Root Canal: Expectations & Alternative Treatments

Dr Advocate Avatar IconUpdated: September 1, 2022
By: Dr. Advocate

“Good news, I’m getting a root canal,” said no one. However, a root canal is making the best of a bad situation - and potentially saving a tooth in the process. The pulp tissue is the innermost portion of the tooth and houses the connective tissue, nerves, and blood vessels.

If the pulp is disturbed by bacteria or trauma, the tooth will become infected and die. If this occurs and the tooth is still restorable, a root canal may be advised. This treatment removes the pulp tissue, disinfects the canals, and restores the tooth’s inner chamber. After a root canal is completed, the dentist will advise a crown to protect the weak and brittle remaining tooth structure.

Related: Learn more about Cavities


What happens during treatment?

A general dentist or endodontist can treat root canals. It’s paramount that the clinician is competent and well-trained. Endodontists complete an extra 2-4 years of training and routinely use a microscope during treatment. If necessary, they are better suited to perform additional treatments, including apicoectomy, apicogenesis, or re-treatment.

After an adequate anesthetic is administered, the assistant will insert a bite block to allow the jaw to rest open comfortably. Next, a rubber barrier will be stretched around the tooth to isolate it and prevent saliva from contaminating the tooth during the procedure. Decayed tooth structure is removed first, followed by removal of the infected pulp tissue.

After the pulp tissue is removed, the internal chamber is cleaned and disinfected. Next, an instrument is used to measure each root’s length. Then, the material is carefully placed into the roots and sealed off. Finally, a temporary filling is placed to protect the tooth from contamination until a crown is completed. Root canals leave the tooth structure weak and unsupported, so It’s highly recommended to have the crown completed as soon as possible.

Recommended Reading: Overcoming Obstacles at the Dentist


Treatment alternatives

If you’d rather not have a root canal completed, the problematic tooth can be extracted and replaced with a bridge, implant or partial denture. Let’s take a closer look at these teeth replacement options

Bridge

Pros

  • Minimally invasive
  • Best if adjacent teeth need treatment
  • Cheaper than implant

Cons

  • Adjacent teeth will be trimmed down
  • Difficult to clean under
  • Recurrent decay is possible

Implant

Pros

  • Adjacent teeth are untouched
  • High success rate
  • Hygienic

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Multiple surgical procedures
  • Requires multiple visits
  • Completion time is 6-9 months

Partial denture

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Adjustable
  • Hygienic
  • Replaces all missing teeth in arch

Cons

  • Removable
  • Difficult to chew and talk
  • Prone to lose or fracture

Considerations

Root canals offer the ability to repair and restore a tooth that would otherwise need to be extracted. If an implant is a next step, this option can save you thousands of dollars and multiple surgical procedures. On the other hand, a bridge is an excellent alternative if the adjacent teeth require a restorative treatment, specifically crowns. You can kill two birds with one stone because the bridge involves preparing the adjacent teeth.

Partial dentures are recommended if you’re missing multiple teeth in the same arch. After an impression is taken, the laboratory can fabricate the partial denture to fasten around the remaining teeth. Keep in mind that there’s a steep learning curve for speaking and chewing with your new partial denture.

Related: Best MDA Recommended Products


Final thoughts


Root canals are a great option to heal and restore your natural tooth; however, it’s important to understand alternative options before treatment. For example, have you recently been diagnosed with needing a root canal? Are you comfortable with your current treatment plan? My Dental Advocate’s team of board-certified dentists can provide a second opinion on your planned treatment. We look forward to bringing you peace of mind by verifying your treatment plan, suggesting an alternative, or answering your questions.


Dr Advocate Avatar IconAbout the Author

Dr. Advocate is an actual board-certified dentist with clinical practice experience and a mission to provide accurate dental patient education. He believes everyone should access easy-to-read dental resources presented in layman’s terms with relevant, up-to-date dental research and insight to improve their oral health.




Are Root Canals Necessary | Endodontic root canal treatment process illustration

Root Canal: Expectations & Alternative Treatments

Dr Advocate Avatar IconUpdated: September 1, 2022
By: Dr. Advocate

“Good news, I’m getting a root canal,” said no one. However, a root canal is making the best of a bad situation - and potentially saving a tooth in the process. The pulp tissue is the innermost portion of the tooth and houses the connective tissue, nerves, and blood vessels.

