Occasionally, teeth may become inflamed, infected and painful; this can be due to either infection (due to decay or gum disease) or dental trauma (e.g. a sports injury). In such a situation, your dentist will discuss your treatment options with you; usually, the two main options are root canal treatment or removal and replacement of the affected tooth. Often implants are considered the ‘gold standard’ for tooth replacement, but what do these two options involve and how do I know which one is better?
Root canal treatment
Root canal treatment is indicated when infection has spread to the innermost structure of the tooth, called the ‘pulp’, which extends in thin ‘canals’ down the length of the root of the tooth. The treatment involves elimination of the infection by removing the infected pulp canals and placing filling material in the space left behind as a seal against bacteria. Often, teeth that have been root canal treated will be restored with a crown or ‘cap’ made out of ceramic or metal.
Root canal treatment, where appropriate, will allow us to save your natural teeth to maintain their natural function and aesthetics as best as we can.
In some situations, where root canal treatment is not possible, or where the tooth is broken/damaged beyond repair, your dentist may also suggest removal of the tooth and replacing it with an implant. Implants consist of a titanium fixture that is inserted into the bone (similar material to that utilised in hip or knee replacements), and restored with a prosthetic crown, to mimic the appearance of a natural tooth.
Which option is better?
Each of the two options has its applications, so while there is no clear ‘winner’ between the two very good treatment options, there may be a better option for your particular case. Your dentist will be able to discuss your customised treatment options at length with you after assessing your individual situation carefully and determining the long-term outlook of your affected tooth.
Our aim is to maintain function and aesthetics, and the elimination of pain. Wherever possible, conservation of natural tooth structure is key, however, if this is not possible, many rehabilitative options exist, and one of them may be best for you!