The Alternatives to Root Canals

The Alternatives to Root Canals

Root Canal TherapyWe talk a lot about the alternatives to root canals typically the only alternative mentioned is extraction of the tooth. But is that really the only alternative? Surely there must be other options, right? This was the question posed by Sean after listening to recent podcasts (Root Canals, Infections, Formaldehyde, Oh My!).

The truth is, there are other alternatives depending on the situation. We’ll try to explain it all in detail, here.

First off, if you really need a root canal, then that means the damage has gone too far and you are having serious symptoms (toothache or swelling). At that point, the healthiest option is to extract the tooth and replace it.

Root canals, however, are often recommended for the wrong reasons (such as when a dentist has exhausted or ruled out other sources or causes for tooth pain). A common incident is when the bite is off and the problem tooth is sore and causing pain. Another common example is when the gums have receded and the tooth is painful because of exposed dentin. Of course, taking out the nerve will cut sensation or feeling to the tooth, but it by no means is the source of the problem is cured.

The reason root canals are so often recommended is because many dentists don’t spend enough time diagnosing the root cause of the problem. Diagnosis is time-consuming and inefficient. For every minute a dentist spends diagnosing the source of your dental pain, he or she loses money (because that time could have been spent seeing more patients). While many dentists will dedicate the time to properly diagnose problems, far too many take the easy route and make assumptions in order to quickly provide a solution. Root canals will most often remove the cause of the pain (again, because you’ve removed the nerve), therefore, root canal therapy is often recommended.

Now, if the dentist has properly diagnosed the cause of your problems and if you really have a true need for a root canal (infection or deep cavity), then the damage is too great to reverse. The healthiest alternative to a root canal is simply to take out the infection by removing the tooth.

Does this sound barbaric when you can “save” the tooth with root canal therapy? Probably at first. But what dentists are unaware of are the links between leaving an infected tooth in the body and other systemic illnesses (such as breast cancer). It’s called the focal infection theory. A better question would be, “Would you jeopardize your health to ‘save’ a tooth?”

If you have an infection or severe decay that has caused a deep cavity and a root canal is recommended, your only two options are extraction or root canal therapy. That’s why knowledge and prevention is of utmost importance: learn how to prevent decay and the spread of tooth decay and you’ll never have to deal with a root canal.

If a root canal is recommended to you, you should definitely get a second or third opinion to confirm the true need for the procedure. Unfortunately, too many dentists do root canals for the wrong reasons and you may have other, less “barbaric” solutions if you were misdiagnosed and don’t need to undergo the procedure.

If you already have a root canal and are wondering if there’s a link with that tooth and the rest of the body, view a tooth meridian chart (we have an interactive meridian chart here: Tooth Meridian Chart) or visit a natural or holistic dentist. A lot of times, extracting the problem tooth can help alleviate or eliminate problems (not always, so again, get a second or third opinion before taking action).

The short answer to the alternatives to a root canal question is… If you really, truly need a root canal, you have only two options: root canal therapy or extraction. However, there is always the chance that you have been misdiagnosed and have many, safer, more appealing options available to you.


  1. Raquel Gonzales Says: July 21, 2014 at 11:52 pm

    I had a toothache that started off with headaches. So I went in to my dentist office he said it’s was a filling. I took antibiotics for a few days and went back my dentist was not in so the other dentist recommended a root canal. I went to a Endodontics office he imedditly said it was an extract. So I got it pulled. But I feel misled it went from a filling to a root canal then an extract. Hope the Endodontics dr did not lie to me

  2. I’ve read several excellent stuff here. Definitely price bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how a lot effort you put to make this kind of excellent informative site.

  3. please help….. i am told i need to fix a root canal. it is infected, and i am a little nervous. i just want it out. if i have it pulled, will it mess up my teeth alignment? do you believe that titanium implants are safe? i hope you see this tonight.

  4. Robert W Says: June 23, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    A number of years back I spoke to a European naturopath dentist who claimed that she could heal infected teeth by opening up the pulp chamber, putting in a variety of natural herbs and antibiotics and seal it up again. She claims to have clients from all over the world. Is that just crazy talk? Could something like that possibly work?

