Do you ever quit to reflect that, as dentists, we are living in a definitely wonderful time? We have amazing technologies at our fingertips, and sufferers are fortunate to have unprecedented access to dental care.

But no matter how significantly shiny, state-of-the-art technologies is accessible, if dentists think that a tooth cannot be saved, it automatically becomes not possible to save it. We have been all taught to cultivate specific beliefs in dental college. Nevertheless, have you ever believed, “I wonder if that tooth would respond to therapy?” Remembering your instruction, even though, you decided the safest bet was to extract.

More than the years as a practicing endodontist, I’ve been privileged to witness so numerous “unsavable” teeth be saved that I knew I had to re-examine my personal beliefs.

Now, I view myself as a tooth saver, and I’d like to encourage all of us to open ourselves up to new beliefs about which teeth can be saved. This way, we can serve our sufferers at an even greater level.

Teeth are so extremely critical, but considering that we treat them day in and day out, we from time to time drop sight of the larger image.

What if our beliefs have been the most critical piece of technologies that we definitely required to upgrade? Take a moment, step back, and consider about it. I view our teeth as tiny small temples inside our mouths—the gateway to our bodies. Our teeth assist nourish and hydrate our bodies, and they give us self-confidence when we smile. Teeth are valuable, and we have been born with them for numerous motives.

Proper now, I think we are getting known as to make a shift in our beliefs about saving vs extracting these valuable pearls that Mother Nature gave each and every of us. That way, we can wholeheartedly assist our sufferers.

We can each and every trust ourselves to save teeth, and we can trust the amazing energy of the human physique to heal when offered appropriate therapy. Think in your healing energy as a dentist. 

I’m not asking you to shift your beliefs without having proof, even though. So I’m going to use actual tooth stories from my personal practice to discover some of the greatest and most popular dental beliefs about “unsavable” teeth. After we shift these beliefs into the new, upgraded beliefs I will propose, we can make a lengthy-lasting, optimistic effect on the sufferers we touch. Stroll with me down Tooth Story Lane, and I hope you will really feel inspired, empowered, and prepared to make an upgrade to your beliefs.

Prevalent BELIEF NO. 1: Large LESIONS Do not HEAL 

How do you really feel when you encounter a large lesion? If you are considering, “It’s hopeless let’s extract it,” you are not alone, my buddy. Across the neighborhood of dental experts, there are distinct views on whether or not these teeth need to be extracted or saved.

It is quick to be concerned about the quantity of bone loss about the tooth. The basic teaching in dentistry is that the tooth will not respond to therapy, in particular when there is a loss of the buccal cortical plate. In this scenario, it is not uncommon for us, as dentists, to think the therapy will not function.

But there is a shining beacon of hope. We can truly see healing in this situation when we shift our considering. 

Understanding the pulpal diagnosis of the tooth—and additionally, understanding the reality that when a patient has a necrotic pulp, it will develop bone loss—is an vital component of this discussion.

Occasionally that bone loss is small, and from time to time it is monstrously large. It will differ per case and per patient, so I encourage us not to be so swift to judge these scenarios with a blanket statement. If we solely appear at the radiograph and treat it primarily based on the size of that lesion without having performing any endodontic diagnostic testing, we are generating a diagnosis primarily based on the limiting beliefs that have been imprinted on so numerous of us from our earlier teachers. And that signifies that, regardless of our extremely most effective intentions and aspirations, we may possibly be performing our sufferers a disservice.

It is time to definitely have an understanding of the illness method and step into our superhero roles as dentists to save teeth.  

A Tooth Story About a Giant Periapical Radiolucency

Take, for instance, a 46-year-old lady who presented to my workplace soon after her dentist discovered a periapical radiolucency about tooth No. 31. She was asymptomatic, and there was a important quantity of circumferential bone loss.

I performed my endodontic diagnostic tests and discovered that the tooth had no response to cold, had no discomfort upon percussion, and had no mobility, think it or not. Also, there was a 9-mm mid-buccal probing (all other locations of the tooth probed typically). I diagnosed the tooth as necrotic pulp and chronic apical abscess on No. 31 (Figures 1a and 1b).

