Root Canal or Extraction: Which Is Best for Your Infected Tooth?


A tooth infection, also referred to as a dental abscess, can be mild or severe. While some people will have resulting pain, others won’t have symptoms of an infected tooth. People can get tooth infections for a variety of reasons, from deep decay to trauma to a chip or a crack in the tooth.

How can you treat an infected tooth? While every case will differ, two common options are root canal therapy, in which your natural tooth is left intact, and extraction, in which your tooth is removed. Here’s when each might be appropriate for your infected tooth.

When Root Canal Therapy Is an Option

Root canal therapy can provide a way for patients to recover from a tooth infection and still keep their natural tooth. Your dentist will remove the infected nerve tissue of the tooth and seal the chamber, leaving the tooth intact [1].

Teeth that have minor chips and cracks can usually be repaired with root canal therapy, as can teeth that have deep decay but still have the majority of their tooth’s structure intact. Only your professional dentist can determine if a root canal is the best option to treat your infected tooth.

When an Extraction Is Best

Although dentists generally like to avoid removing a tooth when at all possible, there are cases where an extraction may be necessary. An extraction may be best for cases such as:

  • A cavity that’s taken over your tooth. If your infected tooth is the result of a large cavity that compromises your tooth’s structure, your dentist likely won’t be able to save your tooth with a root canal.
  • Your tooth has a large crack. Teeth that have cracks that extend below the gumline may also not qualify for a root canal and will instead need to be extracted.
  • The tooth has been worked on several times. If your infected tooth has been through numerous dental procedures or has had a root canal previously done without success, it might be time to consider removing the tooth.
  • The infection is the result of advanced gum disease. Some dental abscesses are the result of gum disease that’s progressed. In certain cases of an infection resulting from gum disease, a root canal may not be an option and the tooth will need to be removed [2].

Tooth infections are serious conditions. Bacteria from infected teeth have the capability to travel through the bloodstream, and in rare cases, can even be fatal [3]. Whether you receive root canal therapy or an extraction for your infected tooth, don’t hesitate to seek treatment from your dentist!


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