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More than 1 in 4 (26%) adults in the U.S. has untreated tooth decay.1 Tooth decay occurs when bacteria attacks the enamel of teeth, leading to cavities. If left untreated, it can cause pain, infection and tooth loss. Many patients and dentists have to make a tough choice when deciding between saving a natural tooth with a root canal or removing the tooth and replacing it with a dental implant. It’s important to understand each procedure to determine which treatment option is best for you.
Root canals aim to save an infected or decayed tooth. The procedure removes the nerve and inflamed pulp of the tooth before it’s cleaned, filled and sealed. A root canal leaves the tooth’s functions the same as before, with only the absence of the tooth’s nerve. This means that the tooth’s sensory function no longer reacts to temperature. Most root canals can be completed in one office visit and are nearly painless with today’s modern technology and anesthetics. Many patients describe the experience as being similar to a routine filling.
On the other hand, dental implants fully replace extracted teeth. The treatment permanently substitutes your tooth roots while still functioning like your own teeth. Dental implant surgery includes fusing a titanium implant with your jawbone, so the implant stays secure and doesn’t cause bone damage in the future. Customizable replacement teeth are then placed on top of the implant, blending in with the natural color of your teeth. Dental implants may be a better option than dental bridges or dentures, because they don’t slip, create noise or damage bone.
Which is better?
Neither procedure is inherently better than the other. In fact, dental implants and root canals are comparable in terms of success rates. However, most dentists typically recommend to try and save the natural tooth before considering a dental implant. One difference between the two treatments is that implants may require more maintenance following the initial procedure. There is also a cost difference, with dental implants generally costing more than root canal treatments. Make sure to weigh all the options with your dentist and review your dental benefits to see what’s covered.
Practicing good oral health habits –– such as brushing twice a day and flossing daily –– can significantly help prevent tooth decay and the need for a root canal or dental implant. However, maintaining good oral hygiene after both procedures is important to keeping your mouth healthy. Talk to your dentist to learn more.
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* All TruAssure dental plans, other than Basic and Preferred dental plans, are offered in association with the DenteMax Plus dental network arrangement, which includes participating dentists from the DenteMax, United Concordia and Connection dental networks. TruAssure Basic and Preferred dental plans for both group and individual members are offered in association with the DenteMax dental network.
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