Root Canal vs. Extraction: Which Is Safer?

One of the most feared dental procedures is the root canal, or endodontic therapy. Despite being one of the most well-understood and common dental procedures you can get, people are still afraid of getting them.

Sometimes people are just afraid of the dentist due to a condition known as dental anxiety (we can help: our Kennewick, WA dental practice has sedation dentistry options to help you get the care you need.  However, many people who would normally have no problem getting in the dentist’s chair get very nervous at even the mention of a root canal. What we find most disturbing though is the number of patients who request a tooth extraction instead of a root canal, because they read somewhere that a tooth extraction is safer than a root canal!

There’s really no reason to be afraid of a root canal; today, a root canal is no more uncomfortable than a cavity filling, the procedure takes only one appointment, and requires no surgery. If you need a root canal, you make your appointment, have the procedure, and leave (though you will need to come back to have your crown placed, once it has been fabricated).

A tooth extraction on the other hand is a much different story. Tooth extractions are still a necessary procedure in dentistry, and they have changed a great deal as dental technology has improved. For instance, developments in anesthesia have made it possible to eliminate at least the pain during the extraction. Even so, there are very good reasons why your dentist will only recommend a tooth extraction as a last resort.

Understanding What Happens During a Tooth Extraction

A tooth extraction seems like it should be one of the procedures in dentistry that requires the least amount of skill. It’s just a matter of elbow grease and picking the right tooth to remove (right?). The reality is a tooth extraction is a very intensive surgical procedure that can only be performed by an oral surgeon. Your teeth and gums might look simple, but they’re actually quite complex, and great skill must be employed to ensure that the extraction happens as safely as possible.

That’s just during the procedure, but it’s after the procedure that things can get a little dicey. Tooth extractions leave large wounds, resembling holes, where your extracted teeth once were. If you were to see them, you’d realize that they are much larger than you might think, and even if they are still small, they are absolutely enormous to your oral bacteria, which will be chomping at their microscopic bits to get inside your body through the new holes in your head!

Your oral bacteria are part of your body’s ecosystem, but they aren’t the friendliest bugs in the world. Oral bacteria can be very nasty indeed, and once they’re in your body (say, through big holes in your mouth), they follow what is called the path of least resistance. The bacteria will end up where they end up, and that will determine just how dangerous they are to you; in many cases, these infections have deadly results.

What Happens During a Root Canal

A root canal treatment is much less intensive. There is no surgery, so there is a much reduced chance of infection (virtually zero under normal circumstances). Root canals don’t cause infections, they get rid of them! When your tooth becomes infected by your oral bacteria, usually through a crack or fracture in your tooth, the bacteria will either destroy or severely damage the dental pulp and the dental nerve (this is why tooth infections hurt). The dental pulp is the “brain of your tooth”: a bundle of nerves, tissue, and tiny blood vessels at the center of each of your teeth, it is responsible for providing blood flow and nutrients to your tooth, and it creates the dentin, the second layer of your tooth that determines its shape.

Your dental pulp is very important, but your tooth can still function (chew food) without it, and the removal of the dental pulp is the goal of the root canal. It must be removed because the oral bacteria can use it to enter your body and wreak havoc on your other bodily systems. Your tooth stays in place because it is still viable as a “tool” in your digestive system (for chewing and grinding), and because the removal of teeth will cause the loss of bone density in your jaw. Most importantly though, a tooth that stays in place will not leave giant holes in your gums that invite serious infection and potentially death.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read!

Take it from your dentist, a professional with years of experience, expertise, and education: a root canal is safer and more effective than a tooth extraction. If you have a toothache that won’t go away, that might be a sign of a tooth infection, and you need to have it taken care of as soon as possible.

Don’t delay! Dial 509-591-0515 or click here to book your appointment online, right now.

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