A root canal sounds scary, but the procedure is hardly any more complicated than an ordinary filling. To do a filling, your dentist removes decayed areas from the surface of a tooth, while for a root canal she removes the dead nerve from the center. This may require two appointments, but luckily, a dead nerve cannot feel any pain! If a dead nerve is discovered early enough, a root canal can actually help you keep the affected tooth in place. If left untreated, however, there can be serious consequences, such as painful abscesses in the surrounding tissue. An abscess shows up on an x-ray as a dark spot below the root tip, and you may not feel any pain because you don’t have an abscess, yet. But root structure can be complicated, and a specialist called an Endodontist may be needed to find all of the branching pathways of the root pulp.
If you are happy with a hole where your tooth used to be, then sure, it would be cheaper and easier to simply remove the dead tooth. Maybe the toothless smile of a hockey player will be in fashion next year. Until then, most of us prefer a complete smile! Keeping your natural tooth in place beats an implant in looks, cost and natural sensation. Dentists are taught to preserve your natural teeth whenever possible.
If you are lucky, your dentist will find the problem before you feel any pain or discomfort. If you decide to “wait and watch”, here are the signs that it is time to pick up the phone, because the problem is spreading to the gum and bone surrounding the tooth.
Waiting too long can result in damage to surrounding gum and bone, making for a more expensive procedure in the future. And pain.