Dear Dr. H,
My dentist says I need a root canal on a tooth, but I don’t have any pain.
I have heard that root canals are dangerous, so I can’t figure out why I should do this to my perfectly healthy tooth.
Also, my mom said that metal in the mouth is bad and that I should have any bad teeth pulled and replaced with implants.
No root canals for me
Dear No root canals,
You have really asked three separate questions, so bear with me!
1. Can a tooth need a root canal when it doesn’t hurt?
Yes. A tooth needs a root canal when the nerve in the tooth has been injured and it cannot recover, or when the nerve of a tooth has died. Over the years, I have learned that some teeth die with alot of pain and infection and some teeth die quietly and the patient doesn’t notice. I have also learned that some people have a very high pain tolerance and some people have a very low pain tolerance.
If you don’t think your tooth needs a root canal, I would suggest you get a second opinion.
2. Are root canals dangerous?
It is true that a poor root canal can lead to alot of infection and problems for a patient. However, root canals that are done well allow patients to keep teeth. The only alternative to a root canal is to have the tooth pulled.
Be aware that some root canals are technically difficult. If your dentist suggests a specialist, go to the specialist for the root canal.
3. Should a tooth be pulled and an implant placed instead of having a root canal?
This is one of those questions where it depends on the situation.
Most of the time the answer is no. If you can save a tooth with a root canal, you should save it. Teeth that God gave you are always better than teeth that are man made.
However, if a tooth has other problems it is important to consider how long the tooth will last if a root canal is done. It is upsetting to have a root canal done only to have the tooth pulled a year later. Dentists are not omniscient, but sometimes we can predict that a tooth is on its way out.
Finally, the cost of an implant is significant and must be considered when the less costly option of a root canal is still possible.
I hope I helped you make a decision.
All the best!
Dr. H

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