Root Canal OR Dental Implant – Which choice is right for me?

 In Dental Implants, dentistry, restorative dentistry, Root Canal

Do you have an infected tooth that’s causing a lot of pain? Or do you have extensive tooth decay? 

I’m Dr. Alex Yen, dentist in Palo Alto CA. When a patient’s tooth becomes infected, we must decide whether to save the tooth by performing a root canal or to extract the tooth and then go for dental implants. 

At Blue Turtle Dental, our primary effort is always to save your natural tooth.  This is our first choice for both health and cosmetic results. Ethically if the tooth is salvageable, we believe we should always save it and do the root canal treatment. Saving your natural tooth helps:

  • Maintain efficient chewing
  • Maintain normal biting force and avoid collapse of the bite
  • Maintain natural structure of your jaw
  • Limit the need for more costly, ongoing dental work

However, sometimes the decay is so bad, the tooth cannot be saved. We have no choice but to extract it. The best choice to replace an extracted tooth is implant, which provides permanence and the beauty of natural looking teeth. 

We think about the prognosis of tooth decay, cause of the problem, longevity of the treatment, and other factors, such as the dentin strength and age when deciding on the two treatment options. 

Let us understand the two treatment procedures, the benefits, and risks in detail. 

Root Canal Treatment (RCT) in Palo Alto

When your tooth becomes infected, a root canal treatment lets you keep the tooth rather than extracting it. Keeping your tooth helps prevent the rest of your teeth from shifting out of line and causing jaw problems. 

How does it work? 

Root canal treatment or endodontic therapy is the most traditionally used treatment when a root is infected, or a tooth has severe decay or damage. Root canal procedures eliminate bacteria from the infected root canal. The cavity is cleaned, disinfected, and finally filled and sealed, thereby preserving your tooth.

The RCT is a safe and effective process of removing the infected, injured, or dead nerve and tissue (pulp) from the tooth. This procedure protects what’s left of the tooth and allows normal function.

The space inside the hard layers of each tooth is called the root canal system. The system is made up of soft dental pulp consisting of nerves, tissues, and blood vessels. 

The infected pulp tissue is manually removed with files of various sizes to clean out the canal. With the help of very fine dental instruments, the dentist removes the pulp by cleaning and enlarging the root canal system.

The root canal is the first step in the whole tooth restoration. After the root canal, the tooth is prone to becoming dry and brittle. The goal is to restore or fix the tooth to look, feel, and function just like your natural tooth. 

The final steps are the core build-up and crown. The canal is shaped, filled, and sealed most commonly with a natural replacement material called gutta percha. The opening of the tooth is sealed with a temporary filling first, and then a permanent filling and a crown to restore the tooth. The choice of restoration, such as a crown or posts to support the crown, will depend on the strength of the part of the tooth that’s left. 

What you should know about root canal treatment in Palo Alto

Considerable advancements in technology allow dentists to complete root canal treatment, even for teeth with complex anatomies, to the highest level of precision.

Most root canal treatments are successful and done in 1 or 2 appointments. After the treatment, your tooth may be tender for the first one or two weeks. If you suffer from severe pain or swelling, you should immediately call your dentist.

A second root canal treatment would be needed in a few rare cases and is called retreatment. During the retreating of a tooth, the root canal filling material is taken out, and the canal system is recleaned, reshaped, and refilled.

Sometimes root canal surgery is needed when a regular root canal treatment cannot be done or has not worked. A root canal surgery is done to check for fractures or cracks in the root, remove parts of the root that could not be cleaned during the root canal treatment, and clear up an infection that did heal after regular treatment.

With proper care and regular dental visits, the restored tooth lasts as long as your other teeth. Often, the tooth that has had a root canal treatment can be saved. However, when nothing can be done further, a tooth must be extracted.

Benefits of a Root Canal

Some top benefits of getting a root canal treatment are: 

  • You don’t lose your original tooth.
  • Minimal pain
  • Less expensive than a dental implant procedure 
  • Takes less time than a dental implant 
  • Less recovery time than dental implant 
  • High success rate

Risks of a Root Canal

While the root canal treatment offers many benefits and has a very high success rate, complications like abscesses can arise if the entire infected pulp is not removed, which underscores the importance of visiting an experienced dentist trained in endodontics.

Call the best root canal dentists in Palo Alto, CA if you’d like to discuss treatment options.

Dental Implants

If the dental examination reveals that saving the tooth is not the best long-term solution for you, only then will we consider a dental implant. Dental implants are used to replace missing teeth and support artificial replacement teeth. 

What are dental implants?

A dental implant involves removing the original tooth, installing a metal post in the jaw, and finally, inserting a porcelain dental crown to the post. 

A dental implant is an artificial root made of titanium metal. It is inserted into the jawbone to replace the root of the natural tooth. An artificial replacement tooth is attached to the implant. The implant acts as an anchor to hold the replacement tooth in place.

  • First, the original tooth is removed. A dental implant, which is an artificial root made of titanium metal, is inserted into the jawbone under the gum tissue. The gum tissue is stitched back into place and takes some time to heal. During the healing process, which can take up to several months, the dental implant will bond with the bone and attach to the gum. 
  • After the healing process is complete, the dentist will attach an abutment to the implant. An abutment is a post that connects the replacement tooth to the dental implant. 
  • An artificial replacement tooth is made and attached to the abutment. It can take several appointments to fit the replacement tooth to the abutment correctly.
  • If the dentist is replacing several teeth or all of your teeth, a fixed bridge is anchored to the dental implants on each side of the missing tooth or teeth.

What you should know about dental implants 

You may need several appointments with your dentist during the procedure. Checkups will be scheduled in the following year as well to check if the implants are functioning properly. 

Dental implants look and function like natural teeth. So, they need the same amount of care as natural teeth. Your dentist will demonstrate the proper cleaning technique for implants. Regular cleaning using a toothbrush and floss and dental checkups are essential. 

Dental implants can cost more than other replacement procedures. But they are a one-time cost, unlike other tooth replacement procedures.

Very rarely, there could be possible complications arising from dental implants such as infection, bleeding, numbness, and injury. 

Benefits of a Dental Implant

Here are some benefits of a dental implant: 

  • They are aesthetic, comfortable, look, and function like natural teeth
  • Long-lasting and can last decades with proper care
  • Low failure rate 

Risks of a Dental Implant

Below are some of the cons of getting a dental implant: 

  • Lengthy process
  • Time intensive
  • Costly without insurance 
  • Longer recovery period

Root Canal vs. Implant: Which is the best option?

Making comparisons between the two treatments is like comparing apples with oranges.

The American Dental Association reports that both root canal therapy and dental implants have high success rates. A similar study published by the Journal of Endodontics found no notable difference in the success rates of a standard RCT versus dental implant. 

Root canals and dental implants are equally successful, but implants may need more follow-up procedures. 

The decision to pursue a particular treatment procedure should be based on the complexity of the patients’ individual cases, health, and preferences.

If your tooth is salvageable, we would always work to save it and recommend root canal to preserve your natural tooth.  However, if you have extensive tooth decay, the tooth has a poor prognosis, and you have healthy gums and enough bone in the jaw to hold an implant, then we would recommend extraction followed by an implant.. 

Need more information about the root canal treatment or a dental implant? Call Blue Turtle Dental services in Palo Alto CA, to make an informed decision and find the best root canal treatment in Palo Alto. 

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