If you have cracked or missing teeth, you may be wondering if there are any alternatives to dental implants. While dental implants can be a great solution for many patients, not all patients want to get them or are suitable candidates.
Fortunately, in those cases there are a couple of other alternatives. The main ones are (1) root canals and (2) tooth extraction with a bridge, where the dentists joins three or more crowns together.
Let’s look at root canals. Once a dentist has diagnosed a dental nerve as dead, a dentist will often assume that the dental nerve space inside the tooth—frequently called the root canal system—and the bone surrounding the tooth are infected. The tooth must be extracted, or the dentist must perform a root canal.
A root canal seals the inner main nerve trunks of the dental nerve. The dentist removes the nerve from the root system and seals the space with an inert material known as gutta percha. Then a post-core is added to prevent root fracture. Finally, a dentist will add a crown to keep the tooth from fracturing.
Root canals can bring challenges. Accessory nerves and dental tubules, which are present in all teeth, can still communicate with the body. The dental tubules alone may present a surface area equal to two miles per tooth.
Beyond that, a tooth is an “open” biological system that interacts with the body. The seal at the root apex or tip does not constitute a true “hermetic” seal. As a result, a root canal may, if a patient’s resistance is low, provide passage into the body for bacteria and bacterial toxins The bacteria and bacterial toxins may interact with a susceptible cell or organ.
Bridges are another alternative. These have excellent cosmetics and can facilitate chewing. The downside is they must involve adjacent teeth. People with a high decay rate may not be able to get bridges.
Ultimately, it is important to know all of your options if you need to get a tooth pulled. Implants are a good option for many patients, but sometimes, patients are better off choosing an alternative. Learning all you can about the various options can help you make the best possible decision, in consultation with your dentist.