What Hurts Worse: Getting a Tooth Pulled or a Root Canal?

What Hurts Worse: Getting a Tooth Pulled or a Root Canal?

Are you hesitant to get a tooth pulled or have a root canal? Stop worrying! With anesthesia, an extraction or root canal is virtually painless. 

Your dentist has two options for treating a severely decayed or damaged tooth. You can either undergo a root canal or tooth extraction. Which one is performed depends on the severity of the damage or decay.

Both procedures improve your overall oral health by treating a weak or compromised tooth. Yet getting a root canal or having a tooth pulled is a major dental operation that may cause some discomfort. However, don’t let that stop you from having either procedure. Your dentist will ensure you feel no pain as a root canal or extraction is performed. Let’s review why a root canal or extraction is done and what to expect during each procedure.

Root canal vs. tooth extraction

Root canals are one of the most frequently performed dental procedures, with more than 15 million completed yearly by either a dentist or an endodontist, a specialist in root canal treatments. It’s done when the innermost part of the tooth, the pulp, is infected, severely decayed, or damaged to the point where a simple filling will not restore the tooth.

To remove the decay or infection, your dentist drills a hole through the top of the tooth before removing the infected pulp and cleaning out the canals in the tooth. The pulp and canals are then sealed with a rubber-like material known as gutta-percha. Finally, the tooth is topped with a permanent filling or crown. The main advantage of a root canal is that it treats the problem within the tooth while preserving most of its natural structure.

A tooth extraction is also done when a tooth has significant decay or damage, and removal is the best option. A tooth may also be pulled to relieve overcrowding and allow for a better alignment of your teeth, as seen with wisdom teeth.

With simple extractions, your dentist loosens the tooth with an instrument called an elevator and then pulls it out with forceps. During more complex extractions, your dentist makes a small incision in the gums to get at the tooth. If needed, some bone may be removed. Sometimes, the tooth may have to be broken into smaller pieces to make extraction easier. Unlike a root canal, an extraction removes the entire problematic tooth. The empty space is then filled with a dental implant or dental bridge.

So, which hurts worse: a root canal or extraction?

Neither procedure hurts much because you’ll be given some form of anesthesia beforehand. Depending on the severity of the damage and your tolerance for dental pain, you’ll be given:

Local anesthesia. Your dentist numbs your gums by injecting a local anesthetic into the area around the tooth. You’ll be awake but will not feel any pain.

Sedation anesthesia. Sedation anesthesia will cause you to feel drowsy, but as with local anesthesia, you will remain conscious. This type of anesthesia is sometimes given through an IV line.

General anesthesia. In rare instances, you may undergo general anesthesia during the procedure, administered via an IV line or through your nose. General anesthesia will cause you to be asleep during the operation.

With today’s advanced techniques, you’ll remain comfortable throughout the procedure. Afterward, you may experience minor pain that will resolve in a few days with over-the-counter pain medications. 

According to the American Association of Endodontists, patients who have had a root canal are six times more likely to say the experience was painless compared to a tooth extraction. However, the ongoing pain of leaving a decayed tooth untreated is much greater than the minimal discomfort of either procedure. See your dentist at the first signs of an infection or decay and get your tooth treated immediately.

How to avoid an extraction or root canal

While an extraction or root canal is an effective restorative procedure, you can avoid either with good oral hygiene practices to maintain healthy teeth.

Brush daily. Brush at least twice daily with fluoride toothpaste to remove most plaque that attracts bacteria and leads to decay. When not removed, plaque turns to hardened tartar, which irritates the gums and causes gum disease.

Floss nightly. Before going to bed, floss between your teeth to get to the places where plaque can thrive out of the reach of brushes. You can use traditional floss or a water flosser.

Increase your fluoride intake. Fluoride protects your teeth from decay. And since most municipal water supplies contain fluoride, a glass of water from your tap can easily increase your fluoride intake.

Make lifestyle changes. Limiting sweets that promote decay and quitting smoking are two ways to prevent tooth decay.

And don’t skip your twice-yearly dental checkups! A thorough cleaning by a dental hygienist removes the plaque, bacteria, and damaging tartar you can’t get to even with regular brushing. These visits also allow your dentist to spot any decay and treat it before you need a root canal or extraction.

See an Espire dentist today

Schedule an appointment at Espire’s Oklahoma City, OK, location today! Our highly trained dentists can check your teeth for any signs of decay or damage. If you have decay, our dentists will discuss whether a root canal or extraction is better for you while ensuring you feel minimal discomfort. Don’t live near our Oklahoma City, OK, office? Find one of our other locations near you.

Oklahoma City, OK
12448 St Andrews Drive
Oklahoma City, OK 73120