We 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.