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Do I Need a Root Canal? 6 Signs, Plus 4 Alternatives

What is a root canal?

A conventional root canal procedure is a dental treatment used to repair and save a deeply decayed tooth. During this endodontic treatment, a general dentist or endodontist will remove the nerve and pulp, then clean and seal the inner tooth.

“Root canals” are the inner section of your tooth that contain nerves, connective tissue, and blood vessels.

Root canals have been administered for almost 200 years. But recently, advancements in science have allowed for less painful, less traumatic alternatives to root canals.


How painful is a root canal?

Root canals have a famous reputation for being incredibly painful.

True, the procedure is quicker and less painful than ever. However, root canals can still cause pain, extreme toothache, and prolonged discomfort that can last a long time.

Do I need a root canal if there is no pain?

You don’t need a root canal just because your tooth hurts. Pain in your tooth’s root isn’t the only indication you might need dental work.

Here are the reasons you need a root canal if you experience no pain:

  1. An infection comes up on an x-ray
  2. A filling/crown has severely decayed, indicating damaged tooth structure
  3. Your tooth has been cracked severely enough that surviving tooth structure is not enough to support a crown

What happens if you don’t get a root canal?

If a tooth needs a root canal (or root canal alternative), but is left untreated, the infection in your tooth may spread to other parts of your body:

  • Jaw
  • Skull
  • Ear
  • Neck
  • Brain

Delaying treatment can result in these diseases:

An untreated tooth infection can even be life-threatening.

6 Common Signs You Need a Root Canal

How do you know if you need a root canal procedure? If you have or have had:

  1. Tooth abscess
  2. Infection
  3. Traumatic injury
  4. Deep decay
  5. Multiple previous procedures
  6. Chip or crack

Is it necessary to get a root canal?

When the tooth pulp (innermost part of your tooth) gets infected or inflamed, you need a root canal or a root canal alternative. Inflamed or infected pulp exhibit the symptoms we’ll explain in detail below.

1. Tooth Abscess

A tooth abscess is a pocket of pus caused by bacterial infection. Also called a dental abscess, an infected tooth causes tooth pain that can spread to your neck or ear.

This can also result in dark discoloration or highly sensitive teeth.

2. Infection

You may need a root canal (or root canal alternative) if your gums have an infection. Called periodontal abscess, you will experience chronic swelling (sometimes like a pimple on your gums) and discomfort near the painful tooth.

3. Traumatic Injury

If your tooth suffered a traumatic injury, the innards of your tooth may be badly damaged and require a root canal.

4. Deep Decay

If tooth decay (AKA cavity) goes untreated for too long, it will develop into deep decay. Eventually, the cavity spreads to the innermost part of the tooth, called the pulp, where nerves are highly concentrated. If deep decay occurs, you may need a root canal.

5. Multiple Previous Procedures

Multiple dental procedures can traumatize your tooth or destroy enough tooth structure that you need a root canal (or root canal alternative).

6. Chip or Crack

If you get a chip or crack in your tooth, it may allow bacteria to seep in and infect your innermost tooth. Or it may have exposed nerves inside of the tooth. Or, the chip/crack damaged your tooth structure or inflamed your inner tooth.

In any case, a root canal (or alternative procedure) is needed to correct and prevent further oral health problems.

How to Properly Perform a Root Canal Treatment

Here is how to properly perform a root canal treatment in 6 easy-to-understand steps.

Even though I prefer not to perform root canal on your dental pulp, sometimes root canal procedures are necessary. Here’s how it works:

  1. Numb the tooth — Using a local anesthesia.
  2. Drill away the infected portion of the tooth — Normal dentists drill away a lot of tooth structure (enamel and dentin) to get to the affected area. I avoid drilling as much as possible.
  3. Disinfect the now-exposed pulp — Conventional dentists may use antibiotics that can disrupt your oral microbiome. I instead use ozone gas and/or colloidal silver, both of which only target harmful bacteria.
  4. Remove pulp of the tooth from the root — It is better for patients to maintain as much of their natural tooth structure as possible, so this must be done very carefully.
  5. Fill the root of the tooth — Most dentists use a rubber like filling. Unfortunately, these temporary fillings are often improperly placed and can lead to further tooth infection.
  6. Seal the root — I use biocompatible layered filling material.

Do dentists over-prescribe root canals?

Yes, dentists over-prescribe root canals. Often, dentists will jump to a root canal just to “be safe” or because dental insurance covers it.

But root canals can:

Holistic and biological dentists prefer to only perform root canals if absolutely necessary.

Do I need a root canal after a filling? A filling may eventually decay enough that a dentist needs to remove the filling and perform a root canal (or root canal alternative). This occurs especially when a filling was placed improperly.

Do root canaled teeth affect overall health?

Root canals can cause more harm than good.

Here are the potential complications of a root canal:

  • Pain
  • Gum swelling
  • Gum tenderness
  • Tooth discoloration
  • Dental abscess
  • Halitosis
  • Hot and cold sensitivity
  • Tooth sensitivity to pressure or biting
  • Swollen lymph nodes

How to Prevent Root Canals

You can prevent root canals by maintaining good oral hygiene and dental care by doing the following:

  • Brushing your teeth (with fluoride-free toothpaste)
  • Flossing every day
  • Avoid antibiotics
  • Eat less sugars and starches
  • Visit your dental office for checkups twice a year

Dentists can avoid performing root canals by looking into root canal alternatives.

4 Root Canal Alternatives

To prevent the dangers of root canals, we use four alternate treatment options to root canal therapy that achieve similar results. Each begins with extraction of the tooth, then we may choose to do a:

  1. Zirconia implant
  2. Metal-free partial
  3. Bridge
  4. Bonded bridge

Before we perform one of these procedures, we use cutting edge, low-radiation imaging technology to make sure you have a deep cavity near a nerve, which would necessitate a root canal alternative.

We remove the bacteria from the deep cavity while your tooth is numb, using a combination of ozone and colloidal silver to remove toxins, alleviate pain and- discomfort, and stimulate blood flow to the tooth.

Dentists overly recommend root canal treatments. I used to recommend them often until I learned about the toxic effects of root canal treatments. It turns out that root canal toxicity often occurs when the treatment is done imperfectly.

Here at Pure Holistic Dental, our goal is to look at the whole body instead of just treating the teeth. We believe your oral health affects the whole person and vice versa.

We are proud to serve the greater Houston area. If you want a safe alternative to a root canal, or just a second opinion, click on the “Schedule Appointment” button in the corner, or call 713-489-3790.


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  2. Shweta, S. (2013). Dental abscess: A microbiological review. Dental research journal, 10(5), 585. Full text:
  3. Burkovski, A., & Karl, M. (2019). Lack of evidence for the necessity of root canal obturation. Quintessence International, 50(1). Abstract:
  4. Apratim, A., Eachempati, P., Salian, K. K. K., Singh, V., Chhabra, S., & Shah, S. (2015). Zirconia in dental implantology: A review. Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry, 5(3), 147. Full text:
  5. Edelhoff, D., Spiekermann, H., & Yildirim, M. (2001). Metal-free inlay-retained fixed partial dentures. Quintessence International, 32(4). Abstract:
  6. Alani, A., Austin, R., & Djemal, S. (2012). Contemporary management of tooth replacement in the traumatized dentition. Dental Traumatology, 28(3), 183-192. Full text:

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  • You want to save time and money over your lifetime to get optimal health
  • Your goal is to be the healthiest version of yourself to feel the best
  • You want the least amount of dental work possible