  5. Hi Dr Marvin, I just had a root canal done today. I guess it was a little too late. Had I read about your article sooner I might have saved myself some money. They did an inlay as well and a crown (temporary) in 2 weeks they will put a permanent crown. I have no problem extracting them since I only got 26 teeth left. My question is should I not have it permanently crowned and have it extracted instead? Thank you

  6. my son has had a root canal for 10 years, how can he removeit, and what is the alternative?

  7. so i just had a huge (and by huge i mean my entire cheek up to my eye so my eye could only open half way…) abscess that needed to be drained and now the endodontist started a root canal… insurance doesnt cover implants (implants arewhat you meant by “replacing the toot” right?) so i was happy they could still “save” the tooth but now im reading this and that it could cause cancer and other stuff and am not so happy with the root canal anymore…
    i guess ill just get it done now since its already been started and i cant afford an implant and cant just take it out and out nothing there since its one of the front teeth, but if the root canal ever goes bad id rather get an implant…
    do you know of any insurances that would cover implants???

    also i have a bunch of cavities on my other teeth and have heard that naturally healing cavities by eating certain things is possible…do you think that’s true?

  8. This article was not very helpful to me at all.

    It did not address any other real alternatives to root canals or extraction. I am in a position where I have a lot of deep cavities and the dentist will probably recommend a lot of root canals. I cannot go back in time to prevent my cavities. So my only other options are to get half of my teeth removed? I was hoping that this article would provide alternatives besides extraction (plural in the title; “alternatives”) but it does not.

    • I am wondering what your teeth situation is now. I feel like I may be in the same boat you were in last year.

  9. I have been told by 3 dentist that I need a root canal on my front top tooth and it’s true, I do…. there is an unsightly hole in it and I don’t want to smile! The reason I have done nothing for a year or longer is…. I don’t have $1500 bucks and I’m scared to death to go to a learning school where I still need to come up w/ $600 at least for this procedure I really don’t want, but I don’t want it pulled either, it’s my front tooth and I don’t want to look like a hill billy!!

    I don’t know what to do. It hurts on an off basically I have pain meds because of sciatic nerve that has covered up the tooth pain and so I keep buying time for free here and it just can’t keep going on…. basically because I am humiliated by the looks of it and scared what it is doing to me internally!

    Any suggestions as to what I can do???
    Thank you

    • Just wondering, all of these months later, if you have done anything about your tooth? Where I live now and where I used to live (two different counties in PA) there were clinics that would use one’s income to determine cost. I am supposed to get a root canal as soon. I have to wait for my insurance to deny it, then we can proceed. I will only have to pay 20% of the cost and I will find out how much that is after the insurance denies the claim. Silly system, but at least I will be able to afford the procedure. After reading about the problems with root canals here and on other sites, I’d rather pull the tooth, but it’s on the bottom front. I already have so many health problems. What to do???

  10. Aramis Ortiz Says: November 24, 2012 at 11:01 am

    It really comes down to common sense. A tooth has a nerve and arteries – so by definition when you get a root canal now you have a death limb on your body dumping infectious bacteria all over your body. Now lets hope your inmmune system is not compromised, so you may live with very little symptoms. Wishful thinking, since as we grow older these symptoms will become even more so. Root canals are just another fiasco like Amalgams (Mercury fillings). The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Its really hard to tell someone who has built a career of helping others (with passion and love) that they have done the complete opposite. It takes character and honesty to oneself to rebuild, to unlearn, and to really accept the truth (including its economic consequences). We are not arguing among ourselves here. We are coming to terms with what really works and what doesn’t. There are studies showing an increidible correlation between root canals and cancer patients. But forget the studies. When you are dying you try anything and everything (it doesn’t matter if you believe it or not). At the end you believe in what does work. Which is why I say with a huge smile….”take it from me – I am a heavy metals toxicity and root canal survivor.”
    By they way, I had an endodontics in the Navy re-do my root canal after a general dentist did it first. Then again the VA hospital worked on it again. And then again by an orthodontics/endodontics private practice, funny how the Doctor scold me for not flossing well a few months later when the root canal looked swollen and dark. I say funny because the one tooth next to it was crispy clean. Too bad i didn’t know then what I know now, that ROOT CANALS are NEVER a solution. Wanna bet: I bet you never will keep a dead limb attached to your body.

