Some people will do whatever they can do avoid a root canal, even if their teeth are causing them a considerable amount of pain. Myths about the treatment have lead to plenty of so-called root canal alternatives. But will those alternatives actually save your tooth and eliminate pain? Take a closer look at some common home remedies and alternative treatments to see what they can and can't do for you.
Oil pulling is an ancient practice that's gotten more and more attention in recent years. It involves swishing oil (usually coconut) in your mouth for up to 20 minutes, pulling the oil in and out between your teeth. The practice is believed to help clear away bad bacteria, improve your breath and whiten your teeth. It's also one of the most common recommended root canal alternatives.
But, as the American Dental Association (ADA) makes clear, there is little scientific evidence that shows that oil pulling does all it claims to do. The treatment might make your teeth feel cleaner, since you've rinsed them in oil for up to 20 minutes, but that doesn't mean it's actually able to eliminate the bacteria and any infection that's in a tooth. The ADA strongly advises against oil pulling as an alternative to brushing your teeth and flossing. It's also not an effective alternative to a root canal therapy.
Rinsing Your Mouth
Rinsing your mouth with salt water or using clove oil to calm inflammation and pain are two occasionally recommended alternatives to root canals. While cloves do help numb any pain you're experiencing and salt water can make the mouth an unfriendly place for bacteria, neither is a complete replacement for a root canal. Clove oil and salt water won't completely clear the infected pulp or permanently solve the problem.
Instead, think of rinsing your mouth with salt water or dabbing a bit of clove oil on the teeth as stopgap measures. They can help ease any discomfort you're experiencing, before you see your dentist to learn more about more effective treatment options, but they aren't a complete fix.
Some people swear by homeopathy, a type of alternative medicine that involves exposing a person to very low doses of a substance that usually provide the greater in its effectiveness. The thinking behind the practice is that exposure to similar substances will kick start the immune response and improve healing.
Does homeopathy work? The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health notes there isn't much evidence to suggest that it does. In the United States, homeopathic remedies are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but the FDA doesn't evaluate how safe or effective those treatments are. Homeopathic treatments may seem harmless, since many are diluted, but there is a chance that the treatment will interact with medications you take or will cause side effects. Since there's little proof that these treatments help and more evidence that they can hurt, it's best to skip them if you're seeking relief from tooth pain.
Extracting the Tooth
Although it's not a natural or homeopathic treatment, pulling the infected tooth is occasionally recommended as an alternative to a root canal. Extracting an infected tooth is an option, but as the American Association of Endodontists points out, it's not the best option. If your dentist is able to perform a root canal and save your natural tooth, that is usually the preferred treatment option, over pulling the tooth.
An extracted tooth needs to be replaced, either by an implant or a bridge. Implants are a nice option to replace a missing tooth and are esthetically pleasing. Bridges also provide an advantage to eliminate the missing tooth and are less costly than a dental implant.
While some alternative treatments might provide temporary pain relief, they don't remove the infection that's causing it. Only a root canal will remove the infected pulp and preserve your natural tooth. To avoid the situtation entirely, adopting a great oral hygiene routine, like brushing with a toothpaste such as Colgate Cavity Protection, cleans teeth thoroughly and helps protect teeth against cavities.