Deciding between a root canal vs. extraction can be difficult— especially when you’re hurting.
But don’t let dental anxiety stop you from having a much-needed procedure. You’re likely considering these services because you’re experiencing:
- Tooth decay
- Nerve damage
- Periodontal (gum) disease
You might think the easiest, fastest, and least expensive option is to pull your infected and painful tooth instead of having a root canal. However, root canal treatments today are pretty different from those done years ago. With modern technology, a root canal takes less time, is usually painless, and is much easier.
So, what can you do to make your decision easier? Outline the pros and cons, of course!
What is a Root Canal?
Your enamel is the hard, outer surface of your teeth. Beneath the enamel, in the center of each tooth, is a soft tissue known as the dental pulp. A root canal is performed by dentists to eliminate bacteria that reach your dental pulp.
Your pulp is composed of blood vessels and nerve tissue. When this tissue becomes inflamed, a tooth requires either a root canal treatment or extraction. A root canal removes bacteria from the dental pulp while preserving the tooth. An extraction accomplishes the same goal of clearing the infected pulp but at the sacrifice of the entire tooth.
25 million root canals are performed every year. One of the biggest reasons people decide to get a root canal procedure over a tooth extraction is because it preserves your original tooth.
What’s a Tooth Extraction?
Your dentist can restore and save the most extensively decayed or infected tooth with a dental restoration and a root canal treatment.
However, the damage to some teeth is so severe that the best treatment option is to remove the tooth. This procedure is called a dental extraction. Usually, your dentist replaces the tooth with a dental bridge, implant, or denture.
The reasons you might need to consider a tooth extraction include:
- A severely fractured tooth.
- Excessive tooth decay that leaves insufficient tooth structure to support a dental restoration.
- A badly infected tooth that threatens your overall health.
- Advanced periodontal disease that destroys the bone supporting a tooth.
Root Canal vs. Extraction Pros and Cons
In most cases, your dentist will likely recommend root canal treatment over a tooth extraction to save your tooth. While some people choose an extraction when comparing the initial root canal vs. extraction cost, this may be a mistake (more on that in a minute).
There are only a few instances where your dentist will prescribe a tooth extraction vs. a root canal. These reasons include having impacted, overcrowded, or severely decayed teeth.
If your dentist does not give you the option to have a root canal, it’s because your tooth’s pulp is far too damaged. When this happens, you will start experiencing tooth decay and, eventually, tooth loss.
Ignoring the need for tooth extraction can lead to a host of new medical problems.
Pros of Root Canals
- Keeping your natural tooth
- Retaining your natural chewing ability
- A virtually painless procedure
- Less chance of postoperative complications such as bleeding
- Allows you to maintain regular brushing and flossing of a natural tooth
- 30-60 minute procedure
- Partially covered under insurance
Cons of Root Canals
- Requires additional services such as a crown
- May require multiple appointments
- More expensive than tooth pulling
Pros of Tooth Extractions
- 5-45 minute procedure
- Starts at $75 for a simple tooth extraction cost (depending on your location)
- Partially covered under insurance
Cons of Tooth Extractions
- Typically requires additional services such as a crown or bridge.
- Aesthetic compromises (you may have a missing tooth for some time)
- Risk of dry socket or infection
- Replacing an extracted tooth with a dental bridge requires dental devices such as floss threaders to remove plaque
RELATED: HOW MUCH DOES A TEETH CLEANING COST?
Cost of a Root Canal vs. a Tooth Extraction
Root canals alone can cost anywhere between $700-$1,500. A single tooth extraction can be $75-$200 for a simple tooth-pulling that doesn’t require surgical extraction (e.g. impacted or wisdom tooth removal).
Look at the breakdown of tooth extraction costs here.
The initial cost of extraction is significantly less than a root canal treatment. This is especially true when you add the price of a dental crown that is often needed after a root canal, which can cost $300 or more per tooth.
However, there are several long-term factors to consider before you make a final decision, such as:
- The cost to replace a missing tooth.
- The cost of procedures needed after an extraction such as gum surgery, implant placement, or restorations of other natural teeth.
- The potential for future tooth decay and dental treatment that might increase when you replace a natural tooth with an artificial one.
When it comes to whether you should get a root canal or extracted, your dentist will have the final recommendation. While having your tooth pulled might be more cost-effective, a root canal will preserve your tooth and eliminate the need for extra services (crowns, bridges, etc).
On the other hand, you will have no option other than tooth extraction if your tooth’s nerve is damaged beyond repair. Likewise, a root canal cannot fix a tooth that is already chipped, cracked, or decaying. If both your tooth and your nerve are damaged, an extraction is your best bet.