What Are Alternatives to a Root Canal?

So you’ve been told you likely need a root canal. While the procedure itself is relatively straightforward, and thanks to the technological advancements made in oral medicine over the years, an expert can perform the procedure to not only minimize any kind of discomfort during the procedure but it will almost instantly reduce any kind of pain you have been experiencing leading up to it.

With all of that said, you may have other options to consider. This is on a case-by-case basis, so your alternatives might not be the same for someone else. However, if you would like to know alternatives to a root canal before talking to your dentist or an expert like our staff here at Southern Endodontic Specialists, here is what you need to know about other options.

Tooth Extraction

If the tooth has been excessively damaged and your general dentist believes it is beyond repair, they might recommend a tooth extraction instead of a root canal. Now, it is the stance of an endodontist to try and save the tooth instead of removing it, so if you schedule an appointment with us at Southern Endodontic Specialists, we will consider all the options to determine whether it is even possible to save the tooth.

If, in the end, the tooth is too far damaged or corrupted with bacteria, it may, in the end, be a better alternative to extracting the tooth. This is usually done to save the surrounding teeth. If a tooth is simply too fragile to sustain a root canal, or if performing a root canal still leaves the neighboring teeth susceptible to bacterial contamination and other damage, a tooth extraction will be recommended.

Now, some general dentists might automatically opt for this procedure, so if your dentist skips over suggesting a root canal and instead says extraction is the way to go, you should consider a second opinion. With extraction, you will need to have some kind of implant installed. Depending on the tooth’s location, this might be a bridge, where anchoring points are placed over neighboring teeth, and the pontic is held in the middle, or it might be an individual implant, where it is anchored either into the gums or directly onto your jaw. This comes with additional healing time, as the gums will likely become inflamed from the procedure.

For the shortest downtime, it is almost always better to go with a root canal if either procedure is an option.

Direct Pulp Capping

This is closely related to a root canal, but it isn’t as in-depth of a procedure. If your tooth has sustained some kind of injury, such as a crack or chip, and the internal pulp is exposed (this can also occur when a cavity goes uncorrected for an extended period and burrows into the tooth, exposing the internal pulp), it is important to cap this area and prevent bacteria from seeping into the inside of the tooth.

After close inspection of your tooth, if it is determined that bacteria has not made it into the tooth, the area of decay will be cleaned out, and then a cap will be applied over the top. It isn’t all that different from applying a filling over a cavity once cleaned out. A handful of capping materials are used during this process, ranging from a mineral trioxide aggregate to a calcium hydroxide cap. It will depend on the location of the breach and what, if any, tissue repair needs to occur. The mineral cap is designed to promote tissue repair, which can prove beneficial in preventing any further damage.

While direct pulp capping is desirable, when it is an option, it is only suitable when the damage is minimal and caught right away. With a breach in the tooth that exposes the internal pulp, it doesn’t take long for bacteria to work its way inside the tooth, resulting in the need for a root canal. It is extremely important to schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as you sustain any kind of oral damage (or suspect oral damage).


This is about as close to a root canal as you’re going to get without performing a root canal. With this procedure, the pulp inside the tooth is removed. However, unlike a root canal, the nerve endings and the root system are left intact. The inflamed pulp is removed during the pulpotomy, and then a replacement material is added to the tooth. This material will help aid in the healing of the root canals, and it will help prevent any kind of bacterial growth. The material used will be similar to what is used during direct capping.

Often, though, a pulpotomy is only performed as a stopgap prior to a root canal. Basically, it is used to buy some time and reduce discomfort before a more in-depth root canal can be done. It is a common procedure for children who still have their baby teeth. Because the child’s baby tooth will fall out within several years, a root canal likely isn’t necessary. Instead, the pulpotomy will be the better course of action. However, it is almost always better to have a root canal performed instead of a pulpotomy as an adult.

Schedule Your Appointment Today

If your general dentist has said you likely need a root canal, your best course of action is to have a specialist perform the root canal. At Southern Endodontic Specialists, we perform root canals almost daily. With our specialized equipment, we can reduce the need for repeated root canals due to pulp and bacteria remaining somewhere within the tooth. Additionally, if your dentist has recommended a tooth extraction, saving the tooth with a root canal may still be possible. Either way, schedule your appointment with our staff at Southern Endodontic Specialists today.