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Root Canal vs. Extraction: What Is the Difference?

Tooth extraction process

When faced with dental issues like tooth decay, infection, or damage, individuals often wonder, “Should I get a root canal or an extraction?” These situations can result in severe pain and have a considerable impact on oral health. Understanding the differences between root canals and extractions and their pros and cons becomes crucial to making an informed decision.

By evaluating factors such as the extent of the problem, the condition of the tooth, and the long-term outlook, you can determine whether a root canal or extraction is the most suitable treatment option.

What Is a Root Canal?

One dental procedure called a root canal is used to treat and save a tooth that is severely decayed or has an infected pulp. This treatment is performed when a tooth’s nerve or pulp becomes infected and damaged. The pulp and nerve are extracted during a root canal procedure, and the interior of the tooth is sealed and cleansed to stop further infection.

In addition to reducing discomfort and swelling, this treatment can stop an infection from spreading to nearby teeth.

What Are the Advantages of Root Canal?

  • Saves the Natural Tooth. The prime advantage is that it saves your natural tooth, preserving its functionality and appearance without needing an artificial replacement.
  • Prevents Spread of Infection. The procedure removes the pulp causing an infection, preventing it from spreading to the adjacent teeth or gum.
  • Efficient Chewing. Since the tooth’s natural structure is preserved, it ensures normal biting force and sensation and contributes to efficient chewing.
  • Maintains Tooth Alignment. Keeping the original tooth in place helps maintain the alignment and spacing of your teeth and prevents issues that may arise from a missing tooth, such as shifting other teeth.

What Are the Disadvantages of Root Canal?

  • Post-Procedure Pain or Discomfort. Despite modern techniques and anesthetics, some people might experience minimal to moderate pain or discomfort for a few days after the procedure.
  • Possible Need for Additional Treatment. In some cases, the procedure may not successfully remove all of the infection, necessitating further treatment or even tooth extraction.
  • Tooth Fragility. After a root canal, the tooth often becomes more brittle and prone to fracture over time. To counteract this, the tooth must often be restored with a crown for reinforcement.
  • Cost. Generally, root canal therapies are more expensive than other dental procedures, given their complexity and the need for a follow-up restoration, like a crown.

What Is Tooth Extraction?

A tooth is extracted fully from its socket in the bone. It’s typically done when a tooth is too damaged or decayed to be repaired or to resolve overcrowding, disease, or infection. An oral surgeon can perform the process. Following care instructions to prevent complications like a dry socket or infection post-extraction is important.

What Are the Advantages of Tooth Extraction?

  • Reduce Pain. A damaged, decayed, or problematic tooth can cause intense pain. By undergoing a tooth extraction, this source of dental pain gets removed, and you may soon experience relief while taking some counterpain medicines.
  • Prevent the Spread of Infection. An infected tooth can serve as a source of infection that could spread to other healthy teeth or the jawbone. A tooth extraction can entirely remove the diseased pulp and prevent this spread.
  • Make Space for Alignment. In some common situations, like crowded molar teeth or misaligned bites, tooth extraction may be the only viable option to restore healthy smiles. This procedure can make room for the alignment of neighboring teeth.
  • Cheaper Option. Compared to endodontic or root canal treatment, tooth extraction could be a more affordable care choice for teeth, though it may entail expensive follow-up care like an artificial tooth replacement or crown for protection.

What Are the Disadvantages of Tooth Extraction?

  • Affect Natural Appearance. A tooth extraction, especially of an adult tooth, could disrupt the natural tooth structure. You may need a false or artificial tooth to maintain the appearance of your teeth, which could lead to a darker tooth or not match your natural teeth.
  • Tooth Extraction Risks. Like many medical procedures, tooth extraction carries certain risks, whether a simple or surgical extraction. There could be a deep infection, periodontal infection, bone tissue trauma, tooth fracture, or bone deterioration.
  • Healing Time. After the surgical procedure, the site where the tooth is extracted takes time to heal. During the days of healing, you may face limitations regarding your diet and activities.
  • Possible Impact on Surrounding Teeth. Sometimes, the complete removal of a bad tooth can affect the alignment of adjacent healthy teeth. Over time, these teeth may shift, leading to an atypical tooth position or a bite collapse.

Root Canal vs Extraction: How Do They Differ?


In a root canal procedure, the dentist takes out the inflamed or infected pulp from inside the tooth, shapes and cleans the inner part of the root canal, then fills and seals the space to prevent further infection. Conversely, a tooth extraction involves removing the entire tooth from its socket within the bone. Following the loosening of the tooth, the dentist will gently move it back and forth until it can be extracted from its socket.