Figure 1a. Preoperative periapical radiograph of tooth No. 31.

Figure 1b. Pre-op bite-wing radiograph of tooth No. 31.

Most of the time, when I present this case in my lectures, I ask the audience, “What would your therapy strategy be?” The answer I most frequently get is “Extraction.” This is since we, as dentists, have been taught to think that lesions of this size are incapable of healing.

As an alternative, what’s critical to have an understanding of is that the endodontic diagnosis (not lesion size) is what will guide you to the correct therapy strategy.

Don’t forget, necrotic pulps develop bone loss, and from time to time that bone loss can be huge. That just takes place to be what is organic for that certain patient, such as the one particular I’m sharing with you right here.

As an endodontist, I have discovered to reframe the beliefs that I discovered in dental college and to trust my diagnosis. So, in this case, I did the root canal (Figure 1c).

Figure 1c. Quick final post-operative obturation radiograph of tooth No. 31.

Now, it is just a matter of providing the physique the time that it requires to regenerate that bone. This is the value of following up with your sufferers when it comes to endodontics. A single year later, I witnessed her excellent recovery. Some may possibly get in touch with it a miracle, but it is not. It is basically the superpower that exists inside all of us: the potential to regrow our personal bone back (Figure 1d).

Figure 1d. A single-year recall radiograph of tooth No. 31.

And at two years postoperatively, there was even much more bone deposition and maturation (Figure 1e). 

Figure 1e. Two-year recall radiograph of tooth No. 31.

All of this occurred with root canal therapy only. There was no other dental intervention.  

This is not a one particular-off good results story. It can take place time and time once more in any practice—so lengthy as we loosen up into what our bodies are capable of, like regrowing bone, offered adequate time and healing.

In sharing this case, I intend for us to have an understanding of and trust our diagnosis to save teeth. When we have an understanding of the etiology of the illness method, we can make a much more efficient and meaningful therapy strategy that we can be confident will serve our sufferers.

But if we have been taught that large lesions do not heal, and we impose that belief on our sufferers, it may possibly lead them in the incorrect path. So numerous other dentists would have extracted this tooth. 

I think that when we, the providers, can reframe our dental beliefs to trust that lesions can heal with endodontic treatment—no matter their size—we can serve our sufferers to the fullest extent feasible.

Tooth-saving belief No. 1: Lesions can heal with endodontic therapy, no matter their size.


The J-shaped radiolucency most definitely gets a poor reputation when generating an endodontic diagnosis. And regardless of possessing much more than a decade of endodontic practical experience as a specialist, it nonetheless tends to make me second-guess my personal diagnoses when I see them.

Nevertheless, we now know and accept that the human physique will appear for the pathway of least resistance to drain an infection, and this may possibly just take place to appear like a J-shaped radiolucency, which means that the tooth is not cracked at all.

If there is one particular factor I could adjust about endodontic education inside dental college, it would be to emphasize the reality that J-shaped radiolucencies are not synonymous with root fractures. 

If you are questioning the probing on the mid-buccal since you, like me, have been taught that a probing equates to a root fracture—and, consequently, a non-restorable tooth—I want to address your concern. It is also not correct that an location that probes is usually linked with a root fracture. A probing can basically imply that the physique discovered the pathway of least resistance to drain the infection and designed a sinus tract (therefore the diagnosis of a chronic apical abscess). 

This sinus tract can drain by way of the sulcus and does not will need to appear like a pimple on the gingiva. Regrettably, this sinus tract clinically appears just like a probing that is linked with a root fracture, so it most certainly complicates the endodontic diagnosis and creates a layer of uncertainty.

Let’s discover an instance to illustrate this point.

A J-Shaped Radiolucency Tooth Story

A 38-year-old lady had a earlier root canal that appeared to be failing. When I looked at her preoperative radiographs, I could see that notorious J-shaped radiolucency about the mesial root and even some bone loss about the distal root (Figures 2a and 2b).

Figure 2a. Pre-op periapical radiograph of tooth No. 30.

Figure 2b. Pre-op bite-wing radiograph of tooth No. 30.

