Busting The Myths Surrounding Root Canal Therapy

3 August 2015
 Categories: Dentist, Articles

You're at the dentist, and you're having your bi-yearly exam. Suddenly, you hear the words you dread the most: you need a root canal. While no one really enjoys the experience, much of the fear and angst surrounding this vital procedure is based on myth. Understanding the truth helps to calm your nerves, ensuring that you go into the procedure in a positive state of mind. In this article, you'll learn the truth about three major root canal myths, how they developed, and the real story surrounding them.

Root Canals Are Horrifically Painful

Ask anyone who's afraid of the dentist, and they'll probably tell you the same thing--they're afraid of the potential pain. This is true of any dental procedure, but society seems to have a next-level concern when it comes to root canals. This may be because of a widespread misunderstanding of root canals and how they occur.

When your endodontist performs a root canal, he or she opens up the tooth to access the root. He or then clears out each of the canals found within the root itself and then fills it with a substance that hardens permanently within just a few minutes. What this does is cut off access to the nerve below each root, hopefully preventing further infection and pain.

People assume the procedure will be painful for one of two different reasons:

  • They think that tunneling down to the root and nerve will result in intense pain
  • They don't understand that endodontists have many different pain control methods available

Modern anesthesia techniques ensure that your root canal will be veritably pain-free. In fact, with the emergence of sedation dentistry, you can even ask to be sedated or put under if you're still afraid. Furthermore, as a root canal is done to correct an infection of the nerve under the tooth, you are more likely to have exceptional pain before the procedure is completed. Once the canals are filled, the nerve is no longer exposed to the air.

Root Canals Cause Cancer

This myth is plainly, patently false. There is absolutely no connection between root canals and cancer--at least that researchers have been able to identify so far. The basis of this originally started with an article by Dr. Joseph Mercola, someone who has shown support for a number of other dubious causes in the past. 

In the article, Mercola called on a single experience had by a doctor by the name of Price in the 1940s. Supposedly, Dr. Price had removed a crippled woman's root canal tooth, and she regained the ability to walk. This was the basis for focal infection theory, the idea that an infection in one area of the body can cause serious injury in another. The theory has been debunked over and over again, but much like any other urban legend, continues to persist over time.

As recently as 2015, scientists have remained unable to prove a causative link between root canals and cancer. Your endodontist will, of course, discuss any and all legitimate risks with you before your procedure. Overall, root canals are a safe, well-tolerated, and effective way to prevent tooth loss when infection occurs.

Extraction Is Always Better

While tooth extraction is sometimes needed, it certainly can't be said that it's always a better choice. To say such a thing would be similar to saying that heart surgery was better for every patient than medication. It's just not that cut and dry--no health concern ever is.

As a patient, you have a unique health story and history that must be considered before a decision is made to extract or move forward with your root canal. Your endodontist knows that it's not possible to make blanket statements about what may or may not be right for you. According to this guide by the American Association of Endodontics, root canals are still preferred over extractions whenever possible.

Your endodontist will consider a number of variables before suggesting either procedure:

  • Your current health condition
  • Whether you are immunocompromised
  • Your age
  • Your ability to follow recovery guidelines
  • What you believe is best for you
  • The potential for adverse effects
  • Whether or not you've ever received radiation therapy

All of these variables can impact your ability to heal. Here's an example: in very young children, extraction tends to be easier than doing a root canal. This is especially true of children who haven't yet lost their baby teeth. Once the permanent teeth come in, the missing tooth will simply be replaced. Additionally, root canals take much longer to complete. They may be more traumatizing for the child.

Above all else, know that your endodontist makes recommendations based on your unique needs. He or she has an ethical responsibility to see that you are well-cared-for. That means ensuring that your pain is handled, your fears are assuaged, and you have the best chance of success possible. For questions about root canals or any other procedure, schedule an appointment today. You can also visit http://www.jpdentalgroup.com for more information.