My Patients Don’t NEED Root Canals
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“Your only option is a root canal.”
That’s what I was told over ten years ago before I was a dentist.
“WHAT?!?” I thought.
- I had been going to the dentist every six months since I was a baby.
- I had never missed a visit. Not one.
- I hadn’t missed a day of brushing or flossing since I was a teenager. (In fact, I remember getting ready for bed at a campsite late one night, realizing I had forgotten to bring floss, and driving all the way to the grocery store to buy more.)
- I couldn’t even go one night without flossing.
- I had only had two or three small cavities in my life.
How in the world was I now needing a root canal?
It’s “just a stain”
So let’s back up…
Shortly before my wife and I had moved to Boston to go school, I saw my dentist and was told I had a “small” cavity.
Ok, so what does that mean?
My dentist at the time told me that I could either have it filled before I moved or wait and have it evaluated during my next check-up once I was settled in Boston. It didn’t seem very urgent, so I decided I would wait and see. My dentist said it shouldn’t be a problem.
So for the next FOUR years I was told every six months that it was “just a stain.”
No big deal. We’ll keep an eye on it.
Finally the day of reckoning came. A new dentist had recommended that we now fill the cavity.
Ok, should be quick and easy, right?
Halfway through the procedure my dentist sat me up to explain that the cavity, which hadn’t appeared on x-rays, was larger than he had assumed and the nerve of the tooth had been exposed. My heart sank. I knew enough by that time about the situation to know what this meant.
“Your only option is a root canal,” he said.
There Are Other Options!
Fast forward ten years…
As a restorative and cosmetic dentist, I now see patients every day who have “small” cavities, cavities that don’t show up on x-rays, or cavities that are close to the nerve of the tooth.
And I have made it my mission to ensure that my experience is not repeated in my patients.
In fact, I have a mantra that is central to my practice:
My patients don’t NEED root canals.
Nobody wants to be told they need a root canal. To be honest, I probably like it even less than you do.
A root canal is really the beginning of the end for a tooth. It’s just a matter of time. And with the re-infection rates of root canals that we see in our practice, there are all kinds of health implications to consider.
How do We Prevent Root Canals?
Let’s start with those “small” cavities that don’t show up on x-rays. The easiest way to prevent a root canal is to address problems when they’re small and easy to fix.
Regular check-ups, simple fillings, and preventative practices give you the best chance of avoiding major problems.
Just because something is “small” doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be addressed. But, sometimes the cavity can’t be seen or felt, even on the newest x-ray equipment.
In our practice we use additional tools, including lasers to detect cavities at the earliest stages, giving us the best chance of preventing larger problems down the road.
What about big cavities?
Several month ago I got a call from a patient who was pregnant and scheduled for a root canal and a crown the next day at a different office. She was wondering if there was any way a root canal could be avoided. She wasn’t having any pain, the tooth was still alive, but a large cavity had formed inside the tooth and looked to be approaching the nerve. Could a root canal and a crown be justified?
It would be the most common treatment approach by far.
But not in our office…
We treat teeth like this with an approach called “Vital Pulp Therapy.” In this case, we make sure the tooth is still alive and the inflammation can be managed. We remove the vast majority of the tooth decay, create a “sterile zone” around the deepest portion of the cavity, and do everything we can to prevent an exposure of the tooth’s inner nerve. We then pull out one of our secret weapons again bacteria, toxins, and inflammation—ozone gas. The entire cavity is flooded with a high concentration of ozone gas, killing all of the bacteria, reducing sensitivity, and creating a sterile environment before we seal the tooth. A strict bonding protocol is followed to strengthen the tooth and it is then restored back to its original shape.
In this case, we were able to fix the tooth with a simple filling.
We have phenomenal success with this technique.
Even in cases where there is a small exposure of the tooth’s nerve, as long as the tooth is alive and not irreversibly damaged, we can sterilize, seal, and restore the tooth with predictable success.
Few things bring me more satisfaction as a dentist.
Time is of the Essence
Have you been told you “need” a root canal?
Do you have an area of sensitivity to cold, sweets, or chewing?
Do you know you have cavities?
Do something about it NOW!
The sooner you can address the problem, the better chance you’ll have of avoiding a root canal or tooth removal.
The key in these cases is to clean out the tooth BEFORE it becomes infected or develops a severe toothache. So if you have a large cavity, an area of sensitivity, or have been told you need a root canal, don’t wait.
Give yourself options by being proactive, find a dentist whose patients don’t NEED root canals, and get it addressed.
I learned the hard way. You don’t have to.
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Dr. Chase Larsen, DMD
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