Many people seek to avoid root canals at all costs. It's an absurdly common procedure, yet people often have no idea why it's necessary. Yes, there are alternatives to a root canal, but you should know more about why a root canal can be necessary before you seek another solution.
Sometimes Dental Fillings Aren't Enough On Their Own
You may think that instead of a root canal, you can just have a routine filling. When you develop a small cavity, a filling can help you out and stop the advancement of the tooth decay. A filling will work if your dentist catches and deals with the cavity early.
If you let a cavity linger for too long, decay will reach the pulp and create permanent damage. At that point, a simple filling isn't enough—you will need a root canal, or you'll have to give up the tooth.
How to Tell if You Need a Root Canal
Your dentist will let you know if you need a root canal. But if you need more convincing than your dentist's word, just consider the symptoms of a cavity that has progressed a little too far:
- Extreme tooth sensitivity to hot or cold (that lingers)
- Throbbing pain that comes and goes (or stays)
- Swelling gums or abscess
- Pain when eating or putting pressure on the tooth
You can experience any of these symptoms intermittently or constantly. If you're going through these things, there's a very good chance you need a root canal. The dentist will clean out the infected pulp, then fill the cavity, and finally cap the tooth.
Alternatives to Root Canals
Technically, a root canal isn't mandatory. You have the power and option to deny it and seek an alternative means of dealing with your infected tooth.
Tooth extraction – Having the tooth removed often represents a cheaper option. Understand that once you lose the tooth, you shouldn't leave a gap. When you lose a tooth, it puts more pressure on surrounding teeth when you're chewing.
Teeth may also try to shift and fill in the gap. This can severely upset your mouth's alignment. If you have your tooth removed, consider dental implants or another orthodontic solution.
Pulp capping – You can think of pulp capping as a kind of preventive form of root canal therapy. It's a procedure that will aim to prevent infection from spreading further into your still-living tooth nerve. After, you will receive a filling, but may not need a crown.
Speak with Your Dentist
If you're unsure about the need for a root canal, have a frank conversation with your dentist. He or she will explain why they feel the procedure is necessary. They can also talk about the alternatives with you. Keep in mind it's almost always better to save the tooth, and that's usually the route your dentist will want to take.
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