  11. I agree, root canals do not work if they are not cleaned and sealed, like the cases you tried, because you are not qualified to do the job!
    You are hilarious; you copy the AAE brochure to go against the specialty?
    You have not been training in endodontics and that is why you experienced lots of failure in the cases you tried just because you don’t know how to do the job properly!
    Again, have you worked with microscope?
    Have you found a forth canal in an upper molar, do you know they are always there and people like you are always missing it, leaving it behind might cause the problem.
    Refer to an endodontist and let a qualified specialist take care of the job, root canals are bad when treated by people like you!

    • As I stated in my last comment (which you apparently didn’t read, since you keep asking the same question): “To answer your question about microscopes, I’ve owned and used them extensively.”

      Look, I agree that endodontists are MUCH better at root canals than general dentists. No argument from me there. But what you are saying doesn’t make any sense. As you stated yourself, “I am an endodontist and 50 % of my treatment pool is to RETREAT bad root canals.” So you say that 50% of the work you do is fixing FAILED root canals, but then you say root canals don’t fail. You can’t have it both ways. The fact is, general dentists do root canals. If you want to blame them for every failed root canal, go for it, but don’t say that they don’t fail… they do, as you stated yourself.

      I have a suggestion for you: rather than make asinine comments on a private practice dental website (a private practice that doesn’t do root canals, by the way), why don’t you take your passion to your specialty board and try to ban general dentists from doing root canals? I would assume that would be a better use of your time than arguing with a general dentist about why root canals fail.

      I remember what it was like when I was fresh out of residency and thought I knew everything. I applaud your passion. But if you’re spending your whole day debating another dentist on HIS website about why root canals fail, it seems like your passion is a bit mis-guided.

      I wish you luck, but you’re barking up the wrong tree here. You’re trying to argue about why general dentists shouldn’t do root canals with someone who doesn’t think general dentists should do root canals. You tell me that “root canals are bad when treated by people like you!”… well, that’s a nice sentiment, but “people like me” don’t do root canals, so I guess we agree.

      Use your passion more wisely and argue with a general dentist who actually DOES root canals… although if you succeed in stopping general dentists from doing root canals, you would lose 50% of your business, so maybe that’s why it’s easier to debate on my website, right?

  12. Jean Bennett Says: November 4, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    I know from personal experience that when I had a 30 year old root canal extracted the improvement in my energy levels jumped 10 times. I felt as though I was given a second chance at life. I have one more # 18 with a root canal and I’ scared to keep it and scared to loose it. A natural dentist told me over 10 years ago it was affecting my liver. So right now I’m sitting on the fence.

    I also had a friend that had several root canal’s and after the last one her skin started falling off and no one had any answers. Ozone injections into the lesions under the roots stopped the skin from falling off but only for a short time. When she finally had all the effected teeth extracted did she finally feel better

    No more root canals for me

  13. paulo nogueira Says: November 4, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    Your believes not only are out of sense but also have no evidence base or scientific support.
    Root canals, when proper treated can have a high rate of success, and not only save the tooth but also keep it healthy, without infection, however the studies showed that about 70 % of root canals in US are treated by general dentist, and unfortunately these dentists have no adequate training and tools to do the job right, any dentist can try to do root canals although only the endodontist are the one specially trained to do it.
    I am an endodontist and 50 % of my treatment pool is to RETREAT bad root canals, the retreatment can really defeat the infection since it can remove the etiology, microorganism, and seal the canal properly in order to avoid recontamination and promote the healing process that follow the elimination of the infection cause.
    I work with dental operatory microscope from the access to the temporary seal; have at least an orifice barrier over to the canal entrance.
    Have you seen a pulp chamber through a microscope?
    I believe not, you are a falsifier and I am sorry about all the people you are trapping with your false and weak opinion

    • Paulo, I agree with you — general dentists shouldn’t be doing root canals. But you still haven’t answered the question: what is your scientific evidence that root canals work? And what is your definition of “success”? If you define success the way the “studies” do — which is the termination of symptoms — than you’re right. They work. I define success in terms of health. And based on that definition, root canals routinely fail.

