Tooth Extraction Vs. Root Canal: Which Is Best For You?

Posted on May 3rd, 2023 at 11:52 AM
Tooth Extraction Vs. Root Canal: Which Is Best For You?

There are times when tooth damage runs too deep — literally — to be solved by a cleaning or filling. In these cases, dentists have to dig deeper to solve the problem. Root canals and tooth extractions are two methods that involve removing damaged or infected tissue from your mouth; however, this similarity doesn’t mean the terms should be used interchangeably. 

Let’s explain the differences between a tooth extraction vs. a root canal.

What Is a Tooth Extraction?

As the name implies, a tooth extraction involves removing the tooth completely from the socket. This is commonly referred to as pulling a tooth. Tooth extractions are used when a tooth has been damaged beyond repair, whether due to severe tooth decay, fractures, impaction, or other reasons. 

Before the procedure, the patient receives a local anesthetic to numb the tooth and surrounding gum tissue. The dentist will then loosen the tooth and lift it from the socket. In some cases, they may need to make incisions in the gums. Once the tooth is removed, the dentist cleans and disinfects the socket. They may add a dental bone graft to prevent bone loss in the jaw. Finally, the wound is stitched shut. 


If your damaged tooth is causing you severe pain, pulling the tooth out is, ironically, one of the quickest ways to deal with it. While the removal site will hurt, the pain of the tooth itself will disappear as soon as it’s removed from your mouth. Tooth extraction is also generally the cheaper of the two procedures. 


As with any dental surgery, there is some pain after tooth extraction. There’s also a high risk of infection due to the empty space in the gums. If an infection develops and isn’t treated, it can quickly spread to other teeth, requiring more surgery to correct. 

In addition, a missing tooth can cause other teeth to shift or grow weaker due to lack of support. This can lead to misalignment and overlapping. You can get a dental implant to fill the space, but not only is that another expensive procedure, you need to wait until the jaw has healed entirely. 

Recovery Period

It’s common to experience light bleeding for 24 hours after having a tooth extracted. Because an elevated heart rate can increase bleeding, it’s best to avoid strenuous activity for at least two days. In the week following the surgery, be sure to:

  • Avoid hard, crunchy foods
  • Avoid drinking through straws, as this can dislodge clots
  • Keep the wound clean
  • Take all medications as directed

While it only takes a day or two to recover enough from the surgery to return to work, it takes several weeks for the jawbone to heal completely. If you’re hoping to get a dental implant to replace the missing tooth, you’ll need to wait until then. 

What is a Root Canal?

As opposed to a tooth extraction, which removes the entire tooth, a root canal targets pulp within the tooth. Because a fully developed tooth can survive without pulp, infected pulp can be removed without having to take the tooth with it. 

After the patient is numbed with local anesthesia, a sheet of rubber or vinyl is placed on the affected tooth, as well as the adjacent teeth. The dentist cuts a hole in the sheet to expose the affected tooth, then drills into the tooth and removes the pulp and other infected tissues. Once the tissue is removed, the dentist cleans the area and applies antiseptic or antibacterial solutions to keep it clean and stave off infection. They then close the hole with a special filling. 


While there is some pain after a root canal, it’s generally less painful than a tooth extraction (although this can vary from person to person). It also requires fewer follow-up visits and allows you to keep the tooth. Because there’s no hole left in the gums, there’s a lower chance of infection than there is with an extraction. Finally, the recovery period after a root canal tends to be less severe. 


An improperly performed root canal can damage the enamel, which can lead to further complications. In addition, if any infected material is left behind, it can develop into an abscess and spread throughout your mouth. A root canal also tends to be more expensive than a tooth extraction. 

Recovery Period

Numbness after a root canal is normal. While it will wear off after a few hours, you shouldn’t eat anything until you have full feeling in your mouth again. You also shouldn’t drink anything hot, or you run the risk of burning your mouth. For the next few days make sure to:

  • Brush and floss carefully 
  • Avoid hard and crunchy foods
  • Take any medication as prescribed

Which is Better?

Tooth extraction vs. root canal — which is the winner? The best treatment depends on the extent of the damage to the tooth. Because a root canal only removes the affected tissue, it is generally preferable to a tooth extraction, since you won’t lose the entire tooth. However, if the tooth itself is severely damaged, an extraction may be the only solution. Talk with your dentist to determine the best course of action.. 

Get to the Root with Dr. Mahoney and Sleep Dentistry

Whether it’s a root canal, tooth extraction, or just a simple teeth cleaning, it’s natural to want high-quality care for your mouth. With Dr. Mahoney and Sleep Dentistry, you can rest easy throughout your procedure and know that your dental health is in good hands. Contact us and get scheduled today!