A root canal can take multiple appointments, depending on the severity of the infection or inflammation: one to clean out the pulp and shape the root canal and a second appointment to fill the canal and restore the tooth. On the other hand, an extraction typically only requires one appointment. However, if multiple teeth are to be removed or if there are complications, more appointments may be necessary.


Both procedures will involve some level of discomfort during recovery. After a root canal, the tooth and surrounding area may feel sensitive or tender. Over-the-counter or prescribed pain medications can manage this discomfort. After an extraction, you may experience moderate pain after the local anesthesia wears off. Cold compresses and pain medications can help manage this pain. It typically subsides after a couple of days.


A root canal can be more expensive initially due to the complexity of the procedure, the necessary follow-up appointments, and the cost of a crown to strengthen the tooth after the procedure. Although less expensive upfront, an extraction may cost more in the long run if a dental implant, bridge, or denture is necessary to replace the missing tooth.

Long-Term Effects

Root canals save the natural tooth and maintain your natural bite and oral health. Without a natural tooth, you can experience bone loss and displacement of surrounding teeth. Tooth extraction ends the deep decay or infection, but losing a tooth can alter your bite, impair your ability to chew properly, and lead to the shifting of other teeth.


For a root canal, recovery involves avoiding chewing on the treated tooth until your dentist has fully restored it. You may also have to take antibiotics if there is a severe infection. Recovery from extraction requires more time and care. You will need to follow a soft food diet and avoid strenuous activity. For dental hygiene, you can rinse with warm salt water to aid healing.

A painful condition called “dry socket” can occur after extraction if the blood clot that usually forms after the procedure dissolves or is dislodged before the wound heals completely. This is a potentially dangerous complication.

How to Choose the Right Treatment?

A thorough examination by a dental professional will help determine the most appropriate treatment option for your specific case. They will consider your dental history, clinical findings, and X-rays to provide tailored advice.

Remember, preserving natural teeth whenever possible is the best option for long-lasting oral health. Root canals will keep your natural teeth intact and prevent the need for more extensive dental work in the future.

However, tooth extraction may be the only viable solution in cases of severe damage, infection, or misalignment. If tooth extraction is required to repair your smile and preserve proper oral function, you can discuss replacement options like dental implants, bridges, or dentures with your dentist.

Frequently Asked Questions About Root Canal and Tooth Extraction

Is It Better to Get a Root Canal or Extraction?

Deciding between a root canal and a tooth extraction depends on several factors, including the affected tooth’s condition, oral health, and personal preferences. In most cases, saving your natural tooth whenever possible is considered better, as root canals allow you to preserve your natural smile and maintain proper oral function.

However, there are situations where a tooth extraction may be necessary, such as severe tooth decay or infection beyond repair. Consulting with a dentist will assist you in deciding what is best for your situation.

Does a Tooth Extraction Hurt More Than a Root Canal?

Pain experienced during a dental procedure can vary from person to person, and root canals and tooth extractions can be performed with local anesthesia to ensure comfort. Patients undergoing a tooth extraction may experience more discomfort during recovery, as the extraction involves completely removing the tooth from its socket.

A root canal relieves pain caused by an infected or damaged tooth. Ultimately, the level of pain experienced depends on individual factors and the complexity of each specific case.

How Can I Decide If I Should Get a Root Canal or Extraction?

Choosing between a root canal or extraction is not a decision you should make alone. Seeking advice from a dentist who can properly evaluate your oral health and make tailored recommendations is essential.

They will consider various factors such as the extent of the tooth damage, the presence of infection, the long-term impact on adjacent teeth, and your overall oral health. Discussing your concerns and preferences with a dental professional lets you decide the most appropriate treatment option for your case.

Discover Your Best Treatment Option: Schedule a Consultation With DNA Dental Dallas Now!

This guide has provided an overview of root canals and extractions, along with significant differences and considerations for selecting the appropriate course of action. However, it’s important to remember that every situation is different, and only a dentist can offer tailored guidance based on your particular requirements.

Our team of experienced professionals at DNA Dental Dallas is dedicated to offering exceptional dental care. We take the time to listen to your concerns, thoroughly evaluate your dental health condition, and provide comprehensive treatment recommendations.

Contact us today to book an appointment so you can decide on your dental health with a better understanding. We can work together to choose the appropriate action to maintain your dental health and restore your smile.