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Dead Tooth, Should I Get It Pulled?

We do NOT recommend pulling a dead tooth if it doesn't have an infection that renders it non-restorable because you can keep it in your mouth with proper treatment.


discolored necrotic tooth
discolored necrotic tooth

The tooth should still be functional for many years to come if you get a root canal and crown on it. Pulling it will require you to replace it with an implant and that isn't all that much better than the root canal.


Table of Contents:


When to get a root canal for it

Despite your tooth being dead, if its condition meets these criteria, you may not need it pulled. In fact you can keep it in your mouth by getting a root canal done on it instead.


When a root canal is appropriate:

  • Good Structural integrity. Tooth retains a lot of its natural tooth structure, meaning there hasn't been a lot of previous dental work on it.

  • Not mobile. Tooth feels rock solid with no mobility.

  • Patent canals. The canals where the nerve comes in is wide open and easily accessible for a root canal.

  • Minimal tooth decay. Little to no cavities on the tooth.


completed root canal
completed root canal

The overall criteria which we are looking for is a good prognosis that allows us to do the root canal treatment. Anything that results in a poor restorative prognosis afterwards would be better served with an extraction instead.


When to extract the dead tooth

It's always better to keep your tooth whenever possible but there are situations which leave you with no other choice than an extraction.


When to pull it:

  • Large cavity. The tooth has a large amount of decay which will compromise the overall structural integrity.

  • Not stable. Tooth feels loose or wobbly.

  • Obliterated canals. The canals inside of the tooth are barely visible or no longer accessible. If this is the case, it makes it impossible to do a root canal.

  • Large infection. The abscess is so large that the prognosis after treatment would be incredibly poor.


two extracted teeth
two extracted teeth

Pros and Cons - Root canal vs Extraction

There are certain situations which may force us to choose one procedure over the other but here are some advantages and disadvantages to getting them.


Benefits of a root canal over an extraction

  • Keep your natural tooth. You don't have to pull the tooth so you can retain your own tooth. You do need a crown over it afterwards to protect it and mask the discoloration.

  • Completing the treatment is faster. A root canal and a crown would take about four appointments spread out over a month or so. If you opt for an extraction and implant, that process can take 8-12 months to complete.


Benefits of an extraction over a root canal

  • Initial cost is less expensive. An extraction costs significantly less than a root canal and crown. However you do have to keep in mind that if you do want to replace the missing tooth later on, the implant makes it equally as expensive.

  • Tooth removal only requires one visit. You'll be done with just a single appointment. Of course this does not include the implant which you do need to decide for later on.


Why we prefer to not pull it

If you're able to afford the root canal and crown, that would be the best option. You get to keep your own tooth and if anything happens to it, you can always do the extraction and implant later on.


You can think of it as giving your tooth as many chances as possible. If the root canal fails, you always have the option to extract it. However if you jump right into tooth removal with an implant, if the implant fails, you don't have very many options left afterwards!


Another reason is that keeping the tooth requires a lot less surgery. The root canal and crown are both fairly conservative when compared to taking out the entire tooth and then placing a titanium screw into your jaw.


Takeaway

If you've a dead tooth it is better if you don't pull it. That is at least what we would recommend whenever possible. However if your situation does not permit you to keep it, then pulling it may be the only option left.


Please discuss with your dentist what the best course of action should be for your particular situation. Schedule a dental consultation to explore your options.

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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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