root canal and extraction difference

Root Canal vs. Extraction: What’s the Difference?

Are you in need of a root canal or a tooth extraction? What exactly is the difference? Continue reading to learn more.

You’re at your dental appointment, and you expect it to be a routine checkup. But instead, your latest checkup ends with your dentist telling you that one of your teeth is in pretty rough shape. Before you know it, you hear the words “root canal” and “extraction.” You aren’t sure what to think. After all, you aren’t even sure what either case entails.

If this is you, we’re here to help! We understand that knowing you need any dental work can be overwhelming. So, we’ll explain the difference between a root canal and an extraction.

dental team and root canal vs extraction

Root canal vs extraction. Which is worse? While it’s likely you can’t avoid one of these two procedures, we’ll let you know precisely what the difference is between the two.

Many times, root canal and extraction are terms that get combined when, in reality, they are two completely different oral surgeries. Here we’ll offer a short guide to help you learn about the differences between the two. 

root canal inside on root canal vs extraction

1. Root Canal

If your dentist thinks that your tooth might still have a chance, then a root canal is the procedure for you. Where is that fine line between a live tooth and dead tooth, though? 

When your tooth is cracked, or you develop a deep cavity, bacteria will begin to seep deep inside the tooth to the pulp area. Here bacteria can grow and cause a painful infection. If the damage is caught before the situation is too bad, the tooth can be saved with a root canal.

Root Canal Procedure and Aftercare

Movies and sitcoms, just like anything else, can add a very dramatic effect to any situation, and this includes root canals. What you need to know is that they genuinely aren’t that bad. When a root canal is performed, the area is numbed, and you will feel very little during your procedure. Next, the dentist or oral surgeon will make a small incision in the tooth to open it up and access the pulp (the innermost portion of a tooth).

Once opened, the pulp of the tooth is removed, and the chambers are cleaned. When cleaning out the chambers, all traces of bacteria must be removed. Finally, the chambers will be filled with a replacement liquid that acts as the pulp. Depending upon the severity of your situation, this process can take multiple visits.

Once the entire process is complete, you might feel some discomfort, but that will subside on its own and relatively quickly. Simple over-the-counter pain medication should be all that you need. However, one thing to keep in mind is that if the painkillers don’t work, or the pain goes away and comes back, that is not normal. At this point, you should see your dentist.

catering dental team for root canal vs extraction

2. Extraction

If a dental problem isn’t caught in time and treated correctly, your tooth will be at the point of no return. This means that while your tooth’s pulp could be removed, the bacteria has entirely worn on the tooth’s structure. In this case, your tooth would not survive a root canal. If this is a situation that you have been presented with, then the decision will be easy when it comes to the debate of root canal vs extraction. Your dentist or oral surgeon will suggest an extraction at this point.

Procedure and Aftercare: 

When it comes down to it, an extraction is generally the more painful procedure of the two. During an extraction, your surgeon will numb the area and then loosen the tooth out of its socket using an elevator device. Once the tooth has been lifted, forceps will be used to finish the job. There is a chance during this procedure that you might experience some discomfort.

After the procedure is complete, you’ll need to hold pressure on the area by biting down on a cotton ball for approximately 45 minutes, which will help the blood to clot. You can expect your mouth to bleed lightly for up to 24 hours. Facial swelling can also be expected, but can easily be calmed with an ice pack.

When you’re up to eating again, make sure you stick to soft foods that are easy to chew. As you begin the healing process, you can slowly gravitate towards your favorite foods.


After some time, issues can arise once you have had an extraction. Teeth around the extraction site can begin to shift, or chewing and talking could become a struggle. Another issue that could occur is bone loss in the jaw.

One surefire way to avoid any of these issues altogether is to proceed with a dental implant. A dental implant will look and function just like a normal tooth. Even better, with the right insurance, your implant might be covered.  

biological dentist dr kathryn alderman on root canal vs extraction

3. Advantages of a Root Canal Vs. an Extraction

When weighing a root canal vs an extraction, a root canal does have a few advantages over an extraction in the long run. One of the most significant advantages of a root canal is that it keeps the smile you were born just the way it was initially. Another bonus is that you won’t have to worry about problems such as bone loss. Even better is that root canals are a simple procedure that rarely result in failure and are much less painful than extraction. 

dr christine bergman showing root canal vs extraction

4. Advantages of an Extraction

Although most people do prefer root canals, extractions do have their benefits, too. An extraction will completely get rid of any infection because the entire source will be removed. If you have an overcrowding problem with your teeth, an extraction will be a welcome benefit, too. Overcrowding of teeth can cause further decay simply because your teeth are overlapping. Overlapping of teeth causes residual food and bacteria to be left behind and the teeth’s surfaces can never be brushed entirely.

