Root Canal Myths vs. Facts

Root Canal Myths vs. Facts

If you’re not familiar with the makeup of the tooth, it is covered with a hard layer of protective enamel, under which lies the dentin.  Within, there’s a soft pulp that contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue, all of which is involved in helping the tooth grow.

If this tissue becomes infected, you may experience a variety of symptoms, including severe pain, and your dentist will likely recommend a root canal procedure to remove infected pulp and preserve your tooth.  The good news is, a fully-developed tooth no longer needs this soft tissue to survive, so you don’t have to remove the entire tooth.

When you discover that you need a root canal, you may be nervous to undergo this treatment because there are so many inaccurate myths about this procedure floating around.  Here are just a few of the most common myths surrounding root canals, as well as the truth of the matter to put your mind at ease.

Myth: It Will be the Worst Experience of Your Life

There seems to be a common sentiment that root canals entail excruciating pain, but in fact, just the opposite is true.  Root canals often become necessary because the patient is already experiencing unbearable pain related to severe infection, decay, and inflammation in the tooth and surrounding tissue.

Endodontists are specially trained to deal with this type of tooth trauma, and they are extremely sensitive to the needs of patients already suffering from pain.  Once they have assessed the state of the tooth, they can determine the best course of treatment, including the type and amount of anesthesia needed to make the patient most comfortable during the root canal procedure.

In addition, dental procedures and techniques have improved dramatically over the years.  While it may have been more common to experience painful dental procedures decades ago, that’s simply not the case in this day and age.

According to the American Dental Association Survey of Dental Services Rendered, last published in 2007, over 15 million root canals are performed annually.  In the vast majority of cases, patients are surprised to discover that the procedure is actually relatively pain-free, thanks to caring endodontists that know how to manage patient discomfort and anxiety and complete the procedure in a fast and efficient manner.

Myth: Root Canals Cause Cancer

You might be scratching your head over this one, since there is no readily apparent explanation, but this strange myth has actually been circulating since the 1920s, and it has regained popularity in the internet era.  The idea, originally conceived by a dentist named Westin Price, was based solely on his own experience and flawed testing methods, rather than any kind of scientific merit.

According to Price, the root canal procedure allowed for the accumulation of harmful toxins, leading to maladies as diverse as arthritis, heart disease, and cancer.  You’d think by now people would know better, but this strange and outdated myth continues to circulate and gain traction, despite absolutely no evidence linking root canals to cancer.  In truth, root canals eliminate harmful infection to improve the oral and overall health of patients.

Myth: You’re Better Off Having a Tooth Pulled

Again, this myth is nothing more than misinformation.  It’s ALWAYS better to preserve your natural tooth when possible.  You wouldn’t cut off your nose to spite your face, and if you have the option to salvage your natural tooth, that is the course you should take.

When you undergo tooth removal, it not only affects your smile and your confidence, but it could lead to problems like deteriorating jaw bone where the tooth used to be, as well as misalignment when adjacent teeth begin to lean into the gap left behind.  This means you’ll have to undergo further procedures to implant a new tooth, which is expensive, or get a bridge or dentures, which could irritate gum tissue, allow room for bacteria to infiltrate, and do nothing to stop jaw bone deterioration.

With a root canal treatment, you can remove infected tissue, fill in the empty space left behind to prevent further infection, and keep your natural tooth without the need for further dental treatments, preserving your beautiful smile in the process.  This is always the best outcome when faced with an infection that impacts the pulp in the sensitive root of your tooth.


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