A tooth in which the nerve has died generally has two treatment options: extraction or root canal therapy, also called endodontic therapy. While you might be able to postpone your decision for a short time, eventually the tooth will become abscessed and painful; you might already be at this stage. While only your dentist can tell you the long-term prognosis for the tooth, here is information on two considerations that many patients consider first: cost and the pain involved.
One of your primary concerns might be how much your dental work will cost. While the cost of a root canal varies tremendously depending on where in the country you are, whether you see a specialist and other factors, the national median cost for a root canal is somewhere between $700 and $900, depending on whether you are having a front tooth (with one canal) or a molar (with up to four canals) treated. Conversely, a non-surgical extraction (which is when the tooth is not broken off below the gumline and can be extracted without the dentist cutting your gum) can cost between $75 and $450, depending on the tooth involved, whether a specialist is needed and whether the extraction needs to take place on an emergency basis.
But wait! That's not the whole story. Keep in mind that if you have a root canal, you will almost always need a crown; to neglect this part of the follow-up treatment could result in a tooth fracture, necessitating an extraction after all. And if you have a tooth extracted, it's always wise to have it replaced with an implant or bridge to maintain the spacing of your other teeth. These costs should be discussed with your dentist ahead of time so you understand the full costs of the entire treatment plan for the tooth.
Pain and Suffering
When you have a root canal, you might be expecting the worst. The good news is that from the patient's perspective, a root canal procedure is not much different than having a filling done. You'll need to hold your mouth open for a long time and you'll feel as though your mouth is filled with various dental materials, but you will not feel pain, since you'll be given a local anesthetic. After the procedure is done, you'll likely be advised to take an over-the-counter pain reliever (such as ibuprofen or naproxen) for a few days, as you will likely be sore. You will be able to return to work the next day in most cases.
An extraction actually has roughly the same timeline of recuperation. You'll be numb for the procedure, and once the anesthetic wears off, you'll likely need an over-the-counter pain reliever. You will need to take some special care to avoid dislodging the blood clot that forms in the extraction site, but other than that, the pain should dissipate over the time span of a few days and you will be able to return to most jobs the day after the extraction. (If you have a highly physical job or you need to lift heavy items, mention this to your dentist, as he or she might advise taking an additional day or two off.)
In general, apprehension over pain and suffering should not impact your decision much, if at all. Current dentistry practices have made it so that almost all dental procedures can be performed without causing much pain, if any.
In conclusion, your dentist will be able to guide you into making the right decision for your ailing tooth. If cost is a major consideration, be sure to discuss your insurance coverage, along with payment options and total treatment cost with your dentist or front office manager. If pain and suffering is your first concern, remember that whether you have a root canal or an extraction, you will be sore for a few days and then will recover without much problem in the vast majority of cases. Ask your dentist for his or her advice on your specific situation. If you do not know the contact information of a dentist near you, then consider a dental clinic like Hurst Family Dental.