Root Canal: Expectations & Alternative Treatments

Are Root Canals Necessary | Endodontic root canal treatment process illustration

Dr Advocate Avatar IconUpdated: January 30, 2023

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.

The tooth will become infected and die if the pulp is disturbed by bacteria or trauma. A root canal may be advised if this occurs and the tooth is still restorable. 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.

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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 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 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.

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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 an arch

Cons

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

Considerations

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.

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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.

The more you know, the more healthy habits you can develop, saving you and your family from avoidable and potentially expensive dental procedures. Talk to your dental professional for more suggestions on improving oral health and check back for more blog posts and relevant information. Please share this site and let us know what else you’d like to know!


Related topics

Cavities | Crowns | Extractions | Fillings | Root Canals | X-Rays


Dr Advocate Avatar IconAbout the Author

Dr. Advocate is a board-certified dentist with 5+ years of clinical practice experience on a mission to provide accurate dental patient education. He believes everyone should access easy-to-read dental resources presented in layperson’s terms with relevant, up-to-date dental research and insight to improve their oral health.