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Root Canals versus Dental Implants

Root Canals versus Dental Implants

by Dr. Sara Fam on 02/11/2022

One of the most common questions or concerns we hear at Oxboro Family Dental clinic in Bloomington, MN, is what choice is better: root canals or dental implants? Should you save the tooth or opt for a permanent solution by inserting a dental implant? While we always do whatever it takes to preserve and prevent, the answer to this question is a challenging one.

It all depends on your unique situation – the condition of your oral health. From there, you and your dentist can come up with a solution that will best fit your dental needs.

However, what we can do right now is explain the difference between the two treatments and what the expectations might be following the procedures.

Root Canals versus Dental Implants

What Is a Root Canal Therapy

Root canal therapy, often referred to as endodontic treatment, is a dental procedure on teeth whose pulp has been irreversibly damaged. Part of the treatment includes the removal of infected tissue from the tooth and filling the spaces after thorough cleaning and disinfection. Its primary purpose is to save the natural tooth by eliminating the disease and preventing the reintroduction of infection.

Current root canal procedure is a testament to the medical advancements in dentistry. In the past, the treatment was often associated with “tooth poisoning” and pain. Anesthesia was not widely available, and the root length was assessed by a dentist based on the patient’s facial expressions and pain response. Today, innovative technology allowed professionals to enter a new dimension of endodontics. Modern dentistry has both the knowledge and the essential equipment, which increases the probability of success. Currently, the effectiveness of root canal treatment reaches up to 95 percent.

There are some tell-tale signs that an endodontic therapy might be inevitable:

  • Acute toothache that lasts for several days can be distressing enough to disturb sleep
  • Extensive tooth decay that leads to irreversible inflammation of the tooth pulp
  • Pulp necrosis
  • Broken or cracked teeth that expose the pulp
  • Microtrauma caused by mechanical stimuli, such as faulty fillings, prosthetic restorations, or even poor oral habits
  • Incorrectly performed root canal treatment
  • Periapical changes

What Are Dental Implants?

Dental implants could be thought of as having two parts, the lower being the artificial root and the upper the tooth crown. The implant is actually a tiny screw, usually made of titanium, imitating your natural root that is inserted into your jawbone to support its proper structure.

After tooth extraction, your jawbone is susceptible to deterioration. Bone loss is a serious problem that impacts your chewing, biting, and speaking mechanisms. It also determines the aesthetics of your facial structure – when deterioration begins, so do your natural proportions. If patients postpone dental implants after losing teeth, either due to injury or extraction, they may require a bone grafting procedure to rebuild the deteriorated bones.

Tooth Extraction – When Is It Inevitable?

A tooth extraction should always be the last resort. Nowadays, modern dentistry is able to cure most of the teeth damaged by decay or as a result of mechanical injuries. However, not every tooth can be saved. When is a tooth extraction necessary?

Tooth extraction is the most common surgical procedure performed by dentists and oral surgeons. Tooth extraction is the breaking of periodontal fibers connecting the tooth root with the alveolar bone, which removes the tooth from the socket.

Extraction is performed only when the tooth, together with its root, is unsuitable for treatment. The procedure is usually performed under local anesthesia.

Indications for Tooth Extraction:

Extraction is usually performed in patients with inflammations, focal infections, and diseases of the tooth tissues, pulp, and periodontium. Some of the indications include the following:

  • Teeth and roots that no longer meet criteria for preventative and restorative treatment,
  • Pulp inflammation,
  • Necrosis and gangrene of the pulp,
  • Periodontal disease of multi-rooted teeth,
  • Periodontal disease with loose teeth,
  • Periodontal abscesses,
  • Fractures of the tooth crown below the neck,
  • Root fractures,
  • Impacted teeth,
  • Certain cases of malocclusions.

Dead Tooth?

A dead tooth is not necessarily a dead end. At Oxboro Dental, each dead or dying tooth undergoes a comprehensive assessment during the examination. We take into account the following aspects when assessing the condition of your dead tooth:

Previous Root Canal Therapy

The endodontic treatment can be repeated utilizing a microscope even when something goes wrong during the first root canal therapy, such as broken tools or incorrectly filled canals. Our dentists take preventative measures before resorting to dental implants as long as there is no bone deterioration where a bone graft might be needed. Even a dead tooth can have the potential to remain if appropriate and successful treatment is performed.

The Degree of Decay

The degree of the tooth crown and root decay plays a vital role in the overall assessment. During the initial visit, our dentist will examine the condition of your tooth. If the tissue damage or fracture does not exceed the biologic width of the tooth, chances are that its reconstruction is possible using one of the available methods. However, if you experience a severely damaged dead tooth, more often than not, we might recommend its extraction. If that’s the case, we will strongly suggest inserting a dental implant to prevent bone loss and further oral health issues.

The Degree of Bone Loss

If you suffer from advanced periodontitis (gum disease) or bone loss, then our specialists might suggest dental implants as a better solution. Keeping the teeth in severe cases of periodontal disease is, in some instances, pointless and leads to extreme bone degradation, sometimes even destroying the patients’ chances of getting implants and, thus, a convenient life without removable dentures.

Prevention and Oral Hygiene

Preventative care and proper oral hygiene is the best alternative to any serious treatments, including dental implants and root canal therapy. Besides regular brushing and flossing, we stand by the current recommendations of bi-yearly professional check-ups and cleanings. Your dentist will perform an oral examination and inspect your mouth for various troublesome signs. Early detection saves not only teeth but also, in many cases, lives.