What is the difference between a root canal and extraction?

Sometimes patients ask us, “What is the difference between a root canal and extraction?” As endodontists, we advocate for saving the natural tooth whenever possible. That means we’re on Team Root Canal!

In many cases, a successful root canal is the only viable alternative to extracting the tooth. While sometimes an extraction may be necessary, we encourage patients to consider other options first. Once you extract, there’s no further option to save the tooth.

Please note this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional dental care. Each situation is unique, so any decision you make should be in consultation with your dentist and endodontist. However, by learning the differences between tooth extraction and a root canal, you are in a better position to make informed decisions.

The biggest difference between the two procedures is that the affected tooth is removed during dental extraction, while root canals are intended to save the damaged tooth.

Generally, a root canal tends to be more successful than extraction and has a lower risk of complications. In fact, the American Association of Endodontists found that patients who completed a root canal treatment were six times more likely to describe it as painless than those who had a tooth extracted.

Signs a Patient Needs an Intervention Like a Root Canal or Extraction

Both procedures resolve badly infected and damaged teeth. Here are a few symptoms that might suggest you should consider a root canal or extraction; please see your dentist or an endodontist if you notice the following.

  • Sharp or severe pain when biting down or chewing.
  • A cracked or chipped tooth.
  • Tender and swollen gums.
  • Sensitivity to cold or hot drinks and foods (often this sensitivity lingers).
  • Tooth decay.
  • Darkening of the gums.
  • Pimples on the gums.

Also, whenever you notice pain and discomfort in the teeth, discuss your concerns with your dentist. Be sure to seek regular dental care and professional cleanings and address any oral health issues early for the best chance of successful treatment. And don’t forget to brush and floss at home!

Long-term Benefits & Consequences of Dental Extractions

An extraction may be necessary in some cases, especially if the tooth is so deeply damaged that it wouldn’t survive a root canal procedure. In this case, a dental implant may serve as a functional and aesthetic stand-in for the extracted tooth.

The field of dentistry has advanced, so today’s implants are in many ways better than implants of the past. However, whenever a foreign object is implanted in the body, there is always a risk the body may reject it.

Also, fitting implants is tricky, and in reality, nothing fits quite as well within the mouth as the patient’s natural teeth. Nearly everyone feels more comfortable with their natural teeth intact whenever it is possible to do so.

An extraction may also be beneficial in some situations of extreme overcrowding of the teeth. A skilled dentist or endodontist would conduct a thorough examination and discuss whether a root canal, an extraction, or another procedure would be the most appropriate option.

Benefits Of Saving Your Tooth With a Root Canal

The American Association of Endodontists describes a root canal as a procedure designed to remove bacteria from an infected root canal, prevent reinfection, and most importantly, to save the natural tooth.

An endodontist is a dentist who specializes in root canals and other related procedures intended to save natural teeth. During a root canal, the endodontist removes the tooth’s infected pulp and then thoroughly disinfects the inside of the tooth and its complex root system. Then the endodontist fills the tooth and reseals it.

Some patients worry that a root canal is painful. They are pleasantly surprised to learn that today’s root canal is a highly effective procedure that usually relieves pain and helps restore wellness.

Some benefits of saving the natural tooth include:

  • The end result is a more natural appearance since the root canal restored the patient’s natural smile.
  • More comfortable and efficient chewing and biting.
  • Less risk of complications. like the body rejecting an implant.
  • Protects surrounding teeth from extra damage or wear from bridges and implants.
  • Maintains natural spacing by preserving the patient’s teeth, since once a tooth is extracted, other teeth may shift position over time.

Which is Your Best Option?

When facing the choice between extraction or a root canal, ultimately, the patient decides.

An endodontist will advocate for saving the natural tooth unless there are special circumstances where the patient would benefit more from the extraction or the tooth is too badly damaged.

With today’s advanced dental technology, a root canal is the most effective option for many people. Not only does it remove the source of infection for many people, preserving the natural tooth helps restore balance and a sense of wellness.

Occasionally a root canal is not successful for a variety of reasons. A skilled endodontist may be able to retreat the area successfully. Endodontists who specialize in retreatment use advanced imaging tools and other techniques to treat the tooth and root system effectively.

In many cases, an initial root canal or retreatment is the only viable alternative to extracting the badly damaged or infected tooth. However, it all starts with a thorough examination to determine the patient’s options.

Next Steps: Finding an Endodontist

If you need a root canal, consider seeking care from an endodontist specializing in root canals and similar treatment options.

An endodontist is more experienced in performing root canals than a general dentist and is more likely to notice complex tooth or root structures that may add extra layers of difficulty.

A skilled endodontics practice also invests in the latest imaging and cleaning technology to ensure a higher likelihood of success.

Here at Ballantyne Endodontics, we have had the privilege of restoring oral health and well-being to Charlotte-area residents since 2008. We’ve invested in state-of-the-art technology and a highly trained staff, who always serve our patients with compassion and excellence. If you need a root canal, ask your dentist for a referral or contact us for a consultation.