My diagnostic tests showed that there was some moderate tenderness to percussion and naturally no response to cold. All other findings have been inside regular limits, except that there was a 9-mm mid-buccal probing. The diagnosis was a previously treated and chronic apical abscess on No. 30.

I also obtained a pre-op cone beam, which much more clearly delineated the classic J-shaped radiolucency (Figures 2c to 2f).

Figure 2c. Pre-op sagittal CBCT view of tooth No. 30.

Figure 2d. Pre-op axial CBCT view of tooth No. 30.

Figure 2e. Pre-op coronal CBCT view of the mesial root of tooth No. 30.

Figure 2f. Pre-op coronal CBCT view of the distal root of tooth No. 30.

I had a lengthy discussion with the patient to present all of her therapy choices, such as endodontic re-therapy vs extraction. This is since I usually want to empower my sufferers with understanding so that they can make the most effective possibilities for their wellness.

We decided with each other that we each felt comfy attempting the re-therapy to see if we could save the tooth. I told her that if I positioned an internal fracture below magnification, I would have to refer her for the extraction. 

The patient, having said that, wanted to do what ever it took to save her tooth, which meant providing therapy a attempt. I was on board with this strategy since, more than the years, providing teeth a possibility has permitted me to see what magic our bodies are definitely capable of.

Upon removing the gutta-percha and very carefully inspecting the internal walls of the tooth, I didn’t see any sign of a fracture, so I continued to obturate the tooth (Figures 2g and 2h).  

Figure 2g. Quick post-op radiograph of tooth No. 30.

Figure 2h. Quick post-op off-angle radiograph of tooth No. 30.

As stated earlier, followup is the important to understanding the healing method in endodontics. I saw her back in my chair at her one particular-year post-op. She had nearly absolutely regenerated all of her bone (Figure 2i).  

Figure 2i. A single-year recall radiograph.

This patient does have a bit much more healing to do, but this will continue to take place with much more time. She has created exceptional progress for a lesion of this size, which extended into the furcal location. All that signifies is that it may possibly take a bit longer to heal. Bone is slow to develop, so when you see a lesion of this magnitude and shape, it may possibly take a couple of years to completely reconstitute with bone. “Bone can grow” is one more empowering belief that I encourage each and every of us to embody in our practices in order to completely serve our sufferers.

Tooth-saving belief No. two: J-shaped radiolucencies may possibly be restorable.

Prevalent BELIEF NO. three: WHEN A CANAL Cannot BE Observed ON a CBCT, IT Signifies It is NOT THERE 

It is normally accepted that the MB2 canal of a maxillary initial molar is one particular of the hardest canals to obtain and treat in the globe of endodontics. Cone-beam technologies has no doubt been a game-changer for me with respect to this canal. But it can also be a trap if we are not ready to study the scans appropriately.

Discovering the appropriate assistance in reading these scans can also be a challenge soon after we have invested in CBCT technologies, so I want to share a couple of secrets that I have discovered, hoping you will have an less complicated time succeeding.

An MB2 Canal Tooth Story

This 42-year-old male patient was in will need of a root canal due to a higher level of discomfort. His pre-op radiographs showed a deep composite restoration on tooth No. two (Figures 3a and 3b). His endodontic diagnostic tests revealed that he had lingering discomfort to cold and tenderness to percussion. All other testing was inside regular limits. I diagnosed tooth No. two with symptomatic irreversible pulpitis and symptomatic apical periodontitis.

Figure 3a. Pre-op periapical radiograph of tooth No. two.

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Figure 3b. Pre-op bite-wing radiograph of tooth No. two.

Prior to I get started any root canal, I usually like to have an understanding of the internal canal anatomy of a tooth prior to the process. Hence, I took a cone-beam scan (Figures 3c to 3e).  

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Figure 3c. Pre-op sagittal CBCT view of tooth No. two.

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Figure 3d. Pre-op axial CBCT view of tooth No. two.

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Figure 3e. Pre-op coronal CBCT view of tooth No. two.

