If you are unfamiliar with root canal therapy, the procedure may make you feel uneasy. In fact, many patients have developed misconceptions about endodontic treatment, believing it to be overly painful or unnecessary. Dispelling root canal myths can put your mind at ease and restore your confidence. Dentists have been performing endodontic procedures for decades, and for good reason. Root canal therapy is a highly effective way to relieve pain and save an infected tooth that would otherwise need to be extracted. Despite its negative reputation, root canal treatment is safe, virtually painless, and predictable.
Despite its negative reputation, root canal therapy is safe, virtually painless, and predictable.
Dentists are acutely aware of the negative connotations that surround root canal therapy. Many patients have serious reservations about endodontic treatment, and some even avoid the care they need. Fortunately, patients are becoming better informed, and their attitude towards root canal therapy is changing. To better understand this treatment, it is important to be aware of common myths and misconceptions.
Myth: Root canal therapy is excruciatingly painful. A recent survey conducted by the American Association of Endodontists indicated that two out of three Americans list fear of pain as their main concern when it comes to root canal therapy. However, modern advances in technology have made treatment no more painful than receiving a dental filling. In fact, root canal therapy is intended to relieve pain, not cause it. During treatment, your doctor can administer local anesthetic to numb the area, and you may also elect to receive a stronger sedative if you are especially anxious about treatment.
Myth: You will always experience pain if you have a dental infection. This is not always the case. Certainly, dental pain can be a sign of an infected tooth. However, even a tooth that feels completely normal can have a compromised pulp. Sometimes, a non-vital, or dead tooth, can only be diagnosed with the help of x-rays or other advanced images. An asymptomatic tooth with a non-vital pulp can flare up at any time and should be treated as soon as possible.
Myth: Root canal treatment causes illness. This myth is patently false. It stems from research conducted nearly a century ago, that incorrectly claimed bacteria trapped inside an endodontically treated tooth could spread through the body and cause various forms of illness. This relationship was later debunked and further research failed to establish any connection between root canal therapy and illness.
Myth: Root canal therapy takes multiple visits and many hours to complete. This was once true, but improved techniques, materials, and instruments have streamlined the process. Most root canal treatments can be completed in one or two appointments. The amount of time you spend in the dentist's chair is dependent on the extent of the infection, the accessibility of the canals, and experience of the dentist. If you are receiving a custom dental crown, you may need to visit the dentist one more time for placement. However, some dentists offer same-day crowns, which can be designed and manufactured in a single visit.
Myth: A better alternative to root canal therapy is to extract the infected tooth and place a fixed bridge or an implant. It is always better to save your natural teeth whenever possible. Root canal therapy is more conservative than a fixed bridge or an implant-supported restoration. Often, these treatments require reshaping healthy neighboring teeth, which can jeopardize the structure of your smile. In addition, no artificial tooth can function quite as well as a natural tooth. Teeth that have been treated with a root canal can last a lifetime without causing further issues.
Myth: Root canal therapy does not last and when it fails, the tooth must be extracted. The long-term success rate of teeth that have been endodontically treated is quite high. For teeth that do become re-infected, it is usually possible to repeat the root canal treatment. Alternatively, the infection can be treated surgically during an apicoectomy, in which the infected tip of the tooth root is removed.
Myth: Root canal treatment is too expensive. The word "expensive" is a relative term, but it stands to reason that root canal therapy, followed by the placement of a restoration, is somewhat costly. However, the cost of having the tooth extracted and replaced with either a fixed or implant-supported restoration would cost as much if not more. Root canal therapy is a long-term investment into the health and aesthetics of your smile.