Our Guide to a Root Canal vs Extraction

The decision between saving your tooth with root canal treatment or extracting your tooth can be a difficult one.  To make the best decision for your dental health and your appearance, you need to know what makes these procedures differ from each other. To help our patients and others decide, our team at Lowry Endodontics has created this generalized breakdown of differences between a root canal vs extraction.  It is important to remember that your situation is unique to you and your circumstances.  The comprehensive evaluations at Lowry Endodontics are designed to guide you through the decision-making process.

Procedure Types

Root canal treatments and extractions are two very different types of procedures.  One is designed to save your tooth and the other is designed to remove it completely.  

Despite its reputation, root canal treatment is a painless treatment option that is less invasive than an extraction.  In fact, this treatment only requires one to two visits to complete.  For root canal treatment, you will only require local anesthesia to numb the site. During the procedure itself, you won’t feel anything.  If you are nervous or anxious, medication can be prescribed to put you into a “twilight sleep.”  After the procedure, there is minimal discomfort that can be well managed with ibuprofen or Tylenol.   

An extraction is a surgical procedure that requires the dental surgeon to pull out the entire tooth, including the portion below the gumline. Oftentimes, cutting of the gums and removal of the bone is required.  This type of procedure is much more invasive than root canal treatment.  Because it is a surgical procedure, the precautions needed before and after extractions are extremely important to prevent complications, such as dry socket or infection.

Investment Considerations

The cost of a non-surgical root canal treatment is often less than the cost of an extraction and replacement of the tooth.  In many cases, dental implants are used as a permanent replacement for a pulled tooth.  A dental bridge is also an alternative.  Both options prevent a hole in the smile and keep nearby teeth from moving, changing dental alignment. By choosing an implant or a bridge, though, dramatically increases the cost of the extraction procedure and adds additional surgeries to the process.

An implant requires several operations after pulling a tooth. First, the surgeon must place an internal screw, or dental implant, into the jaw. You must wait several months for the site to heal before getting the crown, or tooth portion of the hardware, placed.

Root canal treatment often requires fewer visits. Often treatment can be completed in one to two visits.  If a crown is required after root canal treatment, your general dentist can easily place one for you. Compared to the cost of extraction and an implant or bridge, the total cost for root canal therapy and a crown is less.

Healing Time

Healing time for root canal therapy is much shorter than for an extraction. Root canal treatments typically leave patients with minor, if any, discomfort for a few days. If there is discomfort, it usually only lasts for a few days. Most often, patients only need over-the-counter Tylenol or ibuprofen to ease this pain. Following root canal treatment, a soft diet might be required for a day or two.  

Following an extraction, you need at least two weeks for the site to heal properly. You may have swelling and pain during this time. Plus, you need to choose soft, cool foods to avoid dislodging the blood clot from the site. Some patients will need prescription pain relievers to ease the pain after an extraction, indicating the more serious pain levels typically experienced after extraction compared to root canal treatment. 

Reasons for Needing the Procedure

The reasons for needing root canal vs extraction may overlap. For instance, patients who need root canal treatment may have the option to choose extraction instead. In these cases, patients may have an opening in the tooth from a crack or decay that allows bacteria into the tooth. The bacteria can cause a nerve infection that will spread unless treated.

Some patients may not have the option for root canal treatment.  Severely damaged or broken teeth may also not be salvageable through root canal treatment and require pulling.  At Lowry Endodontics, we are experienced in managing severely broken down teeth and can help you save your natural tooth.  

Follow-up Dental Care

Follow-up care following root canal therapy and extraction differ. For instance, after getting treatment from an endodontist, root canal patients might need to return to their regular dentist to get a restorative crown or other permanent covering for the tooth.  Delaying permanent tooth protection can increase the risk of re-infection or breaking of the tooth.  We typically see patients six to twelve months after treatment to verify healing.  

Patients who have a tooth extraction may have to go back to their dentist to have their stitches removed.  Several other visits might be required if you have an implant placed into the gap.  In the meantime, these patients also need to watch out for signs of complications, such as dry sockets or infection.  Removal of the tooth, bone grafting, and implant placement often require a referral to an oral surgeon or periodontist.  


Complications can occur with any type of dental procedure. However, how you care for your tooth after the root canal vs extraction can reduce the chances of complications.

For root canal therapy, the most common complication is an infection of the site. This may happen if your tooth has complex anatomy from which the endodontist couldn’t remove all the bacteria. Another cause of infection can happen if the temporary filling breaks, if you delay getting a crown, or if you have future decay of the site.

For tooth extraction, infection and dry socket are the most common complications. A dry socket happens if the blood clot does not form or dislodges from the extraction site. Infection can occur from bacteria getting into the extraction site as well. 

Signs of infection for both root canal treatment and extraction are similar and include worsening pain, fever, returning swelling in the area, nausea, or bleeding. Contact your dentist or endodontist if you experience any signs of infection or dry socket after either procedure.

Contact Lowry Endodontics to Find Out More About Root Canal vs Extraction and How We Can Help to Save Your Teeth

When your dentist recommends extraction or root canal treatment, ask for a referral to us at Lowry Endodontics. We can provide you with a diagnostic exam to make choosing the next steps even easier.  We will guide you through the decision-making process and help you find the solution that best fits your needs.  

Some patients may benefit from a more conservative treatment option than root canal therapy or extraction. For those who need a root canal, we use the latest technology to reduce the chances of complications and help our patients keep their natural teeth.

Contact us today to schedule a visit to our Denver, CO, practice, or get more information about us.