The axial view of the CBCT scan is exactly where a dentist could effortlessly get stumped (Figure 3d). When seeking at tooth No. two, it seems as if there are only three canals: the MB, DB, and  P canals. Nevertheless, when we appear at the connecting root of the MB canal to the P canal, there is certainly much more space that could home a teeny, tiny canal—even even though you cannot truly see a fourth canal on the scan.  

It is definitely critical to appear at your cone-beam scan in all of its planes. In these scenarios, I specifically like to appear at the tooth in the coronal view (Figure 3e).

Visualize a line going by way of the MB orifice and the P orifice (from the axial slice). This creates the coronal slice that you are seeing (Figure 3e). And now we can see that there is an MB2 canal that could not be noticed as clearly in the axial view (Figure 3d). 

What did this inform me about this case, even just before I accessed the tooth? It told me that this MB2 was going to be a hard one particular to obtain.

If we appear at the axial view alone, it would be so quick to think that there is no MB2 at all in this case. Regrettably, that would have resulted in a root canal failure in the future, which neither the dentist nor the patient would want to take place! That is why the believed that canals that cannot be noticed on a CBCT scan basically are not there is eventually a false belief that each and every of us requires to examine.

Don’t forget the two cardinal guidelines of root canals: Root canals only function when we (1) obtain all the canals and (two) get to the finish of just about every canal.

As a side note, this may possibly be a excellent way to carry out a danger assessment and see if this is a case that you want to take on in your practice or refer to a specialist. In my opinion, this sort of canal configuration is one particular of the hardest to treat.

I am extremely grateful that, thanks to my CBCT scanner, I can have an understanding of the difficulty level of the canal’s anatomy just before I even get inside. This enables me to have a much more meaningful conversation with my sufferers, and it also manages their expectations all through the method of their therapy. 

With all of this further info and guidance from my cone-beam scan, I was capable to take this case to completion with self-confidence that I was addressing the whole tooth (Figures 3f to 3h). 

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Figure 3f. Conefit radiograph of tooth No. two.

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Figure 3g. Backfill radiograph of tooth No. two.

Figure 3h. Quick post-op radiograph of tooth No. two.

I hope that we’ll collectively adopt a new empowering belief that can lead to saved teeth: that the MB2 canal is nearly usually there, even if it is not quick to see. It is greater to assume it is than to danger a failed root canal and re-therapy.

Tooth-saving belief No. three: The MB2 canal is nearly usually there, even if it is not quick to see.


A single of the most frustrating elements of getting an endodontist is when you comprehensive a image-ideal root canal and that tooth nonetheless bothers the patient afterward. It does not take place extremely frequently, but when it does, it can really feel so defeating. 

The uncertainty as to why that tooth is nonetheless providing our sufferers some discomfort can be frustrating. The common explanation I have heard dentists give sufferers is that the tooth is cracked and now requires to be extracted.

But if we definitely consider about it, this determination does not eventually serve our sufferers. Most of the time in these scenarios, the tooth is not cracked, but rather there is nonetheless some bacterial contamination in the tooth. So, my recommendation is to re-treat the root canal just before we condemn the tooth. Look at this—would you extract your personal tooth or your child’s tooth, or would you give it one more possibility?

This similar clinical situation has occurred to me in my personal practice, and my initial instinct is to redo my personal function. When the patient nonetheless feels some thing when he or she taps on that tooth, I usually provide to attempt once more to see if re-disinfecting the tooth’s canals aids the patient. Happily, it performs about 80% of the time and the patient feels greater.

The important is not to give up on your patient’s tooth when it is savable. It is completely okay to attempt once more. Re-treating my personal root canals has taught me numerous lessons, has changed my tooth beliefs permanently by way of years of proof, and has created me a greater clinician. I now have an understanding of root canal anatomy greater than ever just before, and I appreciate that the internal anatomy can definitely limit what we can do with classic root canal therapy.

This has encouraged me to invest in further technologies, such as the GentleWave Method (Sonendo), which can elevate my present root canal experiences and outcomes. 

Examples of Root Canal Re-therapy Results Stories

Figure four shows a couple of post-op radiographs of tooth stories that demonstrate what I imply about root canal anatomy.

