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If You’re Looking for Alternatives to Root Canal, Start Here

Robyn Openshaw, MSW - Updated: September 11, 2019 - This Post May Contain Affiliate Links

Photo of dentist chair from

This article has been medically reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Michelle Jorgenson, DDS, FAGD, TNC, and dental advisor to

Has your dentist told you that you need a root canal? Before deciding what’s right for you, it’s important to know that you do have choices. Alternatives to root canal do exist, and they may be a better fit for you. Part of achieving optimal health is being proactive in your own health plan, and to do so requires knowledge of all your options.

In this article:

What is a root canal?

A root canal is better termed a root filling. In the center of the tooth, there is a space in your tooth where the dental pulp (the soft tissue inside) exists. It contains blood vessels and nerves. When that pulp dies from a deep cavity or trauma to the tooth, the pulp is removed and the root is filled with a rubber-like material.  What we colloquially refer to as a “root canal” is simply root canal therapy, a type of endodontic treatment.

During the root canal procedure, the endodontist (root canal specialist) will use very small files to remove the pulp, clean the now-empty canal area with a disinfectant-like bleach, and seal the space with a rubber-like filling.

The tooth is now weak and vulnerable. In order to strengthen the tooth, a crown (artificial tooth covering) is made to go over the tooth. This leaves a dead tooth in the jawbone, covered with a crown.

The whole process typically happens over two or more hour-long visits.

X-ray photo of various root canals from "If You’re Looking for Alternatives to Root Canal, Start Here" by Green Smoothie Girl

Alternatives to root canal do exist, and they may be a better fit for you.

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 the tooth dying and a cyst or abscess forming at the side or end of the root. This abcess is a pus-filled pocket that develops due to 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 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 clean all the pathways, even in the most well-done root canal procedure. Remnant bacteria can live in the tubules’ anaerobic environment and cause further inflammation and infection as your immune system continues to fight it off. I lived this situation, and ultimately had my root canal teeth pulled.
  • The crown you receive at the end of the procedure will need maintenance. The average crown lasts about 10 years. And if there is a metal core under that crown, it continually attracts bacteria to the tooth during those years.
  • If an infection is 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 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 they should only be taken (and balanced with probiotics) when absolutely necessary.
  • Root canals may exacerbate symptoms of chronic and degenerative diseases, according to Dr. George Meinig, one of the founders of the American Association of Endodontists and author of Root Canal Cover-Up .
    • A ground-breaking 2013 study, published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, showed that failed root canals are closely associated with heart attacks and strokes.1 The oral bacteria that causes root canal abscesses was found in 78.2% of the clots and blood samples from 101 heart attack patients, and x-rays from 30 of the patients found that 50% had infected teeth. Followup studies have confirmed this link,2,3 and dental researchers have called for a more integrated approach between medicine and dentistry to help identify and treat cardiovascular disease.4
    • Dr. Josef Issels, MD, a world-renowned cancer specialist, explains in his book Cancer: A Second Opinion that over 90% of his 16,000 cancer patients in 40 years had between two and ten root-canaled teeth in their mouths. He believes that root-canaled teeth generate toxins that can lead to cancer, and as part of his healing protocol, he requires all his cancer patients to have their root-canaled teeth removed.
    • Dr. Jerry Tennant’s findings concur. In his book Healing is Voltage: Cancer’s On/Off Switches, Dr. Tennant states that diseased teeth are related to 90% of cancers.

What are the alternatives to root canal?

Photo of fingers holding an extracted tooth from "If You’re Looking for Alternatives to Root Canal, Start Here" by Green Smoothie Girl

An extraction removes the entire tooth with the root canal.


Rather than keep a dead tooth in the mouth, even if it still functions, many people opt for extraction to get rid of it completely. There are several possibilities for closing the gap, including:

  • Partial dentures, which are removable and can replace one or more teeth
  • A bridge, which consists of a false tooth connected on both sides by crowns to keep it in place
  • A dental implant made of strong, biocompatible materials like zirconia affixed to the jawbone. Well-cared-for implants can cost less over a lifetime as there is not a need for further treatment, whereas a root canal will most likely lead to the need for more treatment in the future.

Treatments to Buy Time

A dentist can inject ozone gas near the end of the root of the tooth to reduce bacteria in the area. This procedure won’t eliminate all the bacteria, and may have to be repeated often, but it may help reduce inflammation for a period of time.

If the tooth is already dead, the root canal area can be filled with calcium hydroxide as a temporary filling material, which will also keep the bacteria at bay for a period of time. Neither treatment is permanent, but either one can buy you some time.

Sick & Tired? Dental Work May be the Culprit

What should I do if I’ve already had a root canal treatment?

Everybody’s situation is different, so make sure to consult with your biological dentist on the best next steps for your body (in my case when my root canal teeth failed, I ended up having them pulled). 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, goji berries, potatoes, paprika, and eggplant for a period of time to see if symptoms subside.

Eat antimicrobial foods

Although we 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.

Photo of open coconut with jar of coconut oil from

Coconut oil pulling attracts and pulls bacteria out of your mouth (so don’t swallow!)

Oil pull with coconut oil

As coconut oil is antimicrobial, it helps attract and pull bacteria out of the mouth (more on how oil pulling works here). 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 (such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and kombucha) and get adequate hydration for proper production of stomach acid, which helps digestion.


How you deal with an affected tooth is ultimately your decision, but know that there are alternatives to root canal therapy. If your dentist has recommended this procedure, you may want to consult with a holistic health practitioner as well to get a better handle on all the options available and make an informed decision. Use our free Holistic Dentist Finder to get in touch with a biological dentist in your area.

