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Tooth Extraction vs. Root Canal: All You Need to Know


If you have a deep cavity that can’t be solved by a filling, or even a cracked or infected tooth, then your dentist will likely suggest either a root canal or a complete extraction to solve the problem. The choices may seem extreme—but it’s actually a very common situation that millions of people face every year.

Both treatments are viable solutions for very damaged teeth, but there are vast differences between the two options. If your dentist has presented you with these options, it’s important to understand what you will be facing if you choose one over the other.

Tooth Extraction 101: Saying Goodbye

If you opt for tooth extraction, that means you are getting rid of the tooth entirely. The treatment begins with anesthesia to numb the extraction site. Your dentist will use tools to loosen the tooth and then pull it out. You will feel a bit of pressure, but this usually results in no pain.

The Recovery Process: The extraction site will bleed significantly right after extraction, with some light bleeding for the next 24 hours. You may experience some swelling, and you can hold that off with an ice pack. Over-the-counter pain relievers will help stay ahead of the pain.

The Risks: Tooth extractions come with high risks for infection. When a tooth is removed, the extraction site is left empty. Even if you follow all the advice about aftercare and brushing, that open space can still become a breeding ground for bacteria.

Once a tooth has been extracted, all surrounding teeth are affected as well. If you don’t get a dental bridge or implant to compensate, this will damage your mouth’s structural integrity. Over time, your teeth will shift in your mouth to adjust to the space, and this may lead to misalignment and overlapping.

Average treatment cost: $75 to $300 (non-surgical), $150 to $650 (surgical). Costs are generally higher if the extraction is a dental emergency.

Root Canal 101: Keeping The Tooth At All Costs

Root canals start with x-rays and thorough consultation with your dentist. They will determine your root canal strategy and calculate overall costs. Each canal in your tooth will need to be cleaned out and treated, so this process will likely take place over several weeks.

You will be given a local anesthetic to numb the pain, and then the tooth will be drilled to expose the infected pulp. All the decay and damage will be cleaned out, and the canals filled with material to seal the tooth against further infection. After sealing, a dental crown is placed on top for added protection and to restore functionality.  

The Recovery Process: Contrary to popular media, root canals are almost entirely painless. The whole procedure is performed with anesthetics to ensure this.

The Risks: Root canals have a high probability of future complications. For example, the tooth underneath the crown can be re-infected. Improper or incomplete removal of the roots can lead to more pain—which is something you’ll definitely not want to experience.

Average Treatment Cost: $600 to $1400, depending on the tooth location.

Which One Is Better?

The real answer to whether a root canal or tooth extraction is better depends on your situation. If you are qualified for both treatments, your dentist is more likely to recommend a root canal because you will get to keep your original tooth. If the treatment is done well, you will never have to think about that tooth again.

However, if your tooth is so damaged that your dentist cannot save it, you will have no choice but to opt for full extraction. Depending on the location of the tooth, you may have to get a dental implant right after.  


Tooth extractions and root canals are two very different treatments used for damaged teeth. They each have their pros and cons, and your dentist will lay them all out for you depending on your tooth’s current condition. No matter what happens, trust that your dentist will always have your best interests in mind.

If you are in need of emergency dental services in Raleigh, NC, Dr. Thomas E. Cooke Family Dentistry is here for you. Our staff is available long after regular business hours, including on weekends. Contact us to book a same-day or next-day appointment!