My dentist says that my lower right first molar is severely decayed needs a root canal or a dental implant. The tooth behind it is missing. The missing back tooth isn’t noticeable, but I’m concerned that now when I’ll smile, both missing teeth will be noticeable. I wonder if I get the tooth extracted and use some type of partial like a snap-on smile to cover the spaces where two teeth will be missing. – Thank you, Melody from San Antonio, TX
If you’ve already lost your second molar, extracting the first one will leave you without right-side molar teeth. You won’t be able to chew on that side of your mouth.
Restore or Replace a Decayed Tooth?
We’ll review four options for restoring or replacing a severely decayed tooth.
The worst option for treating your infected tooth is an appliance that snaps over your teeth. Appliances like the Snap-On Smile are temporary. They won’t last for the long term.
Removable partial denture
A removable partial denture is the least expensive way to replace a missing tooth. But it’s also the least functional and least comfortable because it stays in place with claps secured to adjacent teeth. You don’t have back teeth to anchor it so that a partial denture won’t be stable. And it will create a twisting force on the supporting teeth. Applying a partial denture to a tooth that doesn’t have support behind it is like a rectangle table that has front and center leg, but no back legs. The slightest pressure on the back of the table that has no legs will make it fall.
Root canal treatment
Root canal treatment makes sense because it’s saving your natural tooth. Your dentist will protect the tooth with a crown. A root canal is less expensive than a dental implant, but if the tooth is healthy enough to save, a root canal will preserve it. Your dentist will protect the tooth with a crown.
Although a dental implant is the best form of tooth replacement if your dentist can save your tooth, why extract it? A single implant and crown will cost thousands of dollars. This treatment is advisable for a tooth that is already missing or a tooth that your dentist can’t save without compromising your oral health.
If your dentist can save your tooth, it’s the best option for your oral health. Before you choose a treatment option, talk to your dentist, and ensure you understand why is recommending the options and what you can expect. If you’re uncomfortable with your dentist’s responses, get a second opinion from a local dentist who can examine your teeth and review your x-rays.
David Finley, DDS, of Monroe, LA, sponsors this post.