Root Canal vs. Extraction

Dental Health
By: Spirit Dental
May 16, 2018

Woman massaging her left cheek

Updated July 2021

Root canals and extractions: neither of these is pleasant, but sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do, right?

Both of these treatments are available when a tooth has suffered from an extensive amount of damage that can’t be remedied by a simple drill and fill procedure. But what are the differences between these two options, and what can you expect when you undergo each one? We’ve compiled some information below to help you understand what a root canal entails, as well as when a tooth extraction might be necessary.

Root Canals: Saving Teeth from Extraction

If your dentist checks a tooth and realizes that the pulp (the deepest layer of the tooth) is severely damaged or diseased, or perhaps even totally dead, a root canal might be the next appropriate step. However, the rest of the tooth will still need to be in good enough condition to remain in your mouth.

During a root canal procedure, your dentist will numb the area so that he or she could create an opening in the tooth. Using special instruments, the pulp will be removed completely, and the area where the pulp used to be will be cleaned out. This will help ensure that no bacteria remains. But that’s not the end of the root canal.  

Once the pulp chamber of the tooth is cleaned out, your dentist will fill it with a material referred to as gutta-percha. This material will serve to replace the pulp that was removed so that your tooth could function just like it used to when it was healthy. If necessary, a crown could also be placed on your tooth in order to give it more strength and to fix its appearance.

What about the pain after the root canal is complete? Well, patients might experience a bit of pain for a few days, and it could range from dull to sharp. You might need to take some over-the-counter pain relievers, but if you find that the pain is too much to bear, it’s recommended that you contact your doctor to get some advice.

Tooth Extractions: The Last Resort

When your dentist determines that there is nothing that can be done to salvage a tooth, he or she might recommend a full extraction of that tooth.

Your dentist will start by numbing the area so that you could get through the procedure with little, if any, pain. Using special tools, he or she will then work on loosening the tooth before pulling it out. We know, this sounds vicious, but you will likely only feel some pressure during the procedure.

Because there will be bleeding after a tooth extraction, your dentist will probably tell you to bite down on some gauze in order to help the blood clot. You might have to bite down for upwards of 45 minutes, and you may also experience light bleeding from the extraction site for the next day or so as well.

After a tooth extraction, facial swelling might occur, but applying an ice pack could be helpful to reduce inflammation. Also, when you eat, it’s best to choose foods that are cool and soft so that you can avoid irritating the area where your tooth used to be. But don’t worry, as you’ll be back to your regular diet before long. Just be aware that it could take two or more weeks for your mouth to totally heal, so it’s a good idea to brush very gently until you’re all better.

Dental Implants After a Tooth Extraction: Something to Consider

According to experts, the gap that is left behind after a tooth is extracted could become problematic over time. That’s because the teeth around that space could end up shifting out of place, or you might end up experiencing difficulty speaking or chewing because you won’t have all of your teeth. And the scariest part of all: bone loss in the jaw could occur as well. Yikes!

To avoid all of those problems, consider talking to your dentist about getting a dental implant to replace the tooth that needed to be removed. Dental implants look and function just like real teeth, and they help prevent bone loss in the jaw. But, because they could be quite pricey, getting the right dental insurance could help put your mind at ease when it comes to affording this modern treatment option.

Final Verdict: Root Canals Are Preferred, but Not Always Possible

Between a root canal and a tooth extraction, a root canal is often the preferred choice because it works on fixing your natural tooth so that it could remain in place. However, a root canal may not always be an option, depending upon the damage that a tooth has incurred. If a tooth is far too compromised, your dentist might recommend an extraction, followed by a dental implant to replace what was lost.

Work with Your Dentist to Decide Which Procedure Is Right for You!

Root canals don’t sound as bad when they’re put side-by-side with tooth extractions, huh? Understanding the pros and cons of a root canal, along with the pros and cons of a tooth extraction, will help you decide which procedure would be best for you. Your knowledge, combined with advice from your dentist, could help you make the right choice that will restore your smile and ensure your teeth and gums remain healthy for a long time to come. If you have concerns about the cost of a root canal or extraction get a quote from Spirit Dental & Vision and see your options.


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  • 9/1/2021

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