Dental Implant or Root Canal: Which Is Better?

by | Feb 20, 2020 | Implants, Root Canals

A painful tooth is something almost no one wants to deal with. It can make it difficult to eat, drink, or even sleep. Every second is focused on the excruciating pain of the infected tooth. For most people there thought is to contact their dentist for help. What will the dentist recommend — dental implant or root canal?

There are a few directions your dentist can take, but it depends significantly on the condition of your tooth and their stance on trying to save a tooth. In this article, we will go over two options for solving an infected/decayed tooth. We will look at the pros/cons of each as well as what to expect with each procedure.

Three dental implants on blue background.

About dental implants

A newcomer to the dental world, or at least when it comes to replacing missing teeth, dental implants provide a long-term solution for missing teeth. Teeth can be removed through extraction or lost due to accidents. However, the tooth went missing dental implants that can fill the gap. Not only can dental implants be suitable for a single extracted tooth, but they can also replace multiples or full arch sets.

Dental implants are not the restoration that you see. Instead, they are a surgically implanted post that supports a restoration like an implant-supported bridge, crown, or dentures. For a dental implant to be placed, the natural tooth must be removed completely.

What to expect

Getting a dental implant might be a long-awaited endeavor to complete a smile or one you decided after a tooth was recently removed. If you need to have an infected tooth removed beforehand, you may need to wait for the area to heal before an implant is installed.

The dentist will need to expose the jawbone, which means they will need to make an incision in the gum. Accessing the jawbone, he or she will drill a hole to fit the implant. The dentist will then place the implant, suture the gum, and in some cases, provide a temporary restoration. Depending on the situation and the dentist, they may recommend no replacement at that time and wait for the area to heal completely.

Why dentists choose dental implants

The dentist chooses dental implants for fixing an infected tooth if there is no chance of saving the tooth. A dental implant provides a great looking restoration. It will also be more durable for things like chewing. If you are having more than one tooth replaced, dental implants can be tailored to those specific needs.
Pros/Cons of Implants

There are pros and cons to dental implants, though they certainly have more good than bad. The good can include replacing a tooth and never again having to experience tooth pain from that tooth. Dental implants last a long time and are typically more comfortable for replacement teeth than others like crowns or bridges. The only downside is losing your natural tooth, which can be an emotional event for some.

Stages of root canal process.

About root canals

Root canals are probably the most feared dental procedure out there. And yet, it is one of the most beneficial methods available for those that have tooth decay and infection. A root canal can solve infection and the problem of tooth decay in one visit, giving a patient a better quality of life without losing their natural tooth.

What to expect

During a root canal, many tend to be frightened by the fact a dentist will be drilling into their tooth. This is necessary to eliminate tooth decay and reach the inside of the tooth down to the root and pulp. Your dentist will then flush out the tooth with an antibiotic fluid and remove the pulp. This means the patient will no longer feel any sensation from the tooth.

Because the area will be completely numbed with a local anesthetic, the patient will feel no part of the procedure, from the drilling to the removal of the pulp. Afterward, the dentist will fill the cavity and place a crown. These are done to ensure the decay stops, and no further issues occur.

Why dentists choose root canals

Root canals are a standard procedure, and one many dentists recommend for preserving the tooth. Root canals are often prescribed because a tooth can be saved. Unlike dental implants, the damage to the tooth is minimal, whereas implants usually are placed because the tooth is too far gone.

Pros and cons of root canals

There aren’t many downsides to a root canal, other than patients that have dental anxiety over the procedure. Crowns can be used made of porcelain that mimics the look of their actual teeth, making the restoration not as noticeable if at all. But with a root canal, patients will no longer have a feeling from that tooth, which can be strange to get used to.

woman with toothache

So which should you choose? A dental implant or a root canal?

When it comes to dental implants, it is hard to argue with their effectiveness and results. However, dental implants will never give you the same sensation as a natural tooth. That being said, with a root canal, the inner parts of the tooth, the pulp, are removed. This eliminates feeling in the tooth. While it solves the problem of tooth pain, it too means you’ll lose sensation in that area. These are very similar feelings, which makes for a great comparison.

If you are trying to decide between the two, the cost might be something to worry about. Dental implants are much more expensive than a root canal. If you have dental insurance, likely, root canals are partially covered, whereas dental implants being a cosmetic procedure aren’t typically covered. Both do a fantastic job of eliminating tooth pain, however, which is recommended depends on the patient’s unique situation


When it comes to having a tooth infection and the possibility of losing a tooth, most will want the pain to be over with. While there are options for solving a horrible tooth infection, including a root canal, this isn’t right for everyone.

Stephen Nozaki

Stephen Nozaki

Dr. Stephen Nozaki is the owner and lead dentist at Image Dental in Stockton, CA. He has received his training at California State University and Loma Linda University, then completed his fellowship with the International Dental Implant Association. Today, Dr. Nozaki specializes in same-day crowns and dental implants. He is a member of the American Dental Association (ADA), California Dental Association (CDA), San Joaquin Dental Society (SJDS), as well as a diplomate with the International Dental Implant Association, which allows him to always stay current with the most current information and training on these procedures.

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