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Dispelling the Myths of Root Canals

Photo by rgerber

Root canal treatment is important for treating and saving broken, decayed, or infected teeth. Although this procedure may be crucial for maintaining oral health, there are some common myths and misconceptions about this dental treatment.

Myth #1:  Root Canal Treatment is Painful
It is common to associate root canal treatment with pain because infected and broken teeth can hurt.  However, prior to having this treatment performed, the dentist will anesthetize the area thoroughly.  Often the dental office will have nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, available to relax the patient.  In some cases, an oral anti-anxiety medication can be prescribed to the patient.  There are also offices that may encourage the patient to bring along their earbuds to play their own music through the appointment.

While thinking about an unknown dental procedure can cause anxiety and stress, having more information about the treatment can help you overcome any concerns.  Consulting your dentist about any questions you may have will ensure a smooth appointment and a full understanding of the treatment being performed.

Myth #2:  Root Canals Aren’t Needed if you Don’t Feel Any Pain
Just because you’re not feeling any symptoms from a broken tooth or one with a big filling, that doesn’t mean you can skip oral treatment.  Some infection can be identified solely by examination of x-rays taken at a routine cleaning and check-up visit at your dental office.   If such an infected tooth is left untreated, the tooth and the area of jawbone supporting it are susceptible to further weakening and deterioration.

By undergoing root canal therapy earlier, you can stop the bone loss from further weakening the area and have your dentist restore the area to full function again.  Following successful root canal therapy, new bone reforms around the tooth.

Myth #3:  A Root Canal Isn’t Needed if You’re Going to Lose Your Tooth Eventually
Assuming your tooth will eventually need to be extracted is false.  Successful root canal treatment followed by the proper permanent restoration (likely a crown), results in the tooth being retained, which is better for your overall health and well-being.  If you expect to live a long life, having your own dentition will allow you to continue enjoying a healthy diet filled with a variety of foods!

When possible, it’s always better to keep your natural teeth instead of losing and replacing them.  While artificial teeth look genuine, they usually don’t afford the same level of function that your natural teeth do and may limit what you’re able to eat.  It is also typically more expensive to replace a tooth that is missing than it is to save your own teeth.

Myth #4:  Root Canal Treatment Can Cause Other Illnesses
Some believe that those who have had root canal treatment are at higher risk for developing a wide range of illnesses, such as heart or kidney disease, but this is not true.  Dental professionals use the latest techniques to ensure that the procedure is safe.  In addition to standard aseptic technique, the use of modern imaging techniques afford the dental professional a view of a root apex like never before, ensuring a custom root canal seal can be created at the terminus of every root canal being filled.

By adhering to standard techniques, as well as appropriate modifications based on current scientific research findings, your dentist will provide you with safe treatment, whether it is root canal treatment or another procedure.

Myth #5:  After You Have a Root Canal, You Won’t Have to Visit the Dentist
After having root canal treatment by either an endodontist or your general dentist, you will need to make a follow up appointment with your general dentist to have a permanent filling and/or crown placed on the tooth.  The temporary filling, which is placed in the tooth, following the completion of the root canal procedure, will only protect the interior of the tooth for a short time.  A permanent filling/crown is needed to ensure that bacteria from other areas in the mouth don’t enter.  A crown is commonly suggested for root canal-treated teeth because it surrounds and supports the tooth during chewing, keeping it from splitting or fracturing.  When root canal treatment is performed, the dentist needs to remove a little bit of tooth structure from the interior of the tooth to gain access to the canals.  This space created in the interior of the tooth can make fracture a more likely possibility later.  A crown helps to prevent that from happening.

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