If you’re dealing with severe tooth damage, you may be trying to decide between a dental implant vs root canal. Both treatments restore oral function and aesthetics to your mouth. However, they have some major differences. 

A root canal involves preserving and treating as much of the natural tooth as possible by removing the infected pulp and sealing the tooth. On the other hand, a dental implant replaces the entire tooth structure with a prosthetic root and crown. 

When considering a dental implant vs root canal, it’s important to understand the benefits and drawbacks of each treatment. In this guide, we’ll explain each treatment along with its pros and cons to help you make an informed decision that best fits your oral health needs.

If you live in Utah and want dental implants, we can help you! We have offices in Salt Lake City and South Jordan which are conveniently located for you. Click the buttons below to learn more about our dental implant services in each location or give us a call!

What Is a Root Canal?

If you’ve never had either of these procedures, you’re probably wondering how a dental implant vs a root canal compares. A root canal is a dental procedure done by a dentist or endodontist (not a periodontist). Root canals treat infection or damage to the inside of a tooth to save a severely decayed or infected tooth. 

By removing the infected pulp and cleaning inside the tooth, a root canal can prevent the need to remove the tooth. Once the damage is removed, the tooth is sealed with a filling and usually fitted with a crown. 

You may need a root canal if you have:

  • Tooth pain that doesn’t go away
  • Pain with pressure on your tooth, from touch or eating
  • Swollen or tender gums
  • Pimples or boils on your gums
  • A swollen jaw
  • A tooth that has become discolored
  • A loose tooth

Because the pulp area has so many nerve endings, infected teeth can be very painful. Root canals have a high success rate and can provide long-term relief and function for the affected tooth.  

What Is a Dental Implant?

When comparing a dental implant vs root canal, dental implants are the more invasive procedure. Dental implants are prosthetic devices used to replace missing teeth, offering a long-term solution for tooth loss. If you have a severely infected tooth, a periodontist will remove the tooth and place the implant in that space. Dental implants are placed by periodontists, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, and some dentists with advanced training. 

The procedure typically takes place in three parts. First, a titanium post is surgically placed in the jaw bone. This becomes the root for the artificial tooth. Once the gums around the post are healed enough, an abutment is placed on top of the implant. This connector holds and supports the crown. Finally, an artificial tooth called a crown is attached to the abutment. The crown is designed to match the color and shape of your natural teeth. 

To qualify for a dental implant, you need to have:

  • Adequate bone density in your jawbone to support the implant. If your jawbone isn’t thick enough or is too soft, you may need a bone graft to support the implant. 
  • Good oral health. Healthy gums and no untreated periodontal disease are essential. 
  • Overall health. You’ll need to be healthy enough to handle surgery. 

Dental Tooth Implant Pros and Cons

When considering a dental implant vs root canal, it’s important to take a look at the pros and cons of each procedure. Dental implants are highly successful and can last for years. The pros of dental implants include:

  • Natural appearance and feel: Dental implants are designed to look, feel, and function like a natural tooth. They can be color-matched to blend in with your other teeth. 
  • Bone preservation: Implants prevent bone loss in your jaw, which typically occurs when teeth are missing. The titanium post stimulates bone growth through osseointegration. 
  • Tooth preservation: Unlike traditional bridges, dental implants don’t require adjacent teeth to be ground down or altered. This preserves more of your natural tooth structure. 
  • Durability: As long as you properly care for your implant and oral health in general, your dental implant can last a lifetime. 
  • Maintenance: Dental implants don’t require special cleaning products or procedures beyond standard oral hygiene like brushing, flossing, and regular check-ups with a dentist. 

The cons of dental implants include: 

  • Cost: One of the main differences in a dental implant vs root canal is the cost. Dental implants are more expensive upfront. However, the long-term benefits often justify the cost. 
  • Invasiveness: The placement of a dental implant requires an outpatient surgery that carries inherent risks like infection, nerve damage, and sinus problems. 
  • Time-consuming: The process can take several months, involving multiple steps and time to heal.
  • Eligibility: You have to be healthy and have enough bone density in your jaw to support the implant. Health conditions like uncontrolled diabetes, cancer, or smoking make the implant less likely to be successful.

Root Canal Pros and Cons

The pros of root canals include:

  • Pain relief: Root canals alleviate the severe pain caused by an infected tooth pulp. 
  • Tooth preservation: The procedure lets you keep your natural tooth, which helps preserve your bite and jaw alignment. 
  • Cost-effective: Root canals typically cost much less than dental implants. 
  • Natural appearance: After the procedure, the treated tooth can be capped with a crown that matches your natural teeth and looks very natural. 
  • Infection control: An untreated infection can spread to your jaw and surrounding teeth. Removing the infected pulp prevents the spread of infection. 

The cons of root canals include: 

  • Multiple visits: Depending on how complex your case is, you might need multiple visits. However, lots of root canals can be handled in one visit. 
  • Risk of re-infection: There is a small risk that the tooth can become reinfected if the filling material breaks down or if new decay forms around the treated tooth. You may have to have another root canal if this occurs. 
  • Weakening of the tooth: One huge drawback of a root canal is that it weakens the tooth structure. Your tooth may become more brittle and susceptible to fractures. However, a crown can help protect the tooth.  

Is a Root Canal Worth It?

Looking at the pros and cons of a dental implant vs root canal, you may be wondering if a root canal is worth it. The answer to this depends on your individual circumstances, including the condition of your tooth and your overall dental health. If your tooth is too damaged to be saved, extraction and replacement with a dental implant is the better option. 

However, if the tooth can be saved and has a good chance of long-term success, a root canal is usually worth it. A root canal can save your natural tooth, relieve pain, and prevent further dental issues. Recovery time is typically a week or less, and the results last for years. 

How to Choose Between Them

If you need to decide between a dental implant vs root canal, you’ll want to consider a number of factors. Most importantly, consult with your dentist or periodontist to understand which treatment might work better for you. 

When choosing between a dental implant vs root canal, you’ll want to consider:

  • The condition of your tooth. If the tooth is severely decayed and cannot be saved, a dental implant is best. However, if there’s enough structure to save the tooth, you may want to consider a root canal. 
  • Durability: While both implants and root canals can last for a long time, implants tend to have more longevity. Some patients opt for a dental implant so they don’t risk needing another root canal or an eventual implant. 
  • The complexity of the procedures: A root canal can usually be completed in one visit, while a dental implant takes several visits over months to complete. If your tooth can be saved and you don’t want to deal with multiple visits, you may want to opt for a root canal. 
  • Cost: Looking at the cost of a dental implant vs root canal, dental implants cost much more. If you don’t have the budget or the dental insurance to cover an implant, a root canal may be the better option. However, it’s important to remember that an implant that is cared for can last a lifetime. Considering this, the dental implant is typically worth the initial cost. 
  • Risks: When it comes to the risks of a dental implant vs root canal, both come with some risk. With a root canal, the risks include a weakened structure and possible reinfection of the tooth. The risks that come with a dental implant include surgical complications, infection, and implant failure. You’ll want to talk with your dentist or periodontist to better understand these risks. 

If you’re in need of a dental implant or any other periodontal treatment, Utah Periodontal Specialists can help. We use proven-techniques and evidence based treatment to get you the best results possible. We provide treatment at our two conveniently located offices in Salt Lake and South Jordan. Contact Utah Periodontal Specialists today to schedule an appointment today.