False Teeth - Making the Right Choices

Root Canals and Extractions: All the Work Now, or Most of the Work Later?

If you've got a tooth in need of endodontic help, the idea of a root canal might not be your favorite, for many reasons. You may decide you want to just have the tooth pulled instead. However, that can result in even more work down the road. Sometimes the choice is very clear, and you have to have the tooth pulled, but in general, you'll be able to choose between the two procedures. Just be sure you know what you're signing up for so you can recover quickly and get your mouth into great shape.

Once and Future Costs

Root canals have a reputation of being expensive, but the costs are usually confined to just one or two appointments. Once the root canal is done, it's done. In contrast, extractions are done quickly in one appointment, usually, and they're often much cheaper than root canals.

However, extracting the tooth will require follow-up work within a few years, if not immediately. You will have to get dentures or an implant to replace the missing tooth; otherwise, your other teeth could shift, destroying your bite (and the teeth in the process, as they'll no longer close down on each other properly, leading to chips and cracks) and having missing teeth could your cheeks to sink in, if you're getting more than one tooth removed.

That extra work is going to take time to do initially and to redo as years go by. You will eventually need new dentures or crowns, and this will cost extra money. If you're deciding between an extraction and a root canal, take that extra work and cost into account. It could be that you simply don't have the money now for a root canal, and you don't want to undergo the procedure. That's understandable, and extraction might be a better choice for you there as long as you can get the tooth replaced relatively soon.

Tooth Structure

Sometimes the tooth in question is just too far gone—major cavities, cracks, and other faults might make it not worth trying to save. In fact, such things could make the tooth impossible to save. In that case, tooth extraction is your best option.

But if the structure of the tooth is still okay, a root canal could be so much better. You won't be messing with the overall structure of your mouth or tooth—just the interior—and the endodontist will be able to patch up the tooth so that it is sturdy and quite usable. You won't want to chew ice (you really shouldn't do that anyway), but you'll be able to chew most food normally.

An extraction would mess with the structure of your mouth in that, as mentioned, the remaining teeth could move now that there's that big space. Chewing food could be an issue until you get the tooth replaced because you'll have this gap instead of another tooth that could mash up the food. You'd have to remember to chew on the other side of your mouth for a while.

Talk to your dentist or endodontist about which choice is better for you. If cost is a major problem, ask about payment plans or credit-type arrangements.