Are there alternatives to a root canal?

The alternative to a root canal would usually involve extracting (pulling) the tooth. 

Dan Jenkins
If a tooth is infected the options would be either to have a root canal done or remove the tooth. If the tooth is removed you could either have an implant placed and then have a crown placed or have a fixed or removable bridge to allow you to keep up your chewing efficiency. I would recommend that if you have the tooth removed and do not have an implant placed you should have the dentist place some bone grafting material to preserve the bone level in that area to maintain support for the adjacent teeth.

If a tooth requires a root canal, there is an infection inside the tooth's roots, and the only other alternative is to have the tooth removed. Once a tooth is removed, the jaw will heal or can be built up with a bone graft. To replace the tooth, you would need a permanent bridge (a series of joined crowns placed over the teeth adjacent to the space), an implant, or a removable partial denture.

The alternative to a root canal is extraction of the tooth as you don't want to leave an infection in your mouth. Most extracted teeth should be replaced so as to prevent tooth migration and changes in the occlusion (bite). Solutions for tooth replacement include implant placement, fixed and removable bridges. 

Unfortunately, if root canal is indicated, the only alternative is extraction. If the patient decides to have the tooth extracted, consideration must be given to replacement to avoid shifting and drifting of other teeth and to maintain good bite relationships. If the bite is not maintained facial appearance may be affected. Tooth replacement may also be indicated for cosmetic and esthetic reasons.

Replacement of a tooth or teeth can be accomplished with a variety of non-removable or removable alternatives, including some that involve implants.
Extracting the tooth is the only alternative.
It's important to know you always have choices, but sometimes only one of those choices makes sense. For example, you can always choose to delay treatment, but unfortunately with dental diseases time is often an enemy because conditions will worsen. Alternatives to root canal therapy include extracting the tooth, delaying treatment, or beginning the first phase of a root canal ("open & broach") to relieve pain.

While people often think extracting the tooth is better because it's less expensive it triggers a chain reaction of other problems, and can end up being more expensive in the long run. If the tooth is restorable, often times it's best to do what's necessary to save the tooth.

The only alternative to root canal therapy is removal of the tooth. This might be the preferred choice if the tooth is too badly damaged to be restored to healthy function. Removal should be the treatment of last choice as it has more potential complications and makes it necessary to replace the tooth by either an implant or a bridge. Both are less desirable than your natural tooth.

If a tooth has been diagnosed to need Root canal treatment then that is the only way to save the tooth. There is nothing like your God given tooth and it is always best to try to save teeth when it is possible. The alternative to saving the tooth is to Remove or Extract the tooth. This alternative may be immediately less costly but has many long term consequences that can end up being more costly. 

Once a tooth is removed then it is important to replace the missing tooth. If the tooth is not replaced, then with time the remaining teeth can shift. The back teeth will lean in towards the missing tooth and the opposing tooth will begin to super-erupt down into the space. Eventually you may end up losing these teeth as well if the one tooth is not replaced. 
John H. Paul, MD
Adult Reconstructive Orthopedic Surgery

There is always an alternative to any treatment, including root canal treatment. The first alternative is decline or delay treatment. This is not necessarily a good choice but it is your choice to make. If you do have an infection in the pulp of your tooth, it will not get better by waiting or just taking medication, eventually you will lose the tooth and some of the bone around it and maybe some teeth near it. In severe cases the infection can spread to your face and neck. People have died from this kind of infection so while delaying treatment is your choice to make, it is not really a good choice. Another choice is to have the infected tooth removed. Then you will have decisions to make on how and whether you will replace the lost tooth.

It is always best to keep your natural teeth in your own mouth. Sometimes, due to decay or periodontal disease we may lose a tooth.

In the case of a badly decayed tooth we have the option of root canal therapy to keep the tooth. This requires usually a post and core and a crown. These are preferred if possible, but very expensive.

In the case of periodontal disease, you usually lose the tooth because of bone loss and infection resulting from the bone loss. The bone loss is a result of the plaque excreting an acid and inflaming the tissue, resulting in the bone loss with subsequent infection.

Now you are faced with a problem. How am I going to replace the tooth? Without a root canal you can't save the tooth. After the tooth is extracted, you need to look at the bone left in relation to the anatomy and unfortunately the budget to figure what can be done.

The easiest and time tested, not necessarily the most satisfactory solution, can be what is commonly known as a ‘flipper'. Sounds like a fish doesn't it? It is all acrylic removable partial.

If the tooth that is lost has a natural tooth on each side the dentist may elect do a bridge. A bridge is a crown on the natural teeth adjacent to the space with a fake tooth that appears as if it were growing out of the tissue. A bridge is the only optional if you have healthy teeth, periodontally.

The next replacement possibility is an implant. An implant is a metal female structure that is placed in the bone surgically. After it integrates into the osseous tissue, or bone, it is uncovered in such a manner that you can fit a male attachment which appears totally natural.

Your last option is do nothing at all and just leave the space. Of course this is not desirable esthetically. Functionally it is a disaster of a choice for the patient to make. Teeth stay in a natural alignment in the mouth by the teeth on each side of it. Kind of keeps the tooth standing straight. The height of the tooth is determined by the teeth they bite against. If you lose a tooth the teeth on either side of the space will lean into the space and the tooth opposing the space will grow, or extrude into that area. Kind of confusing but rest assure it will mess up your bite. Possibly giving you TMJ problems in the form of 'popping' or soreness.