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Figure 4a. Post-op radiograph of tooth No. 21 (the smaller sized canal was not instru- mented with a rotary file, only activated irrigation by means of the GentleWave Method [Sonendo]).

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Figure 4b. Quick post-op radiograph of tooth No. 15 (the smaller sized MB2 canal was not instrumented with a rotary file, only activated irrigation by means of the GentleWave Method).

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Figure 4c. Quick post-op radiograph of tooth No. 19 (the smaller sized middle mesial canal was not instrumented with a rotary file, only activated irrigation by means of the GentleWave Method).

These teeny tiny canals are locations exactly where no rotary file can go—and they didn’t in these cases—which tends to make mechanical instrumentation complicated.

I treated all of these instances with GentleWave technologies. This has solidified my belief that irrigation is instrumentation, and that tends to make it a vital component of the endodontic future. It is a substantial paradigm shift, and it is time to think in it.

So, when we are in this scenario, recall the new belief that teeth that are symptomatic soon after a root canal may possibly not be cracked but just will need re-therapy. That is since there could be a tiny canal someplace that is nonetheless harboring a small bit of bacteria. 

It is okay if you do not have the similar technologies at your disposal, but my objective is to bring awareness into your life so you know exactly where to turn to take the subsequent step to assist your sufferers. Possibly this signifies you treat the tooth, or perhaps this signifies you refer to a specialist with that technologies for re-therapy just before you extract the tooth. Don’t forget, it is all about saving the tooth, and that only takes place if we give it a possibility.

Tooth-saving belief No. four: Symptomatic teeth soon after root canals may possibly not be cracked and may possibly will need re-therapy.


My intention with these tooth stories has been to bring all of us hope that we can save much more teeth and to inspire us to consider and evaluate very carefully just before we extract. 

I encourage us to consider twice just before taking a tooth out and to embrace my motto in life, which is #GiveTeethAChance. 

When we do, we’ll obtain that:

  • “Big lesions do not heal” becomes “lesion size is not a determinant of healing potential.”
  • “The J-shaped radiolucency signifies the tooth is fractured and requires to be extracted” becomes “the J-shaped radiolucency is not synonymous with a root fracture.”
  • “A probing equates to a root fracture and, consequently, a non-restorable tooth” becomes “a probing can basically imply that the physique has discovered the pathway of least resistance, and that tooth can be saved.”
  • “Bone does not develop back” becomes “bone can regrow, but it is slow, so have patience.”
  • “When a canal cannot be noticed on a CBCT scan, it is not there” becomes “look at your cone-beam scan in all of its planes, and assume that the MB2 is nearly usually there.”
  • “When a tooth is nonetheless symptomatic soon after root canal therapy, it have to be cracked” becomes “when a tooth is nonetheless symptomatic soon after root canal therapy, some of the infection may possibly have been missed, and a re-therapy will lead to a very good outcome.”

These are not the only scenarios exactly where teeth that are ordinarily extracted can be saved. I’ve shared precise scenarios since they’re extremely popular and since I also want us to get started seeing a pattern. If there’s one particular message I hope dentists take away from this short article, it is this final tooth-saving belief: You are a tooth saver and a tooth healer if you let your self to be. You have the potential to save teeth, even in scenarios in which you didn’t consider it was feasible. It only demands your belief.

I hope you are feeling excited and that you are currently beginning to think in the potential of teeth to be saved. Most of all, I hope you are prepared to take on the identity of a tooth saver.

I guarantee that the much more we get started to cultivate these new, empowering, tooth-saving beliefs and definitely have an understanding of the energy of our human bodies to heal, the much more we can develop greater outcomes that lead to greater lives for sufferers about the globe.


Dr. Chopra is a board-certified endodontist, TEDx speaker, Forbes contributor, author, endodontic instructor, and founder of Ballantyne Endodontics in Charlotte, NC. By way of her award-winning endodontic CE course, E-College, she teaches tangible lessons to make root canals basic. She can be reached at or, or by means of the Instagram deal with

Disclosure: Dr. Chopra is a KOL for Sonendo. She did not obtain compensation for writing this short article.  

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