5 Pros and Cons of Root Canals vs. Extractions

Root canals or extractions

A Safe, Long-Lasting Way To Relieve Pain and Save Your Tooth

If you don’t know much about root canals, it’s easy to be intimidated by the idea of getting one—and even to wonder if an extraction is a better option. When it comes right down to it, though, root canals are extremely safe and surprisingly simple. They genuinely accomplish some amazing things! Root canals are often the key to saving bad teeth that otherwise would require extraction. They can transform your daily life by erasing the pain of a bad tooth and restoring its health and function. But how do root canals compare to tooth extractions, and is one always better than the other? 

What is a root canal, and what’s it like to get one?

Root canal therapy is a treatment that’s used when a tooth has been severely damaged by injury, decay, or infection. Bad teeth can cause a range of painful symptoms, such as persistent pain, temperature or pressure sensitivity, swelling and inflammation, visible damage, and tooth discoloration. An abscessed tooth might even present with pus draining from the gum tissue and be accompanied by a fever. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you should schedule an evaluation with Dr. Rob. Your pain may be due to a severe cavity or injury that has affected the tooth’s nerve and needs to be addressed. Besides, it’s always best to be safe!

Root canals are relatively simple, though, so you don’t have to worry too much about the process. During a root canal, Dr. Rob numbs your mouth and removes the damaged portion of your tooth as well as the pulp at its center, which is the part of the tooth that contains nerves and blood vessels. Once the pulp has been removed, he carefully and thoroughly cleans out and fills its canals to keep future bacteria out. Teeth tend to become brittle after the nerve and blood supply is removed, so you will need a dental crown to protect your tooth and restore both its functionality and natural appearance. You’ll have a temporary crown in place until your permanent one is ready to be cemented. 

1. Pro: Root canals relieve symptoms quickly without removing the tooth itself.

Root canals relieve a wide range of symptoms almost immediately. You’ll be a little sore for a few days after treatment, but this discomfort is only about as much as a typical filling. Any lingering soreness is generally treatable with over-the-counter pain medications. This is because Dr. Rob removes the inflamed nerve at the center of your tooth, eliminating the main cause of your pain. So you should notice an immediate improvement in the way you feel after the numbness wears off!

Even better, root canals manage this improvement while saving your tooth. Your teeth maintain their natural spacing and help your jawbone stay strong. Saving your natural tooth ensures that it can keep fulfilling those jobs for years to come, and this is why it’s often the best option for your long-term oral and overall health. 

2. Pro: Both treatments are quite common and generally safe.

Is a root canal safe? What about extraction? While this may be your first time having to consider a root canal or extraction, both treatments are surprisingly common. The American Association of Endodontists reports that about 25 million root canals are performed each year. Similarly, tooth extractions are more common than you may think. An estimated 85% of wisdom teeth need to be removed, so many people have extractions performed proactively. Because root canals and extractions are performed so frequently, dentists have plenty of experience with both procedures—to the point that they’re routine.

Both procedures are incredibly safe. Some Alaskan dental offices, like Valley Dental Clinic, employ advanced technology, years of training and experience, and modern medicine to make these procedures safer than ever. Plus, Dr. Rob uses technology like digital X-rays, and sometimes a CT scan, to plan your treatment so that he knows the best way to go about your case. If you’re nervous about your treatment, don’t be afraid to ask Dr. Rob questions. We want you to feel as safe and comfortable as possible, so we’re always happy to answer all of your questions! 

3. Con: Root canals can’t always save a damaged tooth.

As effective as root canals are, they can’t always save a tooth. Before Dr. Rob suggests a root canal, he looks at factors like how much healthy, natural tooth structure remains. Usually he can determine this with an evaluation and an X-ray. If a tooth has been severely broken or decayed to the point that it would not be able to support a crown, it is not a good candidate for a root canal. Dr. Rob also considers your risk of future decay in that tooth before making his recommendation. In some cases, a tooth simply can’t be saved. This is where a tooth extraction comes in! An extraction is the first step toward restoring your oral health. 

4. Pro: Root canals require fewer follow-up treatments than extractions.

Root canals generally save you time and money and require fewer future appointments than an extraction. The total time from the start of the root canal to the point your crown is cemented spans two to three appointments over a few weeks. In contrast, a tooth extraction takes a single appointment—but you’ll need other restorative treatments afterward. When you get an extraction, an implant may be recommended to retain your jawbone density and prevent your teeth from shifting due to the gap left behind. Shifting creates spaces between the teeth and changes the way your bite fits together, often resulting in malocclusion.

A dental implant is the best way to prevent all of these issues because it’s the only treatment that replaces your tooth root to help protect against bone loss. If you’re unsure about an implant or if it’s not an option for you, though, a dental bridge is another way to restore the appearance, function, and health of your smile. These treatments add time, but it’s beyond worth it to protect your long-term oral health and restore the function and appearance of your smile!  

5. Pro: With proper home care, each treatment produces long-lasting results.

The longevity of any dental treatment depends heavily upon how well you care for it at home. To keep your remaining teeth healthy and ensure that your final restoration lasts as long as possible, you should brush two minutes twice a day, floss at least once a day, and use mouthwash. When you do this, your dental crown can last 15 years or more before it needs to be replaced. It will need to be replaced eventually, though, so maintain your routine dental visits so that we can ensure your crown is still doing its job correctly.

In contrast, dental implants have the potential to last a lifetime when they’re cared for well. With proper care, however, either type of restoration is capable of restoring the function, health, and appearance of your smile for years to come! 

How do you know which option is right for you?

Root canals and tooth extractions are both effective ways to treat bad teeth, but how do you decide which is right for you? In short, saving your tooth is always ideal. But if your tooth can’t be saved or is at significant risk of future decay, then removal is best. The best way to know for sure is simply to ask Dr. Rob which option will produce the healthiest outcome. If you’d like to learn more about root canals and whether this treatment is an option for you, please schedule an evaluation with your favorite Wasilla family dentist today.