It's a new year, and that means your insurance has refreshed. This is the ideal time to plan any major procedures you need, such as a root canal. This can be expensive, however, and your insurance may not cover the full procedure. Popular theories abound about alternatives to root canals, but beware: not all of them are effective.
Understanding Root Canal Treatment
A root canal treatment is recommended when an infected and significantly damaged tooth needs repairing in order to save it. This degree of damage is usually a result of cracked tooth enamel, a deep cavity, or trauma (including from repeated dental treatments). The procedure includes several steps, beginning with X-rays followed by the removal of the damaged section of tooth pulp under local anesthesia, also known as a pulpectomy. The inside of the tooth is cleaned and disenfected and filled with a gutta-percha material and sealed. A crown or filling will restore the tooth after the root canal treatment has occurred.
- Extraction. One of the most popular alternatives to root canals is extraction of the offending tooth and the replacement with a bridge, implant or partial denture. According to the American Association of Endodontists (AAE), this doesn't compare with the advantages of saving the natural tooth if possible.
- Natural remedies. It's well-known that food choices can affect oral health, and proponents of natural remedies suggest that there are ways to heal dental infections through diet. These typically include eliminating all processed sugars from the diet, eating high-quality protein and avoiding grain products, among others. It's never a bad idea to embrace a healthier lifestyle, but eating fruits and vegetables won't restore a cracked tooth or fill a deep dental cavity.
- Ozone gas. Another alternative is the use of ozone gas to irrigate the root cavity. According to a study in Interventional Neuroradiology, the ozone penetrates into the tubules of the tooth beyond the drilled area. This kills bacteria and enables the dentist to save more of the tooth, possibly averting the need for a root canal. Despite evidence that the ozone disinfects the tooth beneath the enamel, the possibility remains that the infection can return at a later stage and a root canal treatment would then be necessary. This is by no means a guaranteed option, but if your need for treatment is based on infection it could buy you some extra time.
- Calcium hydroxide. A similar option to the use of ozone gas, irrigating with a calcium hydroxide solution deters bacterial growth in tooth canals. Calcium hydroxide is an alkaline substance that also dissolves any remaining pieces of dead tissue and prevents the growth of bacteria, according to AAE. Because of its toxicity, careful placement within the canal should be conducted with a file or needle.
The Final Analysis
While these alternatives to root canals sound promising, none of them has the potential to be the long-term solution a professional root canal procedure offers. Contrary to expectations, the actual procedure isn't the primary cause of pain; the damaged or infected tooth tissue is. Root canals enable patients to retain their natural teeth, smile with confidence, chew effectively and enjoy life.
To help avoid the need for a root canal in the first place, adopt a healthy oral hygiene routine by brushing twice daily with a silica toothpaste like Colgate TotalSF Advanced Deep Clean. This toothpaste helps prevent plaque, gingivitis and tartar build-up. If your dental professional does recommend this procedure, don't look for an alternative that could lead to more pain and costs later in life.