Biological dentist in lincoln ne on root canal vs extraction

Root Canal Vs Extraction: What Are The Differences?

When debating whether you should have a root canal vs extraction, it all comes down to the condition of your tooth. If the overall structure of the tooth is still strong, then a root canal is for you. But, if the tooth’s structure is not healthy and intact, then you will need to have an extraction.

caq difference root canal vs extraction

Here are some commonly asked questions about root canals vs extractions.

  1. Should I expect root canal pain?
    Root canals are relatively painless and are done to help you avoid pain entirely. You can expect to experience some discomfort for a few days post-procedure, but the pain should subside quickly. If you experience pain beyond a few days, consider giving your dentist a call.
  2. Root canal vs extraction, which is better? 
    As previously discussed in this article, the better option all depends upon the condition of your tooth. Some individuals have teeth where decay has fully set in, and the tooth structure is no longer intact therefore making an extraction a good option. On the other hand, a root canal is excellent for those who caught decay early enough, and the structure of the tooth is still sound.
  1. Root canal vs extraction pros and cons?
    Since they are both completely different procedures, they each have pros and cons.

    Pros for a root canal include helping avoid the spread of infection and pain, also, having a root canal preserves bone because the tooth has not been removed.

    Cons for a root canal could include some discomfort for a few days.

    Pros for extraction include cost-effectiveness and making room for overcrowded teeth.

    Cons for a tooth extraction include pit formation, which can occur if you don’t replace the extracted tooth, and possible adverse effects on nearby teeth (such as possible chipping during removal). And, if the gap isn’t filled, surrounding teeth are likely to shift.
  1. Cracked tooth root canal vs extraction?
    While a root canal and an extraction might be viable options for a cracked tooth, if you have a tooth that is cracked far below the gum line, then an extraction is the top option. But, If you have a cracked tooth and just the pulp is compromised (and it can be removed safely), a root canal is a great option.
  1. Root canal vs extraction cost?
    The cost factor is undeniable when it comes to comparing a root canal to an extraction. 

    A root canal does cost more than an extraction. A root canal can cost around $1000 to $1200, while an extraction generally costs under $500. BUT, something to keep in mind is that when you have an extraction, it’s always a good idea to fill the gap, so you must also figure in the cost of an implant if you want to preserve bone.

Is it safe to have root canal therapy if a patient has an autoimmune condition or is compromised medically? Are root canals safe for overall health?

Root canal therapy requires the removal of the source of a toothache. The reason a toothache happens can be an acutely inflamed nerve, or a nerve that is infected or abscessed. If the tooth has acute inflammation, a gentle and affordable root canal is very safe for overall health. If the tooth’s nerve is infected or there is an abscess surrounding the tooth, the challenge is to remove all of the infection.

Often, the bacteria in an infected nerve cannot be completely removed, and the tooth becomes a source of chronic infection. After removing the nerve and blood supply from the tooth, it is virtually an empty, dead space. Bacteria that were responsible for a toothache before can multiply in this “dead” space, leading to this chronic infection in the patient’s mouth.

What is the best solution if you have a toothache or an infected tooth?

The best option is to set up an appointment with Dr. Kathryn Alderman.  This Lincoln dentist that understands the importance of removing bacteria and treating teeth with root canal therapy, especially for patients with a compromised immune system.

If a patient has a long-standing tooth infection leading to the loss of bone or the presence of pus, a root canal is a poor treatment option for saving an abscessed tooth. Performing a root canal on an abscessed tooth will lead to a chronic low-grade infection in a patient’s mouth. Many patients have a certain amount of tolerance for poor dental work and associated low-grade infection with it, but for patients with auto-immune disorders, the immune system will struggle daily with keeping up the body’s protection as a result of this kind of infection. Having a compromised root canal can put an additional and unnecessary strain on an already compromised immune system.