      To answer your question about microscopes, I’ve owned and used them extensively. However, I have yet to see a microscope that allows you to see the infection on the OUTSIDE of the tooth. Do you have one that does that?

      I understand that you went to school to perform root canal therapy. If people like me convince enough patients that root canals are bad, you will be out of business. You have a definite vested interest in the idea that root canals are good. Open your mind and your eyes, though. Don’t be afraid of what you’ll find. If you study BOTH sides of the story (as I have done — I used to do root canals) and you still believe in root canals, the worst that will happen is that you will be able to better articulate your arguments and stick up for your profession.

      It’s admirable the way you defend your specialty — I admire your passion. I hope that one day you have that same passion for the health of your patients as you do your job.

  14. paulo nogueira Says: November 3, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    mr, not Dr, marvin,
    your conclusion is not based in cientific evidence, you should be more caution with your words, endodontics when correct performed prevents and treats perirradicular infection.

    • Paulo, what is your “cientific” evidence that endo works?

      Endodontics do a great job of removing the symptom: pain. But how do they solve the underlying cause? How do they improve the health of the patient? All the studies done simply show their effectiveness in removing pain. Of course they remove pain: no nerve, no pain.

      Studies don’t show how the health is affected positively or negatively. I believe that we should be treating the problem, not the symptom. Dentistry is in the field of HEALTH care. As a dentist, I want to ensure that my patients have a doctor who is looking out for their overall health, not just covering up a problem.

      Common sense comes into play also: the infection outside the tooth is not fully resolved by doing root canals or pulpectomies, which treat the inside of the tooth.

      An infection in the bone surrounding the tooth can cause numerous problems that may not result in any immediate reactions. Chronic illnesses, which many people have, have unknown causes. Untreated infections could be one of them.

  15. I was just told to get root canals on 2 incisors with large cavities. I have been seriously ill since my last root canal and afraid to get another. Any suggestions?

  16. januarygreen Says: October 17, 2012 at 4:23 am

    My front tooth had a cavity and had been worked on several times. the last visit to the dentist they said there was still a cavity so they drilled but this time right through to the pulp.they put calcium and lime on the area and filled it and said if I get pain come back and get a root canal.

    I was so up set I felt fine before i went to the dentist. but after this i experienced slight pain. Now I have a very bad sinus infection and the front tooth is throbbing I just started with antibiotics. I hate the thought of getting a root canal should I wait until the sinus infection heals to see if the pain subsides, do I have any alternatives? Please tell me what you think, Thank you

  17. I have a cavity in one of my top back teeth and part of the tooth has broken off. It has been like this for about two years now. It doesn’t really bother me. I went to the dentist for the first time in years today and was told that I need a root canal done on it. They put a temporary filling in it. If thet can put a temporary filling in it why would I go and have a root canal done. Is it neccesary?

  18. Hi Marvin.

    I’ve had an on-and-off toothache on my right lateral incisor and left central incisor at different times. I’ve been to a lot of dentists who have only suggested a root canal treatment for both the teeth. I am extremely anxious about undergoing the RCT as they’re my front teeth and I’m just a teenager. The pain that I experience heals with antibiotics and lasts only for about 7-10days. It doesn’t happen frequently, it happens once in a year or so. Do I really need to get a RCT done to save my teeth? Are there any other ways out of this? Can any medications heal it?

    Please help, Thanks.

    • Sounds to me like your bite is out of alignment. Do you have a good biological dentist near you who can adjust your bite properly? That’s where I would start as it’s the least invasive and based on what you’re telling me, seems like it could be a possible fix.

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