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What is the difference between a root canal and an extraction?

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Extractions and root canals are separate dental procedures, one of which is usually done to save an infected tooth and the other to remove it. Extraction refers to the total removal of a tooth, usually due to injury or infection, while a root canal is a more complicated procedure that, according to the American Association of Endodontics, involves the removal of infected material and possibly saving the tooth.

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Full Answer

The American Association of Endodontics identifies the need for a root canal as the result of deep infection, damage caused by decay or by repeated dental work. In a root canal procedure, the top of the tooth is opened to give the practitioner, who is usually an endodontist, access to the site of the infection. Special tools are used to scrape out infected root material and to reshape the interior of the tooth. Often, the open cavity is then filled with putty, and a post is mounted in place to support the installation of a dental crown. The addition of a crown can be done by a general dentist.

Extraction is a less complex procedure that entails the removal of the tooth. This, according to WebMD, is often done for a tooth that is so badly damaged by decay or infection that a root canal cannot save it. Extraction is also sometimes done to open space in a crowded mouth and to make room for other teeth.

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