Root Canal Expectations & Alternative Treatments

Dr. Matthew Hannan | My Dental Advocate
Are Root Canals Necessary | Endodontic root canal treatment process illustration

“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.

The pulp tissue is the innermost portion of the tooth and houses the connective tissue, nerves, and blood vessels.

Understanding Root Canals

The tooth will become infected and die if the pulp is disturbed by bacteria or trauma.

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 administering an adequate anesthetic, the assistant inserts a bite block to allow the jaw to rest comfortably. Next, a rubber barrier will be stretched around the tooth to isolate it and prevent saliva from contaminating it during the procedure.

The decayed tooth structure is removed first, followed by the removal of the infected pulp tissue.

After removing the pulp tissue, 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 protects 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

Alternative Treatments

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

Bridge 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

Implant 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 an arch

Partial Denture Cons

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


Root canals can repair and restore a tooth that would otherwise need to be extracted. If an implant is the 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.

Remember that there’s a steep learning curve for speaking and chewing with your new partial denture.

Related: Best MDA Recommended Products

My Experience & Expertise

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.

Need a second opinion? We can help! Learn more. Knowledge is power when cultivating healthy dental habits. The more informed you are, the better positioned you’ll be to prevent avoidable and potentially costly dental procedures for you and your family. Watch for future blog posts, where we’ll continue sharing important information, product reviews and practical advice!

About the Author

Dr. Matthew Hannan, also known as “Dr. Advocate,” is a board-certified dentist on a mission to provide accurate dental patient education. He attended Baylor University before completing dental school at UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry. He now lives in Arizona with his beautiful wife and 4 kids. Dr. Hannan believes everyone should access easy-to-read dental resources with relevant, up-to-date dental research and insight to improve their oral health.

Matt Hannan, DDS Signature | My Dental Advocate

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