Root canals are one of the most feared routine procedures in dentistry. There are several myths that create the perception that a root canal is scary. Despite it’s reputation, a root canal is not that different than getting a filling. The procedure can usually be completed in a single appointment and is made comfortable with the use of local anaesthetic.
A root canal is used to treat an infection of the dental pulp. Infection usually occurs when bacteria enters the tooth through a crack, chip, untreated cavity, or flawed filling. Root canals can often be prevented through regular dental care, including oral exams to ensure that infections are detected early. When infection reaches the pulp of the tooth, a root canal is performed to remove the infected pulp, disinfect the tooth, and fill it. To protect the tooth from future infection, it is usually covered with a crown. After the procedure, the tooth functions like a natural tooth and the treatment and recovery time is minimal compared to extraction and implantation of an artificial tooth.
Root Canal Pain
The perception that root canals are painful is an outdated myth. In fact, a root canal is more likely to resolve pain than to cause it. Many patients wait until symptoms like toothache appear before they book an appointment with their dentist. If tooth decay and infection are present, pain can be caused by damaged tissues in the tooth. A root canal resolves pain symptoms by clearing the damaged tissue and restoring the tooth. With modern technology and anaesthetic, a root canal procedure is nothing to be afraid of.
Root Canals and Post-Treatment Infection
The second myth about root canals is that they are an invasive procedure that can lead to infection, illness, or disease in the body. These claims are not supported by any scientific evidence, and the false association is left over from limited studies during the 1920’s and 1930’s when causes of diseases were unclear. The fact is that root canals are performed when a tooth infection has become so severe that it cannot be reversed through cleaning, fillings, or antibiotics. Left untreated, the infection can lead to complications such as tooth loss and blood infection. A root canal is a safe and effective way to preserve the tooth, clear the bacteria from the infected root, and prevent the infection from returning. A root canal also tends to be a safer and less expensive option compared to extraction.
Root Canal vs. Tooth Extraction
The final misconception about root canals is that extraction is a good alternative. Pulling a tooth is more traumatic than a root canal and is associated with a higher incidence of bacterial infection afterward. Replacing a tooth with an artificial implant is never quite the same as having a real tooth. An extraction followed by implant is a more complex procedure and requires more than one visit to the dentist. Following the procedure, it is common for patients to avoid certain foods due to discomfort. The best rule of thumb is to always save a natural tooth whenever possible through restoration rather than extraction.
If you have questions or concerns about root canals it is best to speak to your family dentist. The best way to avoid procedures like root canals is to practice good dental hygiene and to visit your dentist regularly for check ups. When tooth decay is found early it is unlikely that you will ever need a more advanced procedure such as a root canal. Speak to your dentist about the best oral health plan to meet your needs.