In conclusion, go to the dentist for care and brush and floss. Keep damage disease under control.
Once bacteria has infiltrated the nerve of a tooth, the only way to save it is by doing a root canal. If you don't have the time or money to go through with the treatment the only option is to remove the tooth. This is a very unfortunate alternative. As such, it is imperative you don't wait to the point you need a root canal. You would be amazed at how much time and money you could save by taking just a few minutes each day to brush and floss them properly. 

If you decide to remove the tooth, you can get a removable partial denture (not recommended for replacing only a single tooth), a fixed partial denture (i.e. a bridge), or an implant and crown. There are also cheaper alternatives to replace the tooth that your dentist may be able to offer you.
Ned Nippoldt

The short answer is yes. Before dental implants were available, dentists did the best job they could to help patients keep their tooth as long as possible by doing root canal therapy, even though on some teeth they were pushing the limits of long-term success. With the advent of dental implants, we now have other options. If there is a good chance for long-term success with a root canal and crown or filling, this still may be the best option for you. However, if there is not a sufficient amount of solid root or tooth structure remaining or the tooth has a failing root canal caused by cracks or lateral canals that cannot be objurgated, the chances for long-term success may not be as great and you may want to save your time, energy and money and instead choose to have the tooth extracted and an implant (artificial root) placed. Depending on how many teeth are missing and the location in the mouth, the spaces may be restored with longer-lasting individual implant-supported crowns or bridges or implant-supported dentures. Should you choose not to have an implant, other options may include bridges, partials or traditional dentures.    

There are alternatives to root canal treatment, if it is determined that the nerve is damaged in a tooth, but the tooth is still savable then a root canal would be the treatment of choice. The decision of whether to save the tooth or not is really dependent on the extent to which the tooth is damaged. Most times if root canal is done successfully, and the tooth is then restored promptly and properly, it should last for many years.

The only alternative when a tooth needs root canal, and you don’t want to proceed, would be to remove the tooth. Then you would have to replace it with either an implant or bridge. Discuss these options with your Dentist to decide which would be best for your particular circumstance.
Of course, but they are not good. The need for root canal therapy means that there is an infection present or potentially going to be infected, therefore you must remove the offending agent, the tooth. You always have the option of doing nothing, but you risk infection and bacteremia (infection in the blood) that may transport to other parts of the body and also compromise your immune system. Root canal therapy is very successful i.e. 93% over 10 year period. I have had two myself and recommend them in an effort to save your teeth.

While a root canal treatment remains the most conservative way to save a tooth with a dying nerve or surrounding dental abscess, the dental scientific literature continues to indicate that extraction and placement of a dental implant, in fact, may be a more predictable and stable alternative treatment. Other, more unorthodox therapies involving herbal (e.g., sage tea compresses) and homeopathic (e.g., hepar sulf.) preparations, remain unproven and with unpredictable success. On the horizon, stem cell therapy is being explored to regenerate diseased teeth.

A root canal is done to save a tooth when the pulp( the inside part of the tooth) has become infected. The alternative is an extraction(tooth pulling) resulting in the loss of the tooth. It is generally better to save teeth rather than "pulling" them. While the initial investment is more for a root canal, it is less than the cost of later replacing the extracted tooth.
Sometimes there are. It depends on the dentist, and the extent of the problem. Some dentists are ok with trying a very large filling instead of a root canal (although most won't, because the success rate is not high.) The other alternative is removal of the tooth (which then can be replaced with an implant or bridge, depending on where the tooth is and what's around it.)

Personally, when I recommend a root canal, it's far and away the best option.

There are always alternatives. It's just that they are most likely not the best alternatives. One option is to not do anything. This is usually not recommended because if you end up with a bad infection or severe toothache you will regret this choice. Another option is to extract the tooth. That solves the problem at hand but then leaves you with choices to make about replacing the missing tooth. If the tooth has enough remaining structure to support a crown then it is much wiser to save the tooth by having the root canal done. All the alternatives to replace the missing tooth all have possible complications that can be more troublesome than just saving the tooth in the first place.

Although there are alternatives to root canals, they are much more drastic. The most common -- and oldest -- alternative way of dealing with a decaying tooth is removal. This has the obvious disadvantage of leaving a gap in the teeth in addition to being far more traumatic to the mouth than the less invasive root canal. Once the tooth has been removed, the gap should be filled as soon as possible with a bridge or denture. If the gap is not filled, the position of other teeth in the jaw will begin to shift, producing an irregular bite.

Continue Learning about Root Canal Therapy

Why do I need a root canal treatment?
Thomas Connelly, Online InfluencerThomas Connelly, Online Influencer
When your tooth has gotten to the point where you need a root canal, the inside of the tooth (the pu...
More Answers
What should I think about if I have a root canal treatment?
Rita MedwidRita Medwid
It would be best to think about all your options and the fees before you do the root canal. You and ...
More Answers
Are root canals painful?
American Dental AssociationAmerican Dental Association
Most of the time, a root canal is a relatively simple procedure with little or no discomfort. Follow...
More Answers
What does a root canal treatment consist of?
American Dental AssociationAmerican Dental Association
A root canal treatment generally involves the removal and replacement of a tooth’s pulp. The pulp is...
More Answers

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.