If the pulp is disturbed by bacteria or trauma, the tooth will become infected and die. If this occurs and the tooth is still restorable, a root canal may be advised. This treatment removes the pulp tissue, disinfects the canals, and restores the tooth’s inner chamber. After a root canal is completed, the dentist will advise a crown to protect the weak and brittle remaining tooth structure.

Related: Learn more about Cavities


What happens during treatment?

A general dentist or endodontist can treat root canals. It’s paramount that the clinician is competent and well-trained. Endodontists complete an extra 2-4 years of training and routinely use a microscope during treatment. If necessary, they are better suited to perform additional treatments, including apicoectomy, apicogenesis, or re-treatment.

After an adequate anesthetic is administered, the assistant will insert a bite block to allow the jaw to rest open comfortably. Next, a rubber barrier will be stretched around the tooth to isolate it and prevent saliva from contaminating the tooth during the procedure. Decayed tooth structure is removed first, followed by removal of the infected pulp tissue.

After the pulp tissue is removed, the internal chamber is cleaned and disinfected. Next, an instrument is used to measure each root’s length. Then, the material is carefully placed into the roots and sealed off. Finally, a temporary filling is placed to protect the tooth from contamination until a crown is completed. Root canals leave the tooth structure weak and unsupported, so It’s highly recommended to have the crown completed as soon as possible.

Recommended Reading:
Overcoming Obstacles at the Dentist


Treatment alternatives

If you’d rather not have a root canal completed, the problematic tooth can be extracted and replaced with a bridge, implant or partial denture. Let’s take a closer look at these teeth replacement options

Bridge

Pros

  • Minimally invasive
  • Best if adjacent teeth need treatment
  • Cheaper than implant

Cons

  • Adjacent teeth will be trimmed down
  • Difficult to clean under
  • Recurrent decay is possible

Implant

Pros

  • Adjacent teeth are untouched
  • High success rate
  • Hygienic

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Multiple surgical procedures
  • Requires multiple visits
  • Completion time is 6-9 months

Partial denture

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Adjustable
  • Hygienic
  • Replaces all missing teeth in arch

Cons

  • Removable
  • Difficult to chew and talk
  • Prone to lose or fracture

Considerations

Root canals offer the ability to repair and restore a tooth that would otherwise need to be extracted. If an implant is a next step, this option can save you thousands of dollars and multiple surgical procedures. On the other hand, a bridge is an excellent alternative if the adjacent teeth require a restorative treatment, specifically crowns. You can kill two birds with one stone because the bridge involves preparing the adjacent teeth.

Partial dentures are recommended if you’re missing multiple teeth in the same arch. After an impression is taken, the laboratory can fabricate the partial denture to fasten around the remaining teeth. Keep in mind that there’s a steep learning curve for speaking and chewing with your new partial denture.

Related: Best MDA Recommended Products


Frequently asked questions (FAQ)


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Anterior root canals with one root can take less than one hour; however, molar root canals with four roots can take multiple hours. Endodontists are more competent, so they will be quicker than a general dentist.

Yes, root canals can fail for several reasons. The most common cause is recurrent decay which occurs when cavities re-infect the tooth from decay left during the procedure or from bacteria that advances between the crown and tooth junction.


Final thoughts


Root canals are a great option to heal and restore your natural tooth; however, it’s important to understand alternative options before treatment. For example, have you recently been diagnosed with needing a root canal? Are you comfortable with your current treatment plan? My Dental Advocate’s team of board-certified dentists can provide a second opinion on your planned treatment. We look forward to bringing you peace of mind by verifying your treatment plan, suggesting an alternative, or answering your questions.


Dr Advocate Avatar Icon
About the Author

Dr. Advocate is an actual board-certified dentist with clinical practice experience and a mission to provide accurate dental patient education. He believes everyone should access easy-to-read dental resources presented in layman’s terms with relevant, up-to-date dental research and insight to improve their oral health.



Related Topics


Cavities

Crowns

Extractions

Fillings

X-Rays


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