Infographic of alternatives to rood canals from "If You’re Looking for Alternatives to Root Canal, Start Here" by Green Smoothie Girl

Read next: Is Fluoride Good for Your Teeth? Know the Science & the Risks

Robyn Openshaw, the Green Smoothie Girl

Robyn Openshaw, MSW, is the bestselling author of The Green Smoothies Diet, 12 Steps to Whole Foods, and 2017’s #1 Amazon Bestseller and USA Today Bestseller, Vibe. Learn more about how to make the journey painless, from the nutrient-scarce Standard American Diet, to a whole-foods diet, in her free video masterclass 12 Steps to Whole Foods.



Photo of dentist chair with post's text from


  1. Pessi T, Karhunen V, Karjalainen PP, et al. Bacterial signatures in thrombosis aspirates of patients with myocardial infarction. Circulation. 2013;127(11):1219-1228. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.112.001254.
  2. Bale BF, Doneen AL, Vigerust DJ High-risk periodontal pathogens contribute to the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. Postgrad Med J. 2017;93(1098)215-220. Published online 2016 doi: 10.1136/postgradmedj-2016-134279.
  3. Fifer, KM, Qadir S, Subramanian S, et al. Positron emission tomography measurement of periodontal 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose uptake is associated with histologically determined carotid plaque inflammation. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2011;57(8):971-976. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2010.09.056.
  4. Bale B, Doneen A. Beat the Heart Attack Gene: The Revolutionary Plan to Prevent Heart Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes. Nashville, TN: Turner Publishing Co.; 2014


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Posted in: Dental Health, Health Concerns, Preventive Care

15 thoughts on “If You’re Looking for Alternatives to Root Canal, Start Here”

Leave a Comment
  1. Recently I was told if a crown didn’t work, my dentist would do a root canal. I declined that and decided to have the tooth extracted. Thanks for all the info. It confirms what I thought was true.

  2. Karolyn White says:

    After listening to the oral summit 2 years ago I was alarmed at all the information I learned. I already had a root canal that I had for a few years. Being a RN with a back ground in holistic nutrition I started searching for a biological dentist. I had the root canal removed and it took the dentist about 3 hours to clean out all the bad bacteria located in there. I had an implant placed. Oral health is so important but so is our life style; diet, rest, managing our stress, and exercise. Thank you for what you do.

    1. MT says:

      I did the same thing, but found out that implants are just as bad as root canals for harboring really bad bacteria, etc. So I contacted Dr. Blanche Grube (biological dentist) in Scranton, PA. and had her remove the two implants I had. She was the only biological I could find that removed implants with a laser, so there is minimal bone loss. I had a biopsy done of the surgical site and it came back alarmingly gross. Not all the bacteria could even be resolved with low dose antibiotics. I used herbs, tinctures, silver, and soft laser to help with the rest. Contact DNA Connextions (think that’s right) for their work on the issue.

      1. Shruti Kumar says:

        Whats the solution then. Both my root canals failed after 8-10 years . I suspect they damage healthy teeth as well . unfortunately sincd there was pain i ended up getting re rct done on that . i am willing to get both extracted . and second root canal teeth hurts now and needs immediate attention . what are my options ?

        1. Lori says:

          Funny, my dentist wanted to also re-do my root canal that cracked and turned black. She did clean it out and now I’m just waiting for the specialist to have time to remove it. I have about nine others to deal with but being recently diagnosed with Cancer I’m not taking any more chances.

  3. Deanna says:

    I have to wonder how different is an implant from root canal therapy. You are attaching a foreign body to the skeletal structure of the body.

  4. I was glad to see Robyn write on this topic. I have had some horrible dental experiences, and learned the hard way that preventing tooth decay is so worth the time, energy, and focus. I had to eventually practice more self discipline to remineralize my teeth, which thankfully, also balanced my gut bacteria! I have written three detailed articles regarding all of this on my Being Wholly Vibrant blog site. ❤️

  5. Miriam says:

    Is an implant as dangerous as a root canal? Very expensive I know – a big minus! Thanks

  6. What a timely article for me. A few weeks ago a 10-year old "root canal" tooth got infected and I’m in treatment by a biologic dentist now. There was a part of me that still wanted to "save" the tooth, but fortunately when the Endodontist was working on it, she spotted a crack that meant that the tooth would have to be pulled. Thank you, Universe, for over-riding my poor choice. I know that having the extraction will be so much better for my health!

  7. Anna says:

    Can a biological dentist tell by looking at a 3D xray if the root cannaled tooth needs to be extracted?

    1. Rose Butler GSG says:

      Hi Anna, 3D X-ray imaging in dentistry has improved the way your dentist can care for your oral health. If you need a dental implant, a tooth extraction, a root canal, or other work done, 3D X-rays are able to provide more valuable information than traditional X-rays for your dentist to determine a treatment plan. In addition, to displaying signs of decay or damage in the tooth, these X-rays can help the dentist get a better idea about future treatments, such as dental implants or alignments.

  8. This is very inspiring article..I am pleased with your good work.This article contains really useful information about alternatives for root canal.Thanks for sharing.

  9. dave says:

    whatabout the pulp. thought that had to remain to keep blood supply to the area.

  10. Anna says:

    Thanks for your info on root canals. My crown just cracked over the root canal and it is located bottom left to be the last tooth. If it gets extracted I have no other options but I worry what happens with chewing will my jaw look different. I don’t know if anyone’s jaw/mouth looked different or you can’t chew food like before. If someone experienced a root canal tooth extraction and never filled it was there a problem later????? Ty

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