Root Canal Alternatives: What Options Do You Have

A root canal is a procedure that has been around for many years. In spite of their long use for treating tooth decay, deep cavities, and infections, there are serious risks associated with them. It is a common dental procedure performed to save an infected tooth. It is used when tooth decay or tooth injuries have compromised the tooth’s nerve, leading to pain at the root tip. 

The journey to root canal therapy is not always the most pleasant. It can be long and expensive, which is why many people are looking for alternatives.

This blog post will discuss what these alternatives are and how they can benefit your oral health. Read on for more information!

Why Should I Get a Root Canal?

Root canals are necessary when the nerve tissue inside a tooth dies. A healthy tooth dies due to a lack of blood supply caused by an injury or decay. Even if there is no pain, x-rays are done to determine the treatment plan. If not addressed, an untreated infection of the tooth root can spread to other areas of the gum tissue and adjacent teeth, causing pain and further damage. If an abscess forms, it will need to be drained by your traditional dentist, or else you risk tooth loss. Root canal surgery is often used as a treatment since it has a high success rate of saving dead teeth.

 As soon as you notice any signs of tooth infection in your mouth, seek treatment immediately. It will ensure you recover as quickly as possible. Furthermore, prevent the need for expensive treatments by practising good oral hygiene.

Learn More: Common Signs I Need a Root Canal Treatment

Is a Root Canal Painful?

Patients often opt to delay root canal treatment because of fear of pain. Still, modern dental technology makes the process efficient and comfortable. Many endodontic procedures can be completed without discomfort. Yet, your jaw may feel stiff after holding it open so much longer than it would usually be after a normal filling. 

Before your dentist begins treatment, they will provide you with anesthesia. You may need more if the treatment takes longer than expected. But, anxious patients often request intravenous sedatives for their dental procedures. These do not put you to sleep but instead relax you deeply enough to remember little of the experience.

Alternatives to root canals

Listed are the alternative procedures for standard root canal treatment. Your conventional dentist will determine which treatment options best suit your needs.


To have a tooth extraction is to remove the entire tooth. This procedure is also called having a tooth pulled. If severe tooth decay or damage can’t be repaired, your dentist may recommend an extraction. It is typically the case when a root treatment isn’t possible.

Sometimes, a simple extraction is enough to treat your tooth problem. The dentist will use forceps and various tools to loosen the tooth from its socket, making it easier to get rid of that bad tooth.

However, in more complex extractions, an oral surgeon is frequently required to complete the procedure. The extraction may require incisions, stitches, or the complete division of large teeth.

Several options can be used to replace a missing tooth. Some examples are:

Dental Implants

A dental implant involves securing an artificial tooth root directly into the jawbone. Once the area has healed, a dental crown is attached to the implant.

Dental Bridge

A dental bridge is a cosmetic and functional tooth replacement option made to fill the gap where one or more teeth are missing. There are different types of bridges, but they all consist of artificial crowns attached to neighbouring teeth.

Removable Partial Denture

A removable partial denture is a common option for individuals with missing teeth. It consists of a false tooth that can be secured by fixtures attached to the adjacent teeth.


A pulpotomy is a dental treatment where the pulp tissue in your tooth is removed. It can be done if the pulp has been exposed. It’s similar to direct pulp capping, where it occurs due to tooth decay or damage. A pulpotomy preserves the tooth’s root canals and nerves, unlike pulp removal (pulpectomy) in a root canal.

During a pulpotomy, the irritated dental pulp is destroyed. A substance is then introduced into the tooth to encourage healing and prevent the spread of oral bacteria. After that, the inside of the tooth is filled. A crown is affixed to the infected tooth to protect and restore it from further damage.

This procedure is typically performed on children with baby teeth or underdeveloped adult teeth whose roots have not yet fully developed. Additionally, it is performed on adult patients as an emergency treatment until a dentist or endodontist can carry out a root canal.

A pulpotomy isn’t an excellent solution if there are any indications of infection or irreversible damage to the pulp. In this case, a pulpectomy or extraction is necessary.

Direct Pulp Capping 

A dentist may suggest a direct pulp capping procedure to prevent extracting the tooth or performing a root canal. This alternative procedure is done when severe tooth damage or decay exposes the innermost layer of your teeth. The cap seals off and protects this area from bacteria that can cause infection if left untreated.

For this process, a substance is applied directly to the exposed pulp. Calcium hydroxide or mineral trioxide aggregate are two common materials used for this method. The mineral barrier that this material creates protects the exposed pulp, and it also stimulates tissue repair. After application, the dentist will apply the dental filling material.

On the other hand, direct pulp capping is usually only advised when the degree of exposure is minor and when the exposed pulp appears healthy and free of inflammation or decay. In addition, it’s an effective treatment option for young people.

A Root Canal Procedure

In general, traditional root canal procedures can be carried out by either your dentist or an endodontist. However, they may recommend seeing an endodontist if the case is more complicated or complex since this type of specialist focuses on treating tooth pulp or dental nerve tissues.


Upon your initial appointment, the dentist may take an X-ray to check for signs of infection around your tooth structure. After the diagnosis, the root canal specialist will administer local anaesthesia to numb the area, making it painless throughout the process.

Additionally, the dentist will keep the infected tooth clean and dry by using a rubber dam to isolate it. Rubber dams shield your teeth from saliva while preventing anything from entering your mouth.

Opening the Tooth

Then, the qualified dentist drills a hole to access the diseased tooth pulp and scrapes off dead tissue, including blood vessels and connective tissue, using tiny dental files. This process clears out all damaged soft tissues before filling the chamber with a biocompatible material that forms a barrier against the growth of bacteria in the tooth. 


Once the work has been completed, the dentist will use sterile water or sodium hypochlorite spray to remove debris. Next, the dentist sprays and suctions an antiseptic solution onto the teeth, repeating this process many times to disinfect them.

Root Shaping

An essential step in this procedure is shaping the canals for filling. But, this can be pretty challenging due to its irregular size and shape. However, it must be done in order to remove all necrotic tissue within the root-canaled teeth and make room for filling.

Luckily, unlike the manual filing used in the past, dentists can deliver better results in less time with rotary tools.

Root Filling

If the dentist can not perform the endodontic procedure in one visit, she will soak the roots in medication to kill bacteria. The dentist may further protect your tooth by placing a temporary root canal filling to prevent food or saliva from getting stuck between dental appointments. 

The temporary filling will be removed and replaced at your next dental appointment with a sealer paste and rubber compound known as gutta-percha. After the access hole is sealed off, a permanent dental filling is placed to prevent bacteria from entering the tooth and creating future problems, such as re-infections. 

Dentists may suggest dental crowns over impaired natural teeth to restore function and strength. The dentist can also discuss extra work with you at the time of consultation if necessary.

Final Thoughts

There are several reasons why patients may want to avoid endodontic therapy. It may be because they are aware of the risks and side effects involved. The dentist may also have advised them to undergo an alternative treatment, which allows them to have healthy teeth. Moreover, modern dentistry is a safe and effective way to prevent oral diseases in the future.

If you need more information on alternatives to root canals, contact us today! We would love to help make sure that all your oral health needs are met in whatever way possible, so give us a call if this sounds interesting. 

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Peel Dental Studio

Dr. Bailey formerly served on the Australian Dental Association as President, Vice President Treasurer and Country Councillor. He was on the Australian Dental Association Federal Council and has always been keen to give back to the profession that has been his life. He has tutored student dentists at the Oral Health Centre in Perth.