Root Canal or Extraction - What's the Difference?

If a recent trip to the dentist has presented you with the option of either repairing your tooth with a root canal or undergoing a tooth extraction, you may be wondering which option is best for you. Continue reading to learn the difference between root canals and extractions.

Why am I being Presented with these Options?

Before considering the differences between these two methods of treatment, it is important to understand why you have been given these treatment options in the first place.

The tooth is comprised of: 

  • A protective outer layer of enamel
  • An inner layer of dentin
  • The central nerve (pulp)

When the protective outer layer of enamel is damaged due to decay or blunt-force trauma, it leaves the inner layers of the tooth vulnerable and exposed. 

If the damage or decay in the tooth has reached the central nerve of the tooth, it is often past the point of possible repair using simple restorative treatment such as a filling. In most cases, when the central nerve of the tooth is exposed or damaged, infection forms. This extensive damage paired with the infection is what makes a root canal or extraction necessary.

What is a Root Canal?

Despite common misconceptions - mostly due to depictions in television and film - root canals are simple and relatively painless procedures. In fact, most patients report a dramatic improvement in pain or discomfort after their root canal procedure, as the damage or decay has been removed and treated.

During a root canal, the dentist will enter the tooth and remove the infected nerve as well as all signs of decay in the tooth. They will then flush out the tooth with an irrigation fluid before placing medicine to keep the area healthy and clean. The tooth is then filled with a synthetic material known as gutta-percha, and the tooth is sealed off.

You will be given instructions not to eat or drink until the numbness wears off, and to stick to soft foods for the first day or so. You may experience some pain and tenderness in the days following treatment, but this can be treated with over-the-counter pain medication. 

After a brief healing period, the tooth will then be prepared to have a protective crown placed over the top. Dental crowns are typically made of a mixture of porcelain and metal, providing the look of a natural tooth while simultaneously protecting the tooth from further damage or decay.

What is a Tooth Extraction?

As the name suggests, a tooth extraction is a procedure in which a tooth is removed from the mouth. While this may sound unpleasant or painful, your dentist will ensure that your mouth is fully numb before beginning the procedure to ensure that you're as comfortable as possible throughout the duration of the treatment.

Once your mouth is numb, the tooth will be removed from the mouth. In some cases, you may need stitches, but this is something that varies from patient to patient and is up to the discretion of the dentist.

Before you leave, you will be given thorough post-operative care instructions, and a follow-up appointment will be scheduled so that your healing can be monitored and checked. You may experience some soreness in the following day or so, but in most cases the pain can be relieved with over-the-counter pain medication.

After the tooth has been removed from the mouth, your options for replacing the tooth will be discussed with you at length. These options include:

The method of treatment that is used will depend upon your general oral health, your budget, and the clinical opinion of your dentist. 

In most cases, the best option for replacing a missing tooth is a dental implant, as it provides the closest imitation to a natural tooth. Some patients may not qualify as candidates for dental implant placement due to inadequate bone density, pre-existing gum disease, or pre-existing bone diseases or conditions. For cases such as these, patients will typically be recommended for a partial denture or dental bridge.

To determine if you are a candidate for dental implants, your dentist will review your medical history and conduct a thorough examination of your bone density.

Which is Best: Root Canal or Extraction?

So, which is best; root canal or tooth extraction? As your trusted dental professionals, we will recommend saving a natural tooth rather than removing it whenever possible, though this is something that will vary from case to case. If the tooth is salvageable, it is recommended to undergo a root canal to save the tooth rather than having it extracted.

Having a root canal is generally more convenient, less invasive, and has less of an impact on the daily life of the patient.

Of course, the budget for your dental treatment will be one of the largest deciding factors for the treatment you choose to pursue. Generally speaking, it is less expensive to have a tooth extracted, but there is always the cost of the replacement treatment to consider. In many cases, individuals who choose to have a tooth extracted simply because it is less expensive may actually end up spending more than the cost of a root canal when all is said and done.

No matter the method of treatment that you choose to pursue, the dental professionals here at FY Smile are here to guide you each step of the way to maintain a healthy smile.

FY Smile: Your Local Double Bay Dentist

Your journey towards the beautiful smile of your dreams starts here. Our team of experts will work with you to help you maintain the healthiest and most beautiful smile possible. 

For more information about root canals vs extractions or to make an appointment in our Double Bay dental clinic, give us a call anytime at 02 8319 5557.