Root Canal vs Extraction: How & When to Choose

When faced with severe tooth pain or damage, the decision between a root canal and tooth extraction is pivotal. l In this article we’ll explore how each treatment relieves dental pain, the advantages and disadvantages of both, and provide insights to help you understand which option might be better in various scenarios. Whether preserving your natural tooth with a root canal or opting for extraction, the choice has significant implications for your dental health. Although your dentist is always your best source of information, having an understanding of these options ensures you’re well-equipped to make an informed decision for your oral well-being.

How Does Root Canal Treatment Relieve Dental Pain?

Root canal treatment addresses dental pain by targeting its source – the infected or inflamed pulp inside the tooth. The pulp contains nerves and blood vessels, and when it’s damaged, it can cause significant pain. During a root canal:

Removing the Infected Pulp

The dentist accesses the pulp chamber and removes the infected or damaged tissue. This elimination of the diseased pulp relieves pain caused by inflammation or infection.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

After removing the pulp, the inner chamber of the tooth and the canals are carefully cleaned and disinfected to ensure no residual infection remains.

Filling and Sealing

The cleaned canals are filled with a biocompatible material to prevent reinfection, and the tooth is sealed with a filling or crown.

By treating the internal cause of pain and stabilising the tooth, root canal therapy not only relieves pain but also preserves the natural tooth, maintaining its function and appearance.

What Are the Advantages of a Root Canal?

Root canal treatment offers several advantages, primarily aimed at preserving the natural tooth:

Pain Relief

Effectively alleviates pain caused by the infected pulp.

Tooth Preservation

The procedure saves the natural tooth, maintaining normal bite and chewing function.

Prevents Further Decay and Infection

Removing the infected pulp stops the spread of decay and infection within the tooth.

Improved Oral Health

A successful root canal can contribute to overall better oral health.

Aesthetic and Functional Restoration

The tooth can be restored with a crown or filling, maintaining its aesthetic appearance and functionality.

These benefits highlight the root canal’s role not just in treating immediate dental issues but also in contributing to long-term dental wellness.

What Are the Disadvantages of a Root Canal?

Despite its benefits, root canal treatment also has some disadvantages:

Complexity and Time

The procedure can be more complex and time-consuming than extraction, especially in cases with difficult canal anatomy.

Post-Treatment Sensitivity or Discomfort

Some patients may experience temporary sensitivity or discomfort in the treated tooth.

Risk of Infection or Failure

Although rare, there’s a possibility of re-infection or failure if the tooth is not properly sealed or if undetected canals are missed during the treatment.

Need for Additional Restoration:

Often, a tooth that has undergone a root canal will require a crown for reinforcement, adding to the overall cost and treatment time.

Suggested Reading: Your Complete Guide To Dental Crowns: Purpose, Procedure, And Longevity

These aspects are important to consider when evaluating the suitability of a root canal for your dental needs.

How Does Tooth Extraction Relieve Dental Pain?

Tooth extraction, unlike root canal treatment, completely removes the affected tooth. This process directly eliminates dental pain by:

Removing the Source of Pain

If the tooth is damaged, decayed, or infected beyond repair, extracting it removes the cause of pain.

Preventing Further Complications

Extraction prevents the spread of infection from a severely damaged or decayed tooth to surrounding tissues.

Immediate Relief

Once the tooth is removed, the source of acute pain is eliminated, providing immediate relief.

Extraction can be a straightforward solution in cases where the tooth cannot be saved, offering quick relief from severe dental pain. However, it also means the loss of the natural tooth, which can have implications for oral function and aesthetics.

What Are the Advantages of a Tooth Extraction?

Tooth extraction, while often seen as a last resort, offers certain advantages, especially in situations where a tooth is beyond repair.

Cost Considerations

Generally, tooth extractions are less expensive compared to root canal treatments, especially when considering the potential additional cost of a crown post-root canal.

Quick Procedure

The process of extracting a tooth is typically quicker than performing a root canal. This can be a significant factor for patients looking for a more immediate solution to dental pain.

Complete Removal of Infection

Extraction entirely removes the infected tooth, effectively eliminating the source of infection. This is particularly crucial in severe cases where the infection has the potential to spread to other parts of the mouth or even to the body.

Alleviates Severe Pain and Discomfort

For teeth that are extensively damaged or decayed and causing significant pain, extraction provides immediate relief. In cases where the tooth is causing ongoing discomfort or is a continuous source of infection, extraction can be the most straightforward path to comfort.

While tooth extraction can be advantageous in certain situations, it’s important to consider the long-term implications, such as the potential need for dental implants or bridges to fill the gap left by the extracted tooth. As with any dental procedure, it’s best to discuss your options thoroughly with your dental professional.

What Are the Disadvantages of a Tooth Extraction?

While tooth extraction can be a necessary procedure in certain cases, it also comes with several drawbacks:

Loss of Natural Tooth

The most significant disadvantage is the permanent loss of the natural tooth. Natural teeth are generally stronger and more efficient for biting and chewing compared to artificial replacements.

Potential for Misalignment

The gap left by an extracted tooth can allow adjacent teeth to shift, leading to misalignment issues and potential problems with your bite.

Jawbone Deterioration

When a tooth is removed, the jawbone in that area can begin to atrophy over time due to lack of stimulation. This can affect facial structure and may complicate future attempts to place dental implants.

