Objective: Decisions to extract a tooth may be among the most critical in dentistry. The aim of this study was to prospectivety investigate both clinical and nonclinical factors related to decisions to extract or retain teeth in private general dental practice. Methods: A convenience sample of 196 Iowa dentists in private general dental practice reported on 549 cases where decisions were made to extract or retain teeth as they occurred in their practices during a one-month period in May 1997. Bivariate and multivariate analyses were used to identify factors that differentiated between cases where a tooth (or teeth) was extracted and cases where an at-risk tooth was retained. Results: Of the 549 cases, 67 percent involved extraction, while the remainder involved alternatives to extraction. In comparing extraction cases to alternative treatment cases, we excluded 150 extraction cases because dentists reported that no alternative to extraction was available. Using Generalized Estimating Equations (GEE), we identified cost of treatment, presence of tooth mobility, poor prognosis of alternative treatment, and presence of gross caries as significant factors associated with extraction, while previous treatment of the tooth and concerns with patients' health were significantly associated with alternatives to extraction. Conclusions: For teeth at risk for extraction, cost, substantial periodontal disease, and several clinical factors were predictive of extraction.