Root Canal Vs. Extraction: Which Is Right For You?

Knowing you have to get a root canal or extraction is scary. With this article, you will understand what each procedure entails, so you’re less apprehensive and are able to make the best choice for you.

8 min readRoot Canal Vs. Extraction: Which Is Right For You?

Root canals are probably the most dreaded potential outcome of a trip to the dentist's office. Extraction isn't a happy outcome either. But sometimes these procedures are necessary, so it's important to understand the differences between each and which is right for you.

Root canals and extractions are both dental procedures used to treat seriously infected teeth. Depending on the severity of the infection, one may be preferred over the other. In this article, we'll look at the differences between root canal vs. extraction, the situations where each is preferred, and what you should expect when making a decision.

Tooth Extraction Vs. Root Canal: A Quick Look

While both procedures are used to help infected teeth, the main difference is that tooth extraction removes the entire tooth, while a root canal keeps the natural tooth intact.

A tooth extraction involves extracting a tooth, just like the name states. Extractions are typically done when a tooth is so badly decayed that it cannot be saved. In some cases, wisdom teeth may need to be extracted if they are impacted or cause overcrowding of the mouth.

Root canals involve removing the soft inner tissues from within a tooth, including the nerve and pulp chamber. The dentist will then clean out any infection in the roots and fill them with a rubber-like material known as gutta-percha. This seals off any remaining infection and helps to protect against future infections.

Root Canal Vs. Extraction: A Detailed Comparison

The main difference between removal versus preservation is very important, but there are a lot of other factors at play as well. Let’s look at the most important aspects of tooth extraction and root canals that will help you decide.


Getting a root canal and extracting a tooth are both painful processes, but are handled in very different ways.

A root canal is a procedure in which the dentist drills down into the tooth and removes any infected tissue. The area is then cleaned, disinfected, and filled with an artificial material before being sealed up. This usually takes one or two visits to complete and takes anywhere from 1-2 hours.

Extraction, on the other hand, requires removing the entire tooth from its socket. Depending on how difficult it is to remove, this process may involve cutting into your gums and breaking apart your teeth before extracting them completely.

Generally speaking, extractions should only be done when necessary. Replacement options, such as dental implants, are much more expensive compared to a root canal.


As with any procedure, these two treatments have their risks.

For a root canal, the main risk is failure to administer the treatment properly. Root canals are usually nothing to worry about in terms of this - WebMD estimates the success rate to be over 95%. However, there is always a chance that the infection will return or that something else may go wrong during the procedure.

Extraction carries risks as well, mainly due to its invasive nature and difficulty in the healing process. It’s important to make sure you follow your dentist’s instructions when it comes to caring for your tooth after extraction to ensure proper healing and avoid any further problems down the road.


These procedures are usually associated with pain, but they may not be as painful as your nightmares suggest. The pain associated with a root canal is usually minimal, and the procedure itself should not be very uncomfortable.

According to Medical News Today, most people only experience discomfort, with post-procedure pain signaling an unsuccessful treatment. An extraction may be more painful because it requires your dentist to remove a tooth from its socket in your jawbone.


Medical and dental procedures like these are typically expensive, and root canals and extractions are no exception. The cost of a root canal ranges anywhere from $500 to $2000, depending on the complexity of the treatment needed.

On the other hand, tooth extraction costs much less - usually just around $100-$200 for simple extractions and up to $400 or more for complex ones. Healthline advises being wary of the low cost of extraction, however, as you may need a surgical extraction instead. These cost at least $4,000 to upwards of $10,000.


Caring for yourself post-operation is very different in both cases as well. After a root canal, you should care for your tooth with regular brushing, flossing, and dental visits.

Tooth extraction is more extensive in that it completely removes the damaged or decayed tooth from its socket in your jawbone. Replacing an extracted tooth with a bridge, implant, or denture will require special attention to keep them clean and healthy, such as brushing the implant separately or soaking it in a cleaning solution.

You also have to be careful immediately following the procedure by rinsing the extraction site to clean it and avoiding the area when brushing, among the other advice your dentist will give you.


Both procedures will leave your teeth looking and feeling better in different ways.

A root canal procedure will save the natural tooth, allowing it to remain in place.

The infected tissue is removed and replaced with a material that helps preserve the structure of the tooth. This will leave your teeth feeling much more comfortable and looking much better than before.

An extraction removes the entire tooth from its socket in your jawbone instead. While this may seem like a permanent solution at first, you’ll need to get a replacement for your missing tooth or teeth, such as an implant or bridge, to prevent further complications and maintain proper alignment of your bite.


As previously stated, both of these procedures are done often and are relatively safe. The safety of root canals is even further enhanced by the fact that they are done under local anesthesia, so you won’t be feeling any pain.

With extractions, a general anesthetic may be necessary depending on the location and severity of the tooth issue. Because the extraction spot poses a risk for infection, however, a root canal is probably the safer bet.


Root canals and extractions are procedures that require a lot of skill, which results in a long amount of time in the dentist's chair. However, root canals are typically longer and more complex procedures than extractions. Depending on the complexity of the case, a root canal may take anywhere from one to three visits, while extraction is usually completed in one visit.

Which Is Better – A Root Canal Or Tooth Extraction?

According to Healthline, most dentists recommend saving the tooth through root canal rather than extracting the tooth entirely, as a study found 94% of teeth were functional 3.5 years after a root canal. Root canals also avoid potential complications associated with tooth extraction, such as jawbone loss.

When it comes to deciding between a root canal vs. extraction, the most important factor is the severity of decay in the tooth or teeth in question. If the decay is severe enough that it has penetrated deep within the pulp chamber and roots of your teeth, then a root canal will likely be recommended by your dentist as opposed to having them removed entirely.

