Root Canal vs Extraction and When You Should Consider It?

Root canal vs extraction is a phrase many dental patients might hear at some point. Neither sounds particularly appealing, but certain dental situations leave you without any other options. Your dentist might tell you that a traditional filling or other procedure is not enough to handle your dental issues, and he or she might leave you with the options of a root canal vs extraction. You might have the power to decide which one you want, or your dentist may only be able to explain why a root canal vs extraction would be more beneficial.

Anyone who is given the option of a root canal vsextraction is given this option because they have an extensive amount of damage in one or more teeth. Infection or damage that’s too advanced for a simpler procedure can result in a major decision. The problem with a root canal vs extraction is you might not understand why your dentist is opting for one over the other. It’s time to take a comprehensive look at what each one has to offer, what it does, and why your dentist wants you to go the route you’re going.


Woman Opening her mouth

When you’re faced with a root canal vs extraction, you should know what each one really means. Both dental procedures are complicated, and both have a long list of pros and cons. Understanding the exact meaning of each one allows you to better decide the course of action you should take with your dentist.


A root canal is a simple way to save your tooth. If you have an infection or any damage to the pulp of the tooth, your dentist might be able to save the tooth and prevent extraction. A root canal is a dental procedure that doesn’t always have the best reputation, but it’s one that will save your smile by saving your teeth.

Your dentist will numb the area in your mouth where you’re having a root canal. He or she will then open the tooth that’s been affected, and they will remove any dead or disease-ridden pulp from inside the tooth. This prevents it from spreading and making the situation worse. After your dentist gets rid of any diseased or dead pulp, he or she will clean the inside of the tooth thoroughly. Any bacteria left inside the tooth can cause another issue down the road.

To replace the missing pulp, your dentist will fill the chamber of your tooth with a dental material that stands in place of the pulp. If your tooth was weak or lost any strength prior to this root canal, you might be an ideal candidate for a crown. This slips on your existing tooth to help maintain your strength and to improve the appearance of a tooth that was badly damaged prior to your root canal.

What you must understand about a root canal is that it’s not a quick or easy procedure. It’s one in which you are required to make multiple visits to your dentist to have the correct work done. However, the exact number of visits you might make is dependent on the type of problem you have and the extensive nature of the work you need done. You might experience mild discomfort for a few days following your procedure. Your dentist may be able to recommend you painkillers to help ease the pain.


Extraction is simply the removal of a tooth. Your dentist might decide the best course of action is to simply remove an infected or damaged tooth. If your dentist recommends this action, it’s because your tooth is unable tobe saved. The infection or damage to the tooth is too far removed, and saving the tooth is not an option.

When you have your tooth extracted, your dentist uses an anesthetic to ensure you don’t feel any pain in your mouth. They will then loosen the damaged or infected tooth using special dental tools before using forceps to remove the tooth completely. Once the tooth is gone, you will sit still for approximately 45 minutes with gauze in your mouth. This is very important because the natural blood flow from the loss of your tooth must be stopped. You need this time to allow your body to naturally clot the blood and stop the flow.

It could take up to two weeks for your mouth to heal completely, which means you’ll need to adhere to your dentist’s specific instructions to ensure the extraction site does not become infected. It’s not uncommon to experience mild swelling and pain for several days, and your dentist will recommend a safe diet while your extraction site heals.


Root canal vs extraction is not an option your dentist brings up without plenty of knowledge. There are major differences between the two, and there are also many signs that you can look for prior to visiting your dentist. The sooner you realize you have a dental problem, the faster you can have it handled by your dentist. This could save your tooth.

Signs You Need a Root Canal

Woman in pink suffering toothache

It’s not uncommon to feel pain in your teeth, and not all of the aches and pain you might feel indicate you need a root canal. Your dentist should see you every six months for a cleaning, and to help diagnose and locate any health issues you’re having. The faster they can diagnose any oral health issues, the less likely you are to need work as drastic as a root canal.

  • Severe pain when eating
  • Severe pain when pressure is applied
  • Sensitivity to heat or cold that lasts rather than dissipates
  • Small bumps on gums near the pain
  • Tooth darkening
  • Swollen gums near the pain
  • Tender gums near the pain

  • While these might also indicate other oral health issues, it’s never a good idea to ignore these oral health issues. Call the dentist right away. If it’s not too late to save the tooth without a procedure as serious as a root canal, it’s good news.


