I have a tooth with a filling that has been hurting for ages. I’ve been avoiding the dentist, but finally went in. The dentist told me I seem to have recently developed an infected tooth and should have it extracted. Is the only option available having a tooth pulled? This is a front tooth and I don’t want to look like a hillbilly.
Unless that tooth is so far gone it cannot be saved, then no, a tooth extraction is not your only option. I am a tad frustrated with your dentist for a couple of reasons. First, he is under an ethical obligation to give you all treatment options. Second, it is always in the best interest to try and save as much natural tooth structure as possible. Though, obviously, some dentists will put more effort into saving teeth than others.
You said your dentist described this as a recent infection. That doesn’t sound like a tooth that is so far gone it cannot be saved, though I would consider it an urgent dental issue.
I would ask for a root canal treatment, though you may want to seek treatment with someone else. A root canal will remove the infected pulp. In most cases, a dentist would place a dental crown over the canaled tooth. However, on a front tooth, I would highly recommend you get a porcelain veneer done instead. This is because of the difference in biting forces between the front and back teeth.
One word of caution here. While almost any dentist can do the root canal treatment, you will need an expert cosmetic dentist to do the porcelain veneer. Front teeth are the hardest to get to look natural, so you want someone with proven expertise and artistry.
Once you have the infection dealt with, I would look for an AACD accredited dentist to do the veneer. These are the best cosmetic dentists in the country and can give you gorgeous results.