At the center of each tooth is a soft area called the pulp chamber where the tooth's nerve, blood vessels, and connective tissues reside. These delicate tissues are typically protected by the tooth's enamel, but issues like severe decay, a cracked or chipped tooth, or facial trauma can cause the pulp tissues to become inflamed and may result in a root canal infection. When infection is present, root canal therapy may be a viable option to eliminate the infection and save the damaged tooth from tooth loss. Sometimes, damage may be too severe for treatment with root canal therapy. In such cases, tooth extraction may be necessary for restoring oral health. Find out more about root canal therapy versus tooth extraction in this overview from Charlotte, NC dentists John M. Pinnix and George A. Betancourt.
Root canal therapy is an endodontic procedure used to treat root canal infections and save damaged teeth from tooth loss. During the root canal therapy procedure, the mouth is numbed and a hole is made in the damaged tooth to access the infected pulp tissue. The infected nerve, blood vessels, and connective tissues are then removed and the inside of the tooth is cleaned the entire length of the tooth, down to the bottom of the roots.
Any decayed areas of the tooth are also removed and the tooth is filled with a special material. This material, called gutta percha, is placed to help restore strength and support to the tooth. After root canal therapy, a dental crown will be placed to further strengthen the tooth and protect it from damage.
Unfortunately, root canal therapy is not always an option for restoring dental health and instead, the damaged tooth will need to be extracted. Extraction may be necessary if a root canal infection is too severe and has spread to the tissues surrounding the tooth, or if the tooth is too damaged to support a dental crown or other restoration.
Extracting a damaged tooth is generally quick. Patients are kept comfortable during the procedure with an anesthetic used to numb the mouth. Once the mouth is numb, the damaged tooth is loosened and gently removed.
Tooth extraction can restore oral health and prevent infection from spreading but it can leave patients with impaired dental function as a result of tooth loss. There are a variety of restorative treatments to replace extracted teeth and enhance the smile. Dental implants are one of the most popular choices for restoring extracted teeth. Dental implants are titanium posts that are placed into the jawbone, mimicking the natural roots for superior results. Some implant patients might also require a bone graft.
Root canal infections can be painful and dangerous to oral health. Without treatment, the infection can spread beyond the roots and into the tissues supporting the tooth. Seeking root canal therapy at the first sign of an infection can help prevent the need for extraction. If you suspect you have a root canal infection, you are encouraged to schedule a consultation with Dr. Pinnix or Dr. Betancourt.