Root Canal Alternatives; Extraction, Medication, Diet
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 disinfected and filled with a gutta-percha material and sealed. A crown or filling will restore the tooth after the root canal treatment has occurred.
What does root canal therapy treat?
Dentists may recommend a root canal for inflammation or infection in the nerve area, the innermost layer of the tooth, which can occur when severe tooth decay has reached the pulp or an oral injury has exposed the pulp. Untreated inflammation can lead to a cyst or abscess (a pus-filled pocket that develops due to excess bacteria) on the end of the root, and further infection.
The idea behind root canal treatment is to “save” the tooth from having to be extracted, but this procedure can set you up for more problems than it solves.
What are the symptoms of someone who needs a root canal?
Some of the symptoms you need to watch out for include;
Severely sensitive tooth exacerbated by cold or hot stimuli
Spontaneous pain in a particular tooth
Tenderness (pain) of the tooth when eating or trying to get teeth into contact
Localized swelling of the gum around the tooth or swelling of the face
Severe trauma to a tooth
Tooth severely damaged by caries
Pain that wakes you up at night
What are the potential downsides of a root canal?
While a root canal may relieve you of pain and infection, there are several downsides to consider.
• Root canals can fail. Unfortunately, it is not possible to fully remove all of the nerve tissue from the canal. There is an average of three miles of microscopic tubules (canals) within a single tooth, and we do not have the capacity to fully sterilize all the pathways, even in the most well-done procedures. Remnant bacteria can live in the tubules’ anaerobic environment and further inflammation as your immune system continues to fight off the infection.
• Although the crown you receive at the end of the procedure is temporary—a placeholder while a custom version is being made—the “permanent” cap will need maintenance. The average crown lasts about 10 years.
• If there is an infection present (rather than a tooth injury), antibiotics may be prescribed post-treatment to reduce remnant bacteria and inflammation, but there is little evidence that this is effective. It’s possible that this is due to the lack of blood supply within the tooth, making it difficult for the antibiotics to reach the place where the bacteria is still located. Antibiotics affect gut flora by wiping out all bacteria, rather than targeting bad bacteria only, and thus should only be taken (and balanced with probiotics) when absolutely necessary.
Alternative Options to Root Canal
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 researches, this doesn't compare with the advantages of saving the natural tooth if possible.
Instead of keeping a dead tooth, a lot of people opt to have it removed even if it can still function. They are then given several possibilities for closing the gap;
Extraction & replacement with an implant
A dental implant is an artificial root that is screwed into the jawbone and then topped with an artificial tooth. It is made of durable, biocompatible material such as Zirconia or titanium. Today, dental implants are replacing certain root canal treatments because they feel, function and look like a natural tooth. They also don’t get in the way of normal oral activities. A well cared for implant can last much longer than a root-treated, crowned tooth and can therefore potentially save money in the future.
Extraction & replacement with a bridge
A dental bridge is another alternative to root canal treatment. Dental bridge placement involves trimming down at least one tooth on either side of the gap and these are then crowned to support the missing one – three crowns splinted together. These bridges can be costly and might involve trimming down healthy teeth simply to support a missing one.
Extraction & replacement with a partial denture
This is your least expensive options when it comes to root canal alternatives. A few years back, partial dentures were offered by all dentists to replace missing teeth. While the current generation finds it as a questionable choice because of their many disadvantages, they are suitable options where bridge or implant placement is not possible.
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.
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 researches. Because of its toxicity, careful placement within the canal should be conducted with a file or needle.
A laser beam can also be used to disinfect root canal systems as it can penetrate the network of canals more efficiently than irritants and can also penetrate beyond the root tip, helping to eliminate any bacteria present in the surrounding bone. It is therefore also highly beneficial in root canal re-treatments (re-doing a root canal filling when a previous one has failed).
If you’ve ever called your dentist with a throbbing tooth, he or she likely prescribed you an oral antibiotic and pain reliever to heal the infection inside the tooth before a root canal was performed. For a good number of patients, the antibiotic provides on temporary relief, but, for some, that medication can become a permanent fix and, once the infection is relieved, it never recurs.
Some dentists are avoiding root canals in patients by using adhesives to seal the exposed nerve. If the nerve is already infected, this procedure isn’t a possibility, but, if the nerve isn’t yet infected, the dentist can clean the exposed nerve area thoroughly and then seal it. The same liquid plastic that contact lenses are made out of is used to seal the nerve and the tooth, thus removing any future sensitivity. Now, with newer and better adhesives being introduced, this is becoming a more viable alternative. Plus, if the adhesive fails, the worst-case scenario is that the patient ends up having the root canal they would have had to have anyway. Because the adhesive procedure is inexpensive.
For a cavity that is extremely close to the nerve, where sensitivity is present but infection isn’t, the dentist might recommend a sedative filling instead of a root canal. After the cavity has been removed and thoroughly cleaned, the dentist applies a medication to the tooth and places a temporary filling. If the sensitivity and pain go away, a permanent filling is then placed. If the pain continues, however, it’s a sign that a root canal might be a better course of action. As with the adhesive, there is little downside to trying the sedative filling before moving forward with a root canal or extraction.
Natural remedies and Dietary Changes
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.
What should I do if I’ve already had a root canal treatment? [h2]Everybody’s situation is different, so make sure to consult with your biological dentist on the best next steps for your body. There are, however, some guidelines to follow to avoid any future issues:
Follow an anti-inflammatory diet
A whole-foods diet with a variety of plants is a great way to lower inflammation. Remove processed foods and reduce sugar intake as much as possible, and for those who are particularly sensitive, also remove gluten, dairy, and nightshades like tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, paprika, and eggplant for a period of time to see if symptoms subside.
Eat antimicrobial foods
Although doctors can’t fully eliminate all the bacteria that remains in the root canal, it doesn’t hurt to incorporate more foods in your diet that have antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, such as clove, garlic, orange, coconut oil, and basil.
Oil pull with coconut oil
As coconut oil is antimicrobial, it helps attract and pull bacteria out of the tooth. Swish up to 1 tablespoon of the oil in your mouth and through your teeth for at least five minutes each morning (and spit in the trash, as coconut oil becomes solid at room temperature and can clog your pipes).
Keep stress levels low
Chronically high cortisol can cause a number of health issues, namely chronic inflammation. Ensure you have restful sleep each night, enjoy movement throughout the day, and practice self-care like meditation and other calming activities to help keep stress levels down.
Manage gut health
70% of the immune system is located in the gut, thus poor gut health can negatively affect immune response (among many other body systems). Incorporate gut-friendly probiotic foods into your daily diet and get adequate hydration for proper production of stomach acid, which helps digestion.
Can you prevent the need for root canal treatment?
Yes, by following a healthy diet, following a daily oral hygiene regimen and visiting your dentist for regular check-ups and radiographs. This will help prevent dental caries, which, when undetected or left untreated, can lead to the necessity of root canal treatment.