Root canal and pain go hand in hand in many people’s minds. Generally our fears and anxiety stem from others telling us their experiences and not from our own. A root canal (also referred to as RCT or root canal therapy) is a dental procedure where the damaged nerve (also called the pulp) of a tooth is removed. Following removal of the nerve, the canals of the tooth are cleaned and sterilized. Following this cleaning process the canals are filled and sealed permanently to avoid future dental infection. If treatment is not undertaken, the dental infection will affect the tooth along with surrounding oral structures (like gums and bone tissues) and a dental abscess can form in the area as the infection looks to escape.
The reason for the removal of the tooth’s nerve is because these nerves (along with associated blood vessels) is responsible with providing hydration and nutrients to our teeth. They also give us the ability to sense hot and cold.
Surveys over the years find that root canal therapy is considered the most feared of all dental procedures. These surveys also found people’s views on root canal therapy is based on what others have told them and not their own individual experiences. This leads to people believing mostly inaccurate stories about root canals. It is the fear of the unknown as I like to call it.
Myths Surrounding Root Canal Therapy
Myth #1 – Root Canal Therapy Is Painful
Root canal therapy does not directly cause pain, this therapy is designed to relieve it! With modern anesthetics, techniques, and technology, root canal therapy is no more painful than getting a simple filling. The major cause of root canal therapy pain is the infection that a patient may present with. An infected site will cause extreme pain that can be difficult to get under control initially.
Your dentist will make sure you are comfortably anesthetized and relaxed prior to beginning root canal therapy. The removal of the pain-causing infected pulp from your tooth will relieve any pressure that is built up causing some of that discomfort. After the infected tissues are cleaned out, your tooth will be sealed closed to keep out any further invading bacteria and repair the enamel of the tooth with a dental filling or a protective dental crown.
Myth #2 – Why Not Just Remove The Tooth?
A well trained dentist will always use tooth extraction as a “last resort” type dental treatment. Nothing functions as well as your own natural teeth, so tooth preservation whenever possible is always the best course of treatment. Root canal therapy allows you to keep your natural tooth. This prevents you from having to resort to other extensive dental treatments, such as dental bridges or dental implants, to help replace the lost tooth and restore your smile.
Myth #3 – Root Canal Therapy Is Only For Teeth Causing Pain
Sometimes a dