For a lot of us there comes a point where the decision to fix a damaged or infected tooth is either root canals or tooth extractions. The decision between the two can be a tough one, so we have provided some information on both to help you with your decision.


In some cases, if the tooth is damaged, diseased or dead pulp, but are otherwise viable to your mouth it can be saved by a root canal. The innermost layer of your teeth is called the pulp, providing blood flow to each tooth. In some cases, your teeth can become damaged from a crack or a deep cavity. In these situations bacteria can reach the pulp of the tooth, which in turn can lead to infection, swelling or cause vital tissue to die.


There are some cases where the tooth just needs to be removed. That is usually when you have a very large cavity and the structure of the tooth is compromised too much making the tooth to weak to repair. Any time the tooth has a crack that extends down to the gumline or there is a severe fracture removal would be your best and sometimes the only option.


The process of a root canal is somewhat simple. Once the area is numb, the dentist will make an opening in the damaged tooth, then extract the diseased or dead pulp. Once removed the dentist will carefully clean out the pulp chambers so that all bacteria is removed. The pulp chamber will then be filled with a dental material called “gutta-percha”. After that, a crown is placed on to of the tooth to ensure the tooth’s strength and appearance. Sometimes it may take multiple visits depending on the severity of your situation.

Once the procedure is completed it is normal to feel some discomfort for a few days following. Often times the discomfort can range from a dull ache to sharp or acute pain but the dentist will prescribe you something to help with the pain. In rare cases, if the pain is too intense and continues to contact your dentist right away.


In the case of needing a tooth removed the dentist will first numb the area and use a level-like appliance known as an elevator. This will loosen the tooth while it is still in the socket. Then the dentist will use forceps to extract the tooth which may cause you to feel some pressure during the procedure, but that is the extent of the discomfort.

Once the tooth has been extracted the dentist will have you bite on a piece of gauze for up to 45 minutes in order to clot blood flow. It is common for light bleeding for 24 hours following the procedure as well as some facial swelling. But simply putting an ice pack on the area can help relieve the swelling and discomfort. You will need to eat soft and cool foods that don’t irritate the area until you heal and are able to return to your normal diet.

It is common to take up to eight weeks for the extraction site to heal, during which time you should brush gently to avoid further irritation.


Making a decision will follow an examination from your dentist who will recommend the most appropriate treatment method based on their professional judgment. If you have any concerns or questions never being afraid of seeking a second opinion. If you are concerned with the pain you can rest assured that the dentist will make all efforts to keep you as comfortable as possible. If cost is your concern feel free to speak with your dentist about affordable options and payment plans.

Root canal vs. extraction can be a difficult choice, but your dentist can help you determine the right choice for you and your tooth.