Root Canal Alternatives: What Are My Options?

Mar 30, 2021 | General Dentistry, Root Canal

Root canal Alternatives: What are My Options?

If you are in two minds about getting an RCT done, here’s a little factoid for your peace of mind — 25 million root canal procedures are performed every year in the USA, the daily figure being over 41,000.

Suppose the soft tissue containing blood vessels and nerves inside the pulp cavity of your tooth becomes inflamed or infected. In that case, a root canal is a go-to treatment to extract the damaged substance and fill the opening with sealers.

Most people have a strong negative feeling about root canals, primarily driven by a fear of pain. AAE ran a fun survey, ‘What’s scary this Halloween?’ 59% of the answers confessed that they are afraid of getting root canal therapy.

Are there other root canal alternatives and when do you actually need them?

Key Takeaways

  • Root canal is a common and effective treatment for tooth decay, but some people fear it due to pain and potential complications.

  • Root canal alternatives include tooth extraction, dental bridges, pulp capping, dental implants, endodontic surgery, liquid root canal therapy, ozone gas, calcium hydroxide, and natural remedies.

  • Tooth extraction may be necessary for severe decay, followed by placement of a bridge or implant.

  • Pulp capping is an option if the infection hasn’t reached the pulp cavity, and involves cleaning and sealing the area.

  • Endodontic surgery, liquid root canal therapy, ozone gas, and calcium hydroxide are additional alternatives for complex cases or disinfection, but may have limitations.




The need for root canal alternatives

As suggested by AAE, a root canal is a relatively safe and painless procedure, wrapped in one or two sittings. This endodontic treatment is highly effective in saving a decaying tooth. The patient may experience mild discomfort or tenderness during the short healing process, which is completely normal. But if the toothache intensifies further, accompanied by swollen gum tissues, abscess discharge, or a foul breath, it’s probably an indication of a root canal infection.

Yes, that’s right. Despite the advanced technologies of modern dentistry, root canals can face post-treatment complications due to:

  • Insufficient treatment for the narrow or curved canals
  • Missing out on identification of cracks in the tooth root
  • Delay in crown or restoration placement after the initial procedure
  • Failing in removing all the bacteria from the root canals
  • Wearing out of the sealant leading to salivary contamination to the inner cavity

However, an epidemiological study on RCT outcomes shows a success rate of 97% over eight years. Underfilled (33.3%) or unfilled (17.7%) canals are two key reasons behind endodontic failures.

If you want to avoid these unwanted complications voluntarily, there are plenty of alternatives to RCT. Consult your dental practitioner to determine which one suits your condition, depending on the pulp infection severity.


Root canal alternatives

Tooth extraction

Tooth extraction is not a dentist’s first resort. They will always try to preserve the natural structure of the tooth. But when the situation comes down to a poor tooth decay where even root canals go in vain, removing the tooth may be the last choice.

In a simple tooth extraction process, the tooth is placed under local anesthetic, loosened, and pulled out of the socket. Later a bridge or implant is placed in the opening.

Bridge denture

A dental bridge is the next step to tooth extraction. Traditional bridges are a suitable alternative to root canals where two natural teeth surround one tooth gap on both sides. In this process, a fake tooth composed of ceramic or porcelain is placed in the hollow socket, supported by crowns cemented on the abutment teeth.

Pulp capping

If the infection has not yet reached the pulp cavity, pulp capping could substitute for root canals. Your dentist will first drill out any decaying material and apply a sedative after cleaning the area. Finally, a sealant is used to block the pulp entrance, and the patient is good to go on chewing or biting naturally again.

Dental implants

Another replacement alternative for an extracted tooth is dental implants. It is a screw-like anchor directly penetrated into the jawbone.

Implants act as a false tooth root to support a dental prosthesis such as a bridge or crown. These titanium pieces naturally integrate with our bone structure and maintain uninterrupted bone and tissue growth. The procedure may cost on the higher edge, but you can consider it a lifetime health investment.

Endodontic surgery

Endodontic surgery is an additional action performed on cases with complicated root canal anatomy. It is very effective to detect and treat minute fractures or small canals that don’t show up on x-rays.

Your endodontist may suggest surgery to cleanse calcium residue or heal persistent cysts, severe toothache, and cracked or damaged root surfaces. Apicoectomy is the most popular surgical process to deal with an infection in the bony area at your tooth root.

Liquid root canal therapy

Certain types of fluids are used to thoroughly clean and disinfect the affected area to eliminate any last trace of bacterial infection in the complex root canal anatomy.

These antiseptic and antibacterial agents are supposed to penetrate the dentin, wash off the smear layer with no adverse effect on the dentin or the sealer. Sodium hypochlorite and chlorhexidine are the most commonly used solutions for this purpose.

Ozone gas

If you need root canals to eradicate an infection, ozone gas can kill the bacteria and inhibit spreading. It helps disinfect the root cavity and changes the oral pH level to cut down the bacteria from acid sources. However, ozone therapy is not a full-proof option. There are still chances of the infection further coming back.

Calcium hydroxide

Calcium hydroxide is another irrigating agent used to prevent bacterial growth in the tooth root. This alkaline solution helps dissolve the bits of dead tissues. It is a substitute medication for dental fillings and should be ideally placed with a needle to avoid toxicity.

Natural remedies

Lastly, a healthy diet and some natural remedies can help you bypass the RCT to some extent. Avoid or limit acidic and sugary food intake. Try to consume raw lactose products, go high on protein, and avoid carbs as much. Tea tree oil, saltwater, ice packs are very effective to soothe the stinging pain.



Tooth decay is certainly uncalled for, and if root canal fails, it’s not the end of the world. There are so many root canal alternatives to save a tooth for a lifetime with proper care.

Talk to our dentist now to learn the best option for you. At New Leaf Rohner Park, we have the world-class technology and experience to take care of your dental needs. You can contact us during regular business hours or request an appointment.

Eddie Kuo, DDS

Eddie Kuo, DDS

Owner @ New Leaf Rohnert Park

Professional Degrees

University of California at Davis – BS in Biological Sciences with emphasis in Neurology, Physiology, Behaviors

University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, Doctorate of Dental Surgery

State University of New York at Buffalo – General Practice Residency at Erie County Medical Center

Front Office Staff On Phone Taking Appointment

Come Join Our Dental Family

Do you have a toothache that just won’t go away? Does seeing a dentist give you anxiety and feel uneasy? Are you looking for a dentist that puts your needs first?

At New Leaf Rohnert Park, our team of dental professionals understands that a trip to the dentist is not on anyone’s top list of things to do. However, we know the importance of quality dental care and what it means to your smile. With high-quality, experienced staff and cutting-edge technology, our team works with you to create an individualized treatment plan that fits your budget and allows you to put your best smile forward.

Schedule an appointment today and let us help you achieve good oral health and a beautiful smile.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This