Nearly everyone experiences tooth decay during their lifetime. While good oral hygiene can minimize decay, and fillings can take care of it if caught soon enough, oftentimes, decay infects the inner part of the tooth, known as the pulp. When this occurs, a root canal procedure is the standard treatment to save the tooth. However, it is not the only available treatment, and there are various alternatives to the root canal procedure.
The need for root canal alternatives
The GentleWave® System shows that more than 15 million Americans have root canal procedures each year. A root canal procedure removes the damaged pulp within the canals of the tooth. Once the infected pulp is removed, the canals are filled with a special material before putting a crown in place. This treatment allows you to save your natural tooth and preserve your smile. However, a root canal is not always your only option for treatment.
For some, the idea of a traditional root canal causes severe anxiety, and they opt for a different treatment choice. While the goal is always to save the natural tooth, often, the tooth is too far gone, and a root canal is simply not the right treatment choice. Luckily, there are many different alternatives to root canals to discuss with your endodontist.
Root canal alternatives
When decay enters the pulp of the tooth, it causes an infection. As the infection spreads, it begins destroying the tooth. If left untreated, there may not be enough tooth remaining to make a root canal procedure possible. When this is the case, often, tooth extraction is necessary. While removing the tooth will end your pain and discomfort, a missing tooth creates new dental challenges. Open spaces allow for tooth drifting and shifting, affecting your bite eventually. Hence, you should consider some sort of tooth replacement, such as a bridge or dental implant with extraction.
If you choose dental extraction, filling the gap that a missing tooth creates is essential to avoid additional dental complications down the road. A dental implant is a replacement tooth that connects to your jawbone via a metal screw. Once the screw is in place, it can take a couple of months to allow the screw to fuse with the bone. Once this happens, an abutment is attached to the screw and your replacement tooth, or crown, is attached. A dental implant gives you a natural-looking replacement tooth, but the procedure can take months to complete and can be costly.
A dental bridge is another option available after a dental extraction. In this case, the endodontist uses your natural teeth to hold an artificial tooth, or pontic, in place. In order to do this, crowns are placed on the surrounding teeth, with the pontic secured to these crowns. The downside to dental bridges is that the crowns must attach to healthy teeth and can increase the risk of damaging healthy tooth enamel.
In some cases, a root canal is not enough to remove the damage inside a tooth. In this case, endodontic surgery is often necessary. During this procedure, your endodontist can locate and treat small fractures or hidden canals, remove calcium deposits within the canals, and address damage to the tooth root or surrounding bone.
In tooth decay cases where the decay removal process exposes the pulp, your endodontist may recommend pulp capping to reduce the need for a root canal in the future. When decay nears the pulp, but the pulp remains healthy and asymptomatic, your endodontist may choose to cap the exposed pulp with a special material, such as calcium hydroxide, before creating a seal with filling material.
Calcium hydroxide or ozone gas
Two alternatives to traditional root canal treatment involve the use of ozone gas or calcium hydroxide. These materials kill bacteria and dissolve remaining dead tissue within the canals of the tooth. Unfortunately, these options do not always remove all the infected pulp and you can experience a re-infection and the need for traditional root canal treatment down the road.
Liquid root canal therapy
A new root canal alternative treatment option, such as the GentleWave® System, uses fluid and broad-spectrum acoustic energy to remove the infected pulp from the tooth and canals without the need for files used in a traditional root canal. This treatment option is minimally invasive and more comfortable for patients. During the procedure, the fluid and energy used are often more effective at removing decayed pulp in deep and complex canals within a tooth, helping to reduce the risk of root canal failure.
Talk about your options
If your dentist recommends a root canal procedure, you still have other options. If you have questions about possible treatment alternatives, Laguna Vista Dental is here to answer all your questions and walk you through all your possible treatment options. Call our office at (707) 586-1549 or request an appointment online today.