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Comparing Root Canal and Extraction

root canal

When dealing with severe tooth decay or infection, it’s important to understand your treatment options. A common question patients ask is, “Should I get a root canal or an extraction?” Indeed, the root canal vs extraction debate is a complex one. Both methods aim to relieve pain and improve oral health, but they take very different approaches.

To assist you in making a more informed decision, we will compare these two procedures in this article.

What Is Root Canal?

A root canal is a dental procedure aimed at treating infection or inflammation in a tooth’s pulp, which is the soft core that runs from the tooth’s crown to the root tip in the jawbone. The pulp contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissues. When this pulp becomes infected or inflamed due to decay or injury, root canal therapy is performed to save the tooth and prevent the infection from spreading.

During the procedure, the dentist or endodontist (a dentist specializing in treating the insides of teeth) will remove the diseased pulp, clean and shape the inside of the root canal, then fill and seal the space to prevent further infection.

What Advantages Does Root Canal Therapy Offer?

  • Pain Relief. Root canal therapy eliminates the pain associated with the damaged or infected tooth. The procedure cleans the infected pulp, thus reducing discomfort and improving oral health.
  • Cost Efficient. A root canal treatment costs significantly less than removing and replacing the tooth with an implant, bridge, or denture. Therefore, it offers a more cost-efficient solution for severely damaged teeth.
  • Retains Natural Tooth. One of the main advantages of root canal therapy is that your natural tooth is saved. You keep your natural appearance, and biting and chewing can remain normal.
  • Efficient Chewing. Root canal therapy restores and strengthens the natural tooth, allowing for efficient and normal chewing. This way, the patient will not experience any difficulties or discomfort while eating.
  • Prevents Jawbone Degeneration. If a problematic tooth is extracted instead of treated, the surrounding jawbone may degenerate due to lack of usage. Root canal therapy helps to save the tooth, preventing jawbone deterioration.
  • Stops the Spread of Infection. A major benefit of root canal therapy is that it prevents the spread of infection to neighboring teeth. If left untreated, an infected tooth can cause serious oral health problems, including losing additional teeth.
  • Improves Overall Oral Health and Wellbeing. With the removal of the infection, root canal therapy enhances oral hygiene, benefiting the whole body’s health. Removing infection means less harmful bacteria in the mouth, which can otherwise enter the bloodstream and affect the whole body’s health.

What Is Tooth Extraction?

Tooth extraction is a dental procedure where a tooth that’s causing pain, infection, or other oral health problems is removed from its socket in the bone. A dentist or an oral surgeon usually performs this procedure.

Common reasons for tooth extractions include:

  • Severe tooth decay
  • Tooth infection
  • Crowding
  • Gum disease.

This surgical procedure may be necessary in cases such as problematic wisdom teeth or a huge cavity in the tooth that has damaged much of its structure. For both types of extraction, anesthesia is typically used to combat the potential dental pain associated with the procedure.

What Are the Benefits of Tooth Extraction?

  • Alleviates Pain. One of the immediate benefits of tooth extraction is pain relief. If a tooth is decayed or infected, it can cause severe discomfort. Extracting it will eliminate this source of pain.
  • Prevents the Spread of Infection. In some cases, a tooth may be badly infected, posing a risk of spreading the infection to other areas of the mouth or body. Tooth extraction can help prevent this from happening.
  • Avoids Overcrowding. Dentists may recommend extraction if the mouth is overcrowded, which can cause issues with alignment and bite. The removal frees up space, potentially avoiding the need for orthodontic treatment.
  • Solution for Gum Disease. Extraction may be best if gum disease has loosened or damaged a tooth beyond repair. This can halt the progression of the disease and protect the remaining teeth.
  • Aids Orthodontic Treatment. Tooth extraction can improve the effectiveness of orthodontic treatments such as braces. This is especially relevant when there is insufficient room for teeth to move into their correct positions.
  • Prevents Damage to Surrounding Teeth. Impacted teeth, particularly wisdom teeth that don’t have enough space to grow properly, can damage surrounding teeth. Extraction can protect these nearby teeth.
  • Eliminates the Risk of Tooth Decay. In some cases, teeth may be more susceptible to decay due to their shape, position, or the patient’s inability to maintain good oral hygiene. Extraction of these teeth minimizes the risk of tooth decay.

Root Canal Vs. Extraction: What Are Their Differences?


The differences between a root canal procedure and a tooth extraction lie in the extent and purpose of the procedure. In a root canal, the dentist removes the infected pulp from within the tooth, cleans and seals the pulp chamber, and places a crown over the tooth to protect it, thus preserving the natural tooth.

However, tooth extraction removes the entire tooth from its socket within the bone, resulting in the loss of the natural tooth.


The distinction between a root canal and a tooth extraction also extends to the number of appointments required. A root canal treatment typically requires one to three appointments depending on the extent of the infection and the complexity of the tooth structure.

Conversely, a tooth extraction typically requires only a single appointment unless it involves an impacted tooth, like a wisdom tooth. In such cases, a more complex surgical extraction might require multiple appointments.


The experience of pain also varies between these two procedures. Modern anesthesia has made root canals generally as comfortable as getting a regular filling, though there might be mild discomfort or sensitivity for a few days post-procedure.

In contrast, while the extraction area is numbed during the procedure to minimize discomfort, patients often experience more post-procedure pain, discomfort, and swelling than a root canal.


Cost-wise, a root canal can be more expensive due to the complexity of the procedure and the materials used. Furthermore, the imposition of a crown adds to the overall cost.

Extractions are usually cheaper, but the cost can escalate if the patient replaces the extracted tooth with a dental implant or bridge.

Long-Term Effects

The long-term effects of a root canal and a tooth extraction differ significantly. A root canal allows the patient to maintain their natural tooth, preserving normal bite and oral function, even though the treated tooth may not be as strong as before.

On the other hand, an extraction leaves a gap in the mouth, which could cause the remaining teeth to shift, potentially affecting the patient’s bite and leading to bone loss in the jaw if the tooth is not replaced.


Recovery periods differ, too. Typically, patients quickly recover from a root canal, experiencing brief, mild discomfort. In contrast, the recovery from an extraction, especially involving dental implants, usually takes longer. The wound might take a week to heal; the bone might take several weeks or even months to heal completely. Patients usually experience more pain and swelling post-extraction than post-root canal.

Is It Better to Get a Root Canal or Extraction?

Your dentist can help you understand your candidacy for extraction or root canal based on your tooth condition, oftentimes leading to a decision between root canal and extraction. In most cases, preservation of the natural tooth via a root canal is preferred, but sometimes extraction is the most beneficial solution due to extensive tooth decay or damage.

Regardless of the choice between a root canal and extraction, remember that proactive dental care is the key to preventing severe tooth conditions from developing in the first place.

Say Hello to Better Dental Health: Contact Us Today!

Choosing between a root canal or extraction depends on factors like oral health, tooth condition, personal comfort, and our dentist’s advice. A root canal aims to save your natural tooth by treating its infected pulp, which helps you maintain your natural smile.

Each treatment option comes with its own set of pros and cons. The decision should involve consultation with our dentist, as we understand your dental health best and can recommend the most suitable treatment. No matter the procedure chosen, prioritizing oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups is crucial for oral health and keeping your smile beautiful.

So, don’t hesitate. Book your appointment today and let Artesa Dental help you maintain a healthy and beautiful smile.

About Dr. Amanda Backstrom

Dr. Backstrom was born and raised in Georgia and graduated magna cum laude with a BS degree in Biology from the University of Georgia in 2002. She earned her Doctor of Dental Medicine from Tufts University in Boston in 2007.

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