I need Root Canal Treatment should I just get the tooth pulled out?

Often, patients will come to us in pain, and after some testing and X-rays the result is that they have an infected tooth. Typically, the type of pain that these patients are experiencing includes:

  • Pain at night-time preventing proper sleep
  • Spontaneous pain
  • Sensitivity to hot foods/drinks
  • Throbbing, lingering pain

Nb. A tooth can also require root canal treatment and be painless, discoloured, wobbly, have a bad taste/discharge or have a swelling in the gum around it.

How does this happen?

When the nerve inside your tooth becomes infected, it starts to cause substantial pain and can also make you very ill. Infection can cause swelling of the tooth and in some cases spread to other areas of your mouth or body. Since the invention of antibiotics it is rare for a tooth infection to cause a fatality but thousands of people are still hospitalised for infected teeth every year.

There are many reasons why your tooth can be infected. Some reasons include

  • dental decay
  • a large previous filling
  • trauma (a knock) to the tooth
  • gum disease

Once the nerve of the tooth becomes infected, there are usually only options available:

  1. Removal of the infected nerve (root canal treatment)
  2. Removal of the tooth (extraction)

What is Root Canal Treatment/endodontic treatment?

When a tooth is infected, is necessary to clean out the nerve within the tooth to eliminate all of the bacteria. This procedure is referred to as root canal treatment. Tiny sterile files and medication/irrigants are used to help this process. Xrays aid the dentist in cleaning accurately and filling the nerve cavity with a well packed root filling. This procedure can take several visits to do and can be staged weeks or months apart depending on your tooth.

Isn’t it easier just to pull the tooth out?

Extraction of the offending tooth can sometimes be the better option if there has been too much damage to the tooth. It is also often the quicker and cheaper option. However if your dentist gives you root canal treatment as an option, make sure you feel you have adequately explored this option as a possibility before you make your decision.

When making your decision, please keep in mind the following two points.

  • It is usually cheaper to keep your tooth and proceed with the root canal treatment than to have it replaced in the future.
  • Extractions can cause changes in the position of teeth around and above the missing tooth

Root Canal Treatment has a bad reputation (largely thanks to the questionable dentist in Finding Nemo) but its usually pretty much the same as having a filling done, except more boring (takes longer). Ask lots of questions, do lots of thinking because if you’re older than 12, these teeth are the only ones you are going to sprout!

Until next time! 
Dr J.