Root Canal VS Extraction

Should you get a root canal, or have your tooth extracted? The final decision in most cases is up to you, but it should not be taken lightly and without extensive consultation with your dentist.

Root canals are generally used to save damaged or diseased teeth that can still be functional and efficient. Meanwhile, extraction should only be performed when the tooth cannot be saved and there is a risk for further health complications.

Root Canal – Saving the Tooth

A root canal, also known as endodontic treatment is the best way of relieving serious pain and making your teeth healthy again. Besides that, it also helps in protecting surrounding teeth from experiencing excessive strain or wear.

If after checking your tooth the dentist realizes that the deepest layer (the pulp) of your tooth is diseased, severely damaged, or possibly even totally dead, the most suitable step may be a root canal.

Such a situation can arise due to tooth decay, when a tooth cracks, gets chipped or injured. It can also happen as a result of continual dental procedures affecting that particular tooth. Under such circumstances, a root canal can save your tooth.

When your dentist realizes that a root canal is needed, it’s best to have it done at the earliest rather than later. Delaying could make the tooth worse and cause more complications. Receiving the correct mode of treatment will not only help you get back to dental health faster but help you chew normally and maintain your natural smile.

The Procedure

A root canal procedure entails removing all the damaged inner pulp, cleaning and disinfecting the affected tooth, and filling in the tooth and sealing it. After numbing the affected area, the dentist will remove the dead or diseased pulp and carefully clean the pulp chambers to ensure that no bacteria have been left behind.

It’s only after the infection has cleared that the dentist can see what your tooth requires for the actual procedure to begin. The cleaned pulp chambers then get filled with suitable dental material to replace the damaged pulp.

Although the procedure varies depending on the type of tooth being addressed, roughly, a root canal takes about 90 minutes per tooth. While most anterior teeth can be done in one hour, molars and premolars can take up to 2 hours to complete. The time it takes to be treated again (retreatment) can change wildly. The kind of aftercare you receive is vital.


Although you are probably going to be numb for between 2 and 4 hours after a root canal procedure, most patients can return to work or school directly following the dental surgery. Most physicians will, however, advise you against eating anything until the numbness goes completely. Ensure your teeth are protected if you are working in manual labor.

Root canal treatment when properly done can save your tooth, and with good dental aftercare, it should serve you for many years without the need for retreatment. When you retain the original tooth, your jawline will stay firm and the other teeth will also be healthy.

Tooth Extraction

If the dentist determines that nothing can be done to save your tooth, they might recommend an extraction. If you have teeth that lack adequate enough bone support due to periodontal disease, they might also be candidates for extraction.

The Procedure

If an extraction is needed, first the dentist will numb the area to lessen discomfort and pain.

Tooth extraction is done by an oral surgeon or dentist is an outpatient procedure. This is a quick procedure performed under either general or local intravenous anesthesia, or at times a combination of both. 

Although surgical tooth extraction may sound rather daunting, with the modern procedures available today and anesthesia, there is nothing to be too concerned about. In most cases, you can expect a small amount of bleeding which is normal. After the extraction, you will get appropriate advice from your dentist regarding the post extraction regimen to adhere to.


Following a tooth extraction, it’s best to take it easy for the remainder of the day. Rest as much as you can with as little exercise as possible. To avoid bleeding, keep your head up. Avoid hot drinks or food until the anesthetic has worn off. Avoiding hot things is important because you cannot feel the pain properly due to numbness and you could scald or burn your mouth.

Take care not to unconsciously chew your cheek, a common problem, as you have no feeling. For at least 24 hours, avoid alcohol as it can encourage bleeding thus delaying the healing.  If you experience extreme pain or swelling, try applying an ice bag or cold cloth and consult the dentist right away. 

Decision Time

Making the root canal vs. extraction choice can be difficult, but your knowledge and guidance from the dentist can help you in determining the best choice for your tooth. The choice you make should help you in restoring your smile and maintaining dental health for a long time.

Author: Peter Mayhew

Peter is a dental hygienist in the city of Chicago, IL. In his free time he likes to write blogs and product reviews on anything dental health related.