    Root canals are almost always necessary following certain situations. If you have decay in your tooth you did not have repaired by your dentist; it can spread and cause you to need a root canal. If you have damage to your teeth from an accident, injury, or anything else, you might develop decay and eventually need a root canal if you don’t call your dentist right away. If you have disease from an infection in your tooth, you might need a root canal.


    Dentist holding a extracted teeth

    The signs you need a root canal vs an extraction are nearly the same. However, you should look for the presence of gum disease as well as jaw pain and stiffness to indicate you need an extraction more than you need a root canal. If you have the signs of a root canal in addition to those two symptoms, your dentist will almost always tell you an extraction is the only route to take. It’s often too late to save the tooth that’s been injured or infected by now, and extraction is your option.


    One of the most common causes of extraction is damage. An accident or injury can damage the tooth, which can allow decay to set it. It might not always hurt to alert you there is an issue right away. If the damage is too serious, your dentist will recommend you extract the tooth.

    Another common cause of extraction is an infection. Some infections are treatable, and others are not. Sometimes a treatable infection becomes too serious to treat, and it requires extraction. If you have severe gum disease and the root of the tooth is visible, extraction is often the only answer to your issues.

    Impaction and overcrowding are also causes of an extraction. This might occur if you have a new tooth coming in that simply will not break through the gum, or you have a new tooth that’s causing your existing teeth to shift and crowd. This can change the entire look of your smile, and it can cause health problems you don’t want to deal with. A good example of overcrowding is when your wisdom teeth come in and cause your other teeth to begin shifting to make room. There might not be enough space to accommodate four new molars, and your dentist might recommend you have them removed.

    When They Should be Considered?

    Why would your dentist give you the option of root canal vs extraction if one is better than the other? There are a few options to consider, and these are things you must realize before you make a decision. For example, your doctor might want you to consider one over the other for various reasons.


    A root canal is almost always the better option, and it should always be your first choice if you’re given a choice. The best time to consider a root canal vs extraction is if your dentist tells you that your tooth can be saved. If you can save your tooth and keep your natural smile, it’s almost always the better option.


    On the other hand, there are times when extraction is the better option. For example, if overcrowding is the issue your dentist wants to address, an extraction is the best option. Especially if the extraction is a newly formed wisdom tooth that’s been impacted or is causing your existing teeth to shift or there is an infection or disease in a wisdom tooth you don’t need.

    The other time your dentist might prefer an extraction to a root canal is if you simply don’t have anything left to save. Sometimes the damage to your tooth is too far gone, and there is little your dentist can do to save your tooth. If you are given the option to have your tooth extracted, you can also have a dental implant added after the extraction. This can help restore your smile and prevent your teeth from shifting to accommodate your new smile.


    The cost of a root canal vs extraction is another consideration you might make before deciding between the two. Many patients prefer to go the route of extracting a tooth for the simple reason it’s more cost-effective than a root canal. Depending on the tooth, the average cost of an extraction is between $125 and $350 versus anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000 for a root canal.

    If you have dental insurance, it might cover the costs a bit, but it’s dependent on the type of insurance you have as well as your deductible. If your main reason for choosing an extraction rather than a root canal is affordability, talk to your dentist about your reasoning. He or she might be able to recommend affordable financing so you can afford a root canal to save your tooth.


    If your dentist gives you the option to choose a root canal vs extraction, you should choose the root canal. If the reason you prefer to have your tooth extracted is financial, discuss the issue with your dental professional. It is almost always better to save a tooth than it is to remove it. Unfortunately, some damage and some infections are too much. You cannot save your tooth, and your dentist might just want to extract it.

    If you’re concerned about this option, discuss it with your dentist. He or she can tell you why you are a better candidate for extraction than a root canal, and they can provide you with options to replace the tooth after it’s been removed. You have options, but you must understand what they mean and why you’re being given these options to make the most educated decision. Your teeth cannot be put back in your mouth once they are extracted, which is why this should always be your last resort.

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