I saw my dentist earlier this month for my top left first molar. Since high school, I’ve had a crown on the tooth but have felt pain on and off since January. The pain was not improving, so I went to the dentist, and he removed the crown and said my tooth was infected. He also said that I waited too late to save the tooth, so I needed it removed and replaced with a dental implant. I asked my dentist about a root canal, but he said it would not work, and removing the tooth was the only option. I have not scheduled tooth removal yet. Why wouldn’t my dentist at least try to save my tooth if that is what I prefer? Thank you. Luke from Houston, TX
Thank you for your question.
Reasons a Dentist May Not Try to Save a Tooth
Saving a failed tooth takes effort, and many dentists who prefer to help you keep your natural teeth will try to save them whenever possible. Although dental implants are highly effective for replacing teeth, nothing is better than restoring the health of a tooth if it will not compromise your oral health.
When Might It Be Impossible to Save a Tooth?
After an exam and x-rays, a dentist may determine that it is impossible to save a tooth for these reasons:
- Not enough healthy tooth structure – If most of the tooth is damaged or decayed and building it up for a crown will not work, a dentist may recommend removing it.
- Not enough space for a crown – When a broken or worn tooth goes untreated for years, other teeth may shift. If a dentist does not have enough room to restore the tooth with a crown, you may be eligible for braces to move your teeth into position. Otherwise, a dentist may recommend removing it.
- Damage below the gumline – A severe crack or split below your gumline may make it impossible for a dentist to save the tooth.
- Severe trauma – Fractured tooth roots or extensive damage may make it challenging for a dentist to save your tooth.
If your dentist is unwilling to give you details on why he cannot save your tooth, you can get a second opinion from another dentist. After examining your tooth and reviewing your x-rays, the dentist can explain whether tooth removal and an implant are your only options.
Dr. James Gavrilos, a Barrington, Illinois, accredited cosmetic dentist, sponsors this post.