September 8, 2021

Root Canal or Extraction: Which Do I Need?


A root canal is a procedure in which the soft center of your tooth known as the pulp is removed because it has become damaged or infected. This is a painless procedure because you will be given a local anesthetic and the first appointment will relieve any pain you already have from the decayed tooth.

During a root canal procedure, an opening will be made into the top of the tooth. The pulp will then be scraped out and all of the canals inside your tooth will be thoroughly cleaned to ensure there are no bacteria left behind.

The center of your tooth where the pulp used to be will then be filled with gutta-percha. In future appointments, you will come back to receive a permanent filling and potentially a dental crown to protect the tooth from further damage. 

You can expect to feel some soreness in the 3 days following this procedure but it is typically mild and can be relieved with ibuprofen. Root canals are performed as a last resort to save a tooth from extraction.

When Should You Choose a Root Canal?

If you have significantly decayed teeth, you can attempt to salvage them by performing a root canal instead of having them extracted. Patients are more inclined to opt for root canals in cases where:

  • The affected tooth is visible to others
  • There is ample gum and bone support
  • You can afford root canal therapy
  • You will maintain good oral hygiene
  • Your teeth are likely to shift if you remove the tooth
  • You have lost a significant amount of teeth already/ have difficulty chewing
  • You have a medical condition that makes extraction problematic

When Would You Need an Extraction?

When you decide to have a tooth extracted, it’s typically because you have exhausted all other options and your dentist has determined the tooth cannot be saved. During a tooth extraction, you are also given a local anesthetic. 

Your dentist will use an appliance known as an elevator to loosen the tooth in question and pry it out of the socket with forceps. It should not be painful because you will be numbed, but you may hear some cracking and popping sounds or feel pressure.

You can expect the sight of the extraction to bleed after the procedure is over. You will be given gauze to bite down on for 30-45 minutes or as instructed by your dentist. Other side effects include swelling of the face and bruising.

To help the swelling go down and reduce inflammation, apply an ice pack in 15-20 minute intervals as needed for the next 2 days. Light bleeding will continue for the first 24 hours and you may experience some pain during this time. You can take pain relief medicine but will likely feel better within a few days.

After extraction, you will be restricted to soft and cool foods for the first few days. It typically takes 2 weeks to heal and you can return to eating your regular diet as you feel more comfortable. 

Extractions are not ideal but they are sometimes the only option available medically or financially. Suitable candidates for extraction can include:

  • Your dentist tells you the tooth cannot be saved
  • The cavity is too large
  • You cannot afford a root canal or tooth replacement
  • Your tooth is fractured into the nerve
  • Your tooth has a crack that extends beyond the gumline
  • It is not feasible for you to attend multiple dental appointments
  • The tooth is not visible when you smile
  • You don’t need the tooth for chewing

Deciding Between a Root Canal or Extraction

Because 95% of root canals are successful, they are a great option to save a tooth from extraction. Extracting a tooth is not ideal, because having a missing space in your teeth can cause your teeth to shift, cause problems with chewing, and even cause changes in your facial structure.

However, root canals can be expensive and require multiple appointments. Sometimes extraction truly is the only option available because of the extent of the damage. However, if you do decide to go through with extraction, you should fill the space with a dental implant, bridge, or partial dentures.

Book a Consultation at Waterfront Dental to Find Out What’s Best For You

If you aren’t sure whether a root canal or extraction is the best treatment for you, then contact us at Waterfront Dental. We will weigh all the costs and benefits between the procedures and give you a detailed explanation of what would be the best course of action. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Dawn Merguerian for an oral exam today.

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