Anyone who presents to the dentist with an extensively decayed or damaged tooth may be given one of two options to fix their tooth – a root canal treatment or extraction of the tooth. The severity of damage to the tooth and the extent of the dental problem usually determines which option would be the preferred one for the patient. A lot of times, your dentist may also take your opinion into consideration regarding the line of treatment. 

From a patient’s perspective, both procedures may appear equally daunting and are often a cause for dental anxiety in the individual. However, the two treatment options should not be viewed as interchangeable. One might wonder, is it better to get a root canal or a tooth extraction?

Root Canal Vs Extraction

What is a Root Canal Procedure?

Injuries or chronic infections can lead to damage of the tooth pulp, which contains the blood and nerve supply of the tooth. A root canal treatment is the most appropriate step taken in such cases to retain the functionality of the tooth after it has become non-vital. 

The root canal treatment is a complex procedure that begins with a thorough oral examination and diagnostic X-rays taken of the affected tooth. The dentist proceeds with numbing the area around the affected tooth with a local anesthesia, followed by removal of the damaged part of the tooth. 

After making an access opening in the tooth, the dentist will then thoroughly clean and disinfect all the root canals. This is aimed at sterilizing the tooth and ridding it of any infection. The root canals are then filled with a substance known as gutta-percha, which takes the place of the pulp in the canal, and is sealed with a permanent filling material. A dental crown is usually placed on top of the tooth to help restore its strength and functionality. 

What Happens in a Tooth Extraction?

A tooth extraction is usually considered a last resort option when there is no other way to save the tooth. Performed under local anesthesia, the dentist uses dental instruments like elevators and forceps to remove the tooth. Tooth extraction is mainly of two types – simple and surgical.


As the name suggests, simple tooth extractions involve numbing of the tooth and pulling it out using dental instruments. These are done on teeth that are already mobile, or those that are still firm but intact and visible in the mouth.


Surgical tooth extractions require a minor surgical procedure to remove and may need stitches on the wound after the extraction is done. Impacted wisdom teeth that are not visible or partially visible, and fractured teeth where the tooth has broken partially or completely are examples of when surgical tooth extraction may be required. 


While the procedure itself is essentially painless in both types of extractions, there may be some amount of discomfort after the effects of the anesthesia wear off. The patient is sent home with a set of post-operative instructions that should be followed strictly to ensure proper healing of the extraction wound. 

Root Canal VS Tooth Extraction Pros & Cons

A root canal treatment has a general reputation for being a costlier and more painful procedure. In comparison, tooth extraction may appear to be the lesser of two evils. 

However, when given the option, a root canal treatment should always be the preferred choice as it serves to retain the natural tooth in the mouth. Moreover, while root canals may appear to be the costlier option in the beginning, getting a tooth extraction can lead to the patient incurring additional costs later on. 


A tooth that has been removed usually requires a replacement since missing teeth can lead to development of dental issues like drifting of teeth, bone loss in the jaw, and problems with chewing and speech. Missing teeth are often replaced by dental implants or dental bridges, which leads to the patient spending even more money than they would have on a root canal treatment.  


The recovery period of a root canal treatment is also virtually non-existent compared to a tooth extraction, which requires special after-care. This is because tooth extraction leaves the patient with an open wound that takes a while to heal and can be a breeding ground for bacteria and infections. 

Which is More Painful – Root Canal or Tooth Extraction?

Since both procedures are done under local anesthesia, patients need not worry themselves about having to go through unnecessary pain. In cases of chronic infection though, the effects of local anesthesia may be minimized in some patients. This can result in some amount of pain experienced during the procedure. 

Certain patients may find root canals to be more painful, while others report experiencing more pain after a tooth extraction. In either case, painkillers are usually advised by the dentist to treat any type of minor discomfort or pain experienced after the procedure is complete. 

Since there is usually an open wound left behind after a tooth extraction, there are increased chances of post-operative infection associated with extractions. Delayed bleeding, swelling, pain and sensitivity if there is exposed bone in the wound are all possible complications of a tooth extraction. For this reason, it is very important to pay attention to the post-operative instructions given by the dentist and follow them strictly. If you do find yourself with any of these symptoms that do not go within a few days after the extraction, it is advised to visit your dentist immediately and seek professional intervention. 

Forming your Decision about Root Canal VS Tooth Extraction

A dentist uses their expertise and professional judgment to give you the best recommendation about the line of treatment you require. If your tooth is worthy of being salvaged, a root canal treatment may be the most ideal choice for you. Alternatively, if the tooth is highly compromised in terms of structural and functional integrity, extracting it may be the only option left. 

Contact our expert staff at River Rock Dental and allow us to assist you with more details about knowing which dental procedure is the right choice for you.