Deep Cavity Filling vs Root Canal: Understanding Your Options


Last Modified: June 15, 2024


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With negligence even a small pin-point tooth decay can progress to the point of forming a deep cavity. Prompt treatment tends to be necessary to prevent further damage and save the tooth. In such cases, the dentist typically plans for either of two main procedures: a deep cavity filling or RCT. But how do you understand the difference between the two options? And how do you understand which one is right for your situation? Let’s explore.

Deep Cavity Filling/Indirect Pulp Capping

IPC aims to restore cavities that extend close to the pulp chamber. Pulp chamber forms the core of the tooth and contains nerves and blood vessels. But for a deep cavity to be treated via Indirect Pulp Capping, there must not be any pulp exposure or infection.
What to expect during the procedure:

  • Your dentist carefully removes the decayed portion of the tooth, without touching the pulp.
  • A biocompatible material is placed over the remaining healthy pulp. This promotes healing and protects it from further exposure. Most commonly used materials are Mineral Trioxide Aggregate(MTA) and Calcium Hydroxide
  • Finally, a permanent filling is placed over to restore the tooth’s structure and function. IPCs are less invasive and expensive when compared to RCTs. This makes them a preferable choice of treatment when possible. But their rate of success depends upon the pulp remaining healthy and capable of further healing itself.

Root Canal Treatment

When the decay progresses to a point of causing irreversible damage or infection to the pulp, RCT becomes a necessity. The entire pulp is removed, and the chamber is cleaned and disinfected. Finally sealed off with a specialized filling material.

During RCT, the pulp chamber is cleared of nerves and blood vessels, making it “dead”. The tooth now requires a crown to prevent it from further decay or fractures, as there is loss of tooth structure. It tends to be more extensive and expensive than deep filling, but it allows the natural tooth to be saved.

Which Option Is Right for You?

The deciding factors for choosing between deep cavity filling and root canal are:

  • Extent of decay
  • Health of remaining pulp
    Your dentist uses x-rays and clinical examination to assess and determine the most appropriate course of action.

In general, a deep cavity filling may be recommended if:

  • – The cavity is deep but has not yet reached the pulp chamber
  • – The pulp appears healthy and capable of healing
  • – There are no signs of infection or significant inflammation

A root canal, on the other hand, is typically necessary if:

  • – The pulp has been exposed or infected due to deep decay
  • – There are visible signs of pulp damage or inflammation
  • – The tooth has suffered trauma or injury, compromising the pulp

It is essential to understand that leaving a cavity untreated for long increases the need for more extensive treatments. Further progression of decay results in RCTs and also extraction down the line. Dealing with the issue asap helps to preserve your natural tooth and prevent need for any further extensive treatment.

So, when experiencing tooth pain or sensitivity, don’t think twice before calling your dentist. They help to diagnose as well as plan for appropriate treatment options to restore your dental health and prevent further complications.

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