Which teeth are appropriate for completing gentle and affordable root canal therapy?

Sometimes a tooth is simply cracked, broken, or newly placed with a dental filling. All of those things can lead to acute inflammation of the tooth. At this point, there is no extensive amount of harmful bacteria inside the tooth, and the tooth is hurting simply due to acute inflammation, indicated by sharp and often radiating toothaches. The good news is that this type of tooth can be saved and preserved with a root canal treatment.

Cracked tooth and root canal prognosis?

If the crack in a tooth is small, a root canal can be performed, and a tooth can be saved. If a crack is extensive and permeates the roots of a tooth, it would be best to remove the tooth and to not spend money or time saving the tooth.

Is it better to see an endodontist for root canal therapy?

Dr. Kathryn Alderman has performed hundreds of root canals and is qualified to perform root canal therapy. On certain occasions, she will refer her patients to an endodontist if the necessary root canal is extremely complicated. If you wonder if you can avoid an expensive root canal procedure by an endodontist in Lincoln, NE, the best is to have a consultation with Dr. Kathryn Alderman and to evaluate a tooth that needs treatment.

Where can I find root canal therapy for children in Lincoln, NE?

Root canal treatment in younger children is often called pulpectomy treatment. Children use their back teeth for chewing and maintaining the space necessary for permanent teeth to come in. Dr. Kathryn Alderman, your Lincoln dentist, does perform root canal treatment for children at any of her locations and is great at comforting your kids and helping them relax during dental appointments.

Is it normal to have pain or sensitivity after root canal therapy?

Be sure not to chew or bite on a treated tooth until the full root canal treatment is completed. After root canal treatment your tooth will likely be sensitive. You can use over-the-counter medications to help manage anticipated mild discomfort.

After completing root canal therapy, you should not experience a sharp pain or a toothache weeks later. If you do experience a sharp toothache after root canal therapy, you should see our Lincoln, NE emergency dentist for an evaluation.

How long does pain after a root canal therapy last?

You may experience mild jaw discomfort immediately following a root canal. This mild discomfort can be controlled with over-the-counter Ibuprofen or Tylenol. You should not be experiencing a sharp pain or a toothache after your root canal.

Will I need to take time off work after root canal procedure?

You can expect to be numb and to have mild jaw soreness after root canal therapy. If your job requires talking to people, your mouth may be numb for a few hours and may want to take a day off. In general, you can go back to work right after a root canal therapy and continue with your regular activities. Most patients return to work soon after root canal therapy.

What is the cost for gentle and affordable root canal therapy in Lincoln, NE?

The average cost for a gentle and affordable root canal therapy ranges between $400 to $850 in Lincoln, NE. The cost of a root canal from an endodontist is typically over $1000. The cost is higher as most endodontists do not accept major insurance plans in Lincoln, NE. If you want a gentle and affordable root canal, Dr. Kathryn Alderman can perform a root canal therapy at any of her locations, and the cost for a root canal would be dramatically cheaper in comparison with the cost of an endodontist. Dr. Kathryn Alderman accepts most major insurance plans, and the cost for root canal therapy after insurance may be as little as $150.

Does dental insurance cover a root canal treatment?

Most dental insurances will cover anywhere from 50-80% of the cost of a root canal.

What is the cost for a root canal without dental insurance in Lincoln, NE?

The cost for a root canal without insurance in Lincoln, NE is between $400-$1400 (depending on the tooth) If you are looking for a dental payment plan, we would be happy to talk through dental payment options for a root canal treatment at any of our offices.

I have a tooth with a root canal and a crown, and it hurts, is that normal?

If you experience discomfort right after root canal therapy, it is normal and mild discomfort is anticipated. If you experience a toothache or mild discomfort long after root canal therapy, it could be a sign of a cracked tooth or an infected tooth. You should see our emergency dentist in Lincoln, NE to evaluate your toothache.

Should I have pain in a tooth with a root canal therapy years later?

You should not have pain or a toothache or swelling years after the root canal therapy. If you experience pain or swelling years after a root canal therapy, you should see an emergency dentist to evaluate your toothache.

The bottom line is that extraction and a root canal are two very different procedures, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. An excellent way to figure out which option is right for you is to talk to your dentist. He or she will help guide you in the right direction so you can preserve your smile. After all, a beautiful smile makes the best impression!

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