When To Choose A Dental Implant Over A Root Canal

Root canals are the go-to procedure whenever a tooth is infected, cracked, damaged in an injury, or suffering from deep decay. While the endodontic treatment has been used successfully since the 1880s, some people choose to bypass a root canal and opt instead for a dental implant. To understand why this choice is made, it helps to comprehend the risks and rewards of each procedure. 

What is a root canal?

When your tooth is damaged, due to decay or injury, it can get infected. The infection often reaches the pulp inside the tooth, which is very painful. While antibiotics can curb the infection temporarily, the infection will continue to return until the tooth is either repaired or removed. It will not simply heal on its own. 

During a root canal, your dentist will remove any damaged pieces of the tooth, any decay, and all the infected pulp. The now hollow tooth will be filled with a compound that will harden and allow you to use the tooth in normal chewing activities. 

Do root canals fail?

While root canals are often successful, there is always a chance of the procedure not working. Your dentist may not be able to remove all of the infected material, the canal may be improperly filled with either too little or too much compound, or the tooth may not be sealed properly. If this happens, the infection will return and your tooth may need to be extracted. 

When a root canal fails, your dentist may try the procedure again or you may be forced to have an apicoectomy. This endodontic procedure is a required surgery when there are complications to your root canal. The entire tooth and the surrounding tissue need to be surgically removed to prevent the infection from reaching your jaw and causing serious damage to the bone.  

How often do root canals fail?

Root canals, in general, experience a high success rate. Failures do happen, however. A 2007 study found that some teeth are more prone to failure than others. In fact, root canals in upper molars were found to fail 44 percent of the time. 

What is a dental implant?

A dental implant is a lesser-known but just as effective form of treatment for a damaged or infected tooth. Instead of trying to save the tooth, your dentist will remove the tooth and install a metal post in your jawbone where the tooth's root was formerly located. After several months of allowing the area to heal and bone to form around the new post, an artificial tooth is permanently attached to the post. 

What are the benefits of a dental implant?

Many patients choose to go directly to dental implants, bypassing a root canal procedure and its risk of failure. In fact, even if your root canal is successful now, it may fail later, meaning you will have to have a dental implant anyway. 

What is the success rate of dental implants?

Dental implants are known to be a successful alternative to a root canal. In fact, a 2014 report from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) stated that dental implants have a long-term success rate of between 96.7 and 97.5 percent. This statistic is why many patients do not attempt to have a root canal but rather opt for a dental implant. 

Are dental implants painful?

Most dental patients are pleasantly surprised to learn that neither a root canal nor a dental implant procedure is painful. In fact, the only pain comes from before the procedure due to the infection festering in the tooth. The actual procedures are both relatively pain-free.

Choosing between a root canal and a dental implant is a conversation that you need to have with your dentist so you can weigh the pros and cons of each procedure. 

For more information about dental implants, reach out to a local dentist today.