Need for Replacement

After an extraction, you may need a dental implant or bridge to fill the gap and restore functionality, which can be more costly and time-consuming than the extraction itself.

Risk of Dry Socket and Other Complications

Extractions carry risks like dry socket, a painful condition where the blood clot at the extraction site is dislodged. There’s also the risk of infection or prolonged healing times.

While extraction can provide immediate relief from a problematic tooth, it’s crucial to consider these long-term implications and discuss all potential options with your dental professional. The decision should balance immediate needs with future oral health and functionality.

When Can Teeth Be Saved?

Deciding whether a tooth can be saved hinges on several key factors:

Extent of Damage

If the tooth’s structure is largely intact and the damage is primarily limited to the pulp, a root canal can often save it.

Level of Decay

Teeth with extensive decay reaching deep into or below the gum line might be too compromised to save.

Gum Health and Bone Support

Healthy gums and sufficient bone support are crucial for saving a tooth. If periodontal disease has eroded these structures, saving the tooth becomes more challenging.

Tooth’s Position and Function

Teeth that play a critical role in chewing and have strategic functional importance are often prioritised for saving.

Each case is unique, and your dentist will evaluate these factors to determine if a root canal is a viable option. The decision to save a tooth also considers the long-term prognosis and the overall impact on your dental health.

When Should Teeth Be Extracted?

There are certain circumstances where extraction becomes the preferred choice:

Non-Restorable Tooth

When a tooth is too damaged or decayed to be restored through root canal or other dental treatments.

Severe Periodontal Disease

Advanced gum disease that has significantly deteriorated the bone supporting the tooth, making it unstable.

Financial Considerations

Sometimes, cost factors make extraction a more viable option compared to the expense of a root canal and subsequent restoration.

Patient’s Health Considerations

In patients with certain medical conditions, like a compromised immune system, extraction may be safer to prevent the risk of infection.

In these scenarios, extraction is considered to keep the mouth healthy and to avoid the risks and complications associated with attempting to save a severely compromised tooth.

Is It Better To Get a Root Canal or an Extraction?

The decision between a root canal and an extraction is complex and depends on various factors:

Condition of the Tooth

If the tooth is restorable and the surrounding structures are healthy, a root canal is generally preferred to save the natural tooth.

Long-term Oral Health

Root canals are often better for long-term dental health, preventing issues like jawbone deterioration and misalignment of adjacent teeth, which can follow an extraction.

Cost and Time Investment

While extractions may be cheaper and quicker, they often lead to additional costs for tooth replacement. Root canals, on the other hand, although potentially more costly upfront, can be more economical in the long run.

Personal Health and Comfort

Consider personal health conditions and comfort levels with dental procedures. Some might prefer the quicker route of extraction, while others might prioritise saving their natural tooth.

Dental Professional’s Recommendation

Dentists or endodontists can provide tailored advice based on the specific dental situation and overall oral health.

Ultimately, the better option varies for each individual, and it’s essential to discuss these factors thoroughly with your dental care provider to make the best decision for your oral health.

How to Avoid Root Canal Treatment or a Tooth Extraction

Preventing the need for a root canal or extraction primarily involves maintaining excellent oral health:

Regular Dental Check-Ups

Regular visits to your dentist for cleanings and examinations can catch early signs of tooth decay or damage before they escalate.

Proper Oral Hygiene

Brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and using mouthwash helps prevent tooth decay and gum disease, the primary causes of tooth damage and infection.

Healthy Diet

Limiting sugary and acidic foods and beverages can reduce the risk of tooth decay.

Addressing Dental Issues Early

Seeking prompt treatment for dental issues like cavities can prevent them from developing into more severe problems requiring root canals or extractions.

Protecting Teeth from Injury

Wearing mouthguards during sports or using nightguards if you grind your teeth can prevent tooth damage.

By following these preventive measures, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of needing a root canal or extraction.

Consult Dental Aspects for Root Canal and Extraction Services

At Dental Aspects, we understand that choosing between a root canal treatment and an extraction can be a significant decision. Our team of experienced dental professionals is here to provide comprehensive evaluations and consultations to determine the best treatment for your specific needs. Whether it involves preserving your natural tooth through a root canal or proceeding with an extraction, we are committed to offering personalised and effective dental solutions. We invite you to schedule a consultation with us at our dentists’ Browns Plains clinic to discuss the most suitable option for your oral health. Just call us at (07) 3800 8899 to book your appointment. 

Keep Reading: Don’t Delay Dental Care: Risks Of Ignoring Cracked Or Chipped Teeth


Dr. Asmita Premsegar

Dr. Asmita is the Principal Dentist at Dental Aspects, having studied Dentistry at Griffith University after completing the Bachelor of Oral Health Therapy degree in 2008. Passionate and experienced in all aspects of dentistry, Dr. Asmita is committed to making a positive contribution to the community and the oral health sector, and loves seeing her happy patients' smiles after each visit to our clinic.

About the Author

Principal Dentist

Dr. Asmita is the Principal Dentist at Dental Aspects, having studied Dentistry at Griffith University after completing the Bachelor of Oral Health Therapy degree in 2008. Passionate and experienced in all aspects of dentistry, Dr. Asmita is committed to making a positive contribution to the community and the oral health sector, and loves seeing her happy patients’ smiles after each visit to our clinic.

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