the best course.  However, a few issues that may complicate matters include:

  • Root canal procedures have a higher short term cost than a simple extraction.
  • Root canal therapy can fail in rare instances, requiring either a retreatment of the tooth or an eventual extraction.
  • Root canal therapy carries many negative (though largely undeserved) connotations and some people might think it easier to simply pull the tooth.

Extractions: A Quick Fix

If your dentist recommends an extraction, it’s because he does not believe the tooth can be saved by any other means. Instances where total extraction may be recommended include:

  • Trauma has caused a crack or fracture to run all the way down into the root.
  • Extensive decay has created an abscess around the root.
  • Enough of the visible portion of the tooth has decayed or broken off that a protective crown cannot be placed.

About Dr. Jeffery Allen

Dr. Jeffrey Allen provides comfortable dental care to patients of all ages. Call (641) 628-1121 today to schedule a checkup and cleaning, cosmetic consultation, or second-opinion visit. We are located on the west side of the historic town square in Pella, IA. Please see the map for directions.