When you experience a toothache, the first thing you may think is “root canal.” And while root canal treatments are standard procedures, they’re not the only option for dealing with dental pain. In some cases, an extraction may be a better choice.

In this article, we’ll explore the differences between a root canal vs. extraction so you can make an informed decision as to which treatment is right for you.

What is a root canal?

A root canal is an endodontic procedure used to treat infections in the tooth’s root. The root of the tooth is located below the gum line, and it contains the pulp, which is responsible for providing blood and nutrients to the tooth. When this pulp becomes infected, it can cause significant pain and inflammation. A root canal will remove the infected pulp and replaces it with a synthetic material.

What is an extraction?

An extraction is a procedure used to remove an affected tooth from the mouth. There are several reasons why you may need an extraction, including:

  • Severe decay
  • Infection or abscess
  • Periodontal disease
  • Impacted wisdom teeth

The main difference between a root canal treatment and tooth extractions is that root canals are used to treat infections, while extractions remove the natural tooth.

Usually, a root canal is a better option than extractions because they are less invasive, won’t leave you with a missing tooth, and can often be performed in a single visit. However, there are some situations where tooth extraction is the best option for a damaged tooth. If you have severe decay or infection, for example, an extraction may be the best way to treat the problem and improve your oral health.

Root Canal Procedure


If you are scheduled for a root canal treatment, your dentist will likely give you a few instructions to follow before the treatment. You will likely need to avoid eating or drinking anything for a few hours before the procedure. Your dentist may also instruct you to take antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection before the procedure and painkillers to help reduce pain.


During a root canal treatment, the dentist will take x-rays of your mouth to see how far the infection goes and look at the adjacent teeth. They will apply a local anesthetic around the infected tooth and the neighboring teeth and begin removing the infected tooth pulp from the tooth and replacing it with a synthetic material. The procedure usually takes one to two hours to complete.

After Care

The numbing medication used during treatment will wear off, which means you might feel some pain and discomfort in the area for a few days afterward. The mild soreness of keeping your mouth open for a prolonged period during the procedure can also last for an extended time. Your dentist may prescribe stronger pain relief medications if needed.


Most root canals cost between $500 and $800. However, they may vary depending on the location of the dentist, the condition of the tooth or teeth, and the complexity of the procedure.

Extraction Procedure


If you are having a tooth extracted, your dentist will give you specific instructions on how to prepare. You may need to stop taking blood thinners several days before the procedure. You will also likely need to stop eating and drinking anything after midnight the night before your extraction.


Tooth extraction can take anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour, depending on the complexity of the procedure. In most cases, you will get a local anesthetic to numb the area. However, in some cases, you may need general anesthesia to numb the pain for more complex extractions.

After Care

When a tooth is lost, it takes time for the body to heal and recover. This usually requires at least one day of rest to reduce any infection risk or discomfort caused by lack-of activity during this period. You should have minimal movement during this time so as not to irritate your remaining teeth while you are healing. You may also experience some light bleeding that can be mitigated by using gauze in the area where the tooth was removed.


The average cost of tooth extraction is around $100. However, it can vary depending on the type of extraction that is required. If you need general anesthesia, for example, the cost of the treatment will be higher. If a tooth is impacted and needs to be removed, it can range anywhere from $800 to several thousand dollars.

The Benefits of a Root Canal vs. an Extraction

Root Canal

A root canal is a safe and effective way to treat infected teeth. It is less invasive than extraction and can be completed in a single visit. The benefits of a root canal include:

  • Reduced risk of infection: the root canal removes all of the infected tissue from the tooth, which reduces the risk of infection spreading to other teeth or the gums.
  • Reduced risk of tooth decay: without the infected pulp in the tooth, there is less chance for bacteria to grow and cause further damage.
  • Preserved natural tooth: root canals save the natural structure of a tooth, which may be important for dental restoration in the future.

Tooth Extraction

An extraction is a more invasive procedure than a root canal and carries a higher risk of infection. However, there are some benefits to extractions, including:

  • Reduced risk of future dental problems: when a tooth is extracted, the surrounding teeth do not have to bear the brunt of the pressure that was previously put on the extracted tooth, which reduces the risk of dental problems down the road.
  • Quicker healing time: tooth extractions usually heal faster than root canals, meaning you can get back to your normal routine sooner.
  • Easier dental restoration: once a tooth extraction site has healed, it is typically easier to replace the missing tooth with a dental implant or bridge.

So, Root Canals or Extractions?

Which of these procedures is right for you depends on the individual situation. If you are experiencing pain or other symptoms that suggest a tooth infection, a root canal is likely the best option. If the tooth is severely decayed or has a severe fracture and cannot be saved, tooth extraction may be the best option. Most dentists can identify the correct treatment option or refer you to a specialist who can.

To make a more informed decision on a root canal vs. extraction, you should contact your dentist to set up a consultation to discuss treatment options. Connect with us today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Rief.