Although root canals are preferred, there are cases where the tooth cannot be saved, and you need an extraction. It's important to talk to your dentist or another medical professional about what's best for your specific case.

How Do I Know Which Procedure To Get?

Choosing between a root canal and a tooth extraction all depends on your dental needs and the condition of your teeth. Both procedures are intended to treat tooth decay, but they’re not always interchangeable.

A root canal saves a damaged or decayed tooth, while an extraction removes it completely. If you’re experiencing a severe toothache caused by decay in parts of your tooth, your dentist may recommend a root canal and crown procedure.

But if your tooth is too severely damaged or decayed for a successful root canal treatment, an extraction may be recommended instead.

Still want to know more about root canals and tooth extractions? Here are our answers to the most commonly asked questions.

Is A Root Canal More Painful Than An Extraction?

Pain from a root canal is a pop culture myth. For most, it’s no more painful than having a filling placed. While the area will be sore for a few days after treatment, the pain is usually managed with over-the-counter medications or dental sedation.

It’s important to remember that root canals are typically done to save an infected tooth from extraction, so while they may seem like the “harder” option at first, they often allow you to maintain your natural teeth and avoid extensive restoration treatments down the road.

Extraction may be an easier option in terms of pain management since it is a one-time procedure, but you may experience discomfort after the extraction and need to take time off to recover.

Additionally, since an extraction removes your natural tooth root, you will likely need to replace it with a bridge or implant to maintain your bite structure and prevent adjacent teeth from shifting out of place, which may cause discomfort or pain as you get used to it.

Is Tooth Extraction Safer Than A Root Canal?

Root canals are safer than tooth extractions, despite what you may have heard. Root canals are typically less painful than extractions because they don’t require cutting into the gums or surrounding tissues as an extraction does. In addition, once a tooth has been treated with a root canal, it’s usually much more resistant to future decay and infection than a tooth that has been extracted.

That being said, root canals and extractions both have their place in dental care, depending on the severity of your condition. It may be much safer for your to remove your tooth than to attempt a root canal if the tooth has been significantly damaged due to decay or trauma.

In addition, patients with compromised immune systems may be better served by an extraction rather than a root canal, as bacteria sometimes survive within the roots of a treated tooth and cause infections.

What Are The Disadvantages Of A Root Canal?

Root canals may have many benefits for you, but there are certainly drawbacks, too.

First, root canals are expensive. The cost of the procedure will vary depending on where you live, your insurance policy, and how complex your particular case is, but it’s usually more than other dental procedures.

Additionally, root canal procedures often take multiple visits to complete. This means that you may need to come back multiple times for treatment if there is a complicated situation or infection present.

Finally, some people experience post-procedure pain or sensitivity afterward. This isn't always the case, but it's something to keep in mind when considering a root canal procedure.

Overall, though, the benefits often outweigh these drawbacks if a root canal is what you need.

What Is An Alternative To A Root Canal?

Tooth extraction is the main alternative to a root canal, but it is typically used only after a root canal fails. A root canal may be necessary when the soft tissue inside your tooth, known as the pulp, becomes infected or damaged. In this case, an extraction would not solve the problem, and a root canal procedure is needed to prevent further damage to your tooth.

Another alternative is to leave the tooth in place and manage your symptoms with antibiotics or pain medications. However, this option is rarely suggested as it does not address the underlying cause of the issue and eventually leads to further damage.

Do Root Canals Always Need Crowns? Do I Need A Crown?

Root canals usually require a crown to be placed after the procedure is completed, but not always. Crowns are needed to protect the tooth from fracturing and provide additional strength, as the root canal procedure weakens a tooth that has been compromised by decay or infection.

However, if a patient’s bite is very even and the remaining natural tooth structure is strong enough to withstand any force applied to it, then a crown may not be necessary for a successful outcome of the root canal.

You will probably need a crown unless you are extremely fortunate. If your tooth is badly decayed or has a large filling, then the chances of it surviving without a crown are slim.

Can I Brush My Teeth After Tooth Extraction?

Yes, you are able to brush your teeth after tooth extraction, but you will require some changes to your oral hygiene routine to do so safely. When you have a tooth extracted, there is a pocket of tissue left in the socket. This area is vulnerable to bacteria and other debris that cause infection if left alone.

You'll need to use an antibacterial mouthwash, swish gently around the extraction site, and brush your teeth carefully with a soft-bristled toothbrush.

Can You Get A Tooth Extraction While Pregnant?

It is usually safe for women to undergo dental procedures during pregnancy, including extractions. However, there are certain risk factors and considerations that should be taken into account before undergoing any procedure, especially while pregnant.

You should discuss the risks and benefits of a particular procedure with your dentist before deciding on whether or not to receive a tooth extraction during pregnancy.

Can I Get An Infection From A Tooth Extraction?

A tooth extraction will create an open wound, which means an infection is always a possibility. Therefore, it's important to look for signs of infection after tooth extraction. These include redness, swelling, and pain that persists after the procedure. If any of these signs occur, it's important to contact a dentist for further evaluation and treatment.

Finishing Up

When it comes to root canal vs. extraction, the best option depends on your situation. If you have a severely damaged or decayed tooth, root canal therapy may be the better option, as it will help preserve your natural tooth and prevent further damage. If your tooth is irreparable and causing pain and discomfort, then extraction may be necessary to remove the source of the problem and alleviate any symptoms you have. Before making a final decision about which treatment is right for you, always talk with your dentist to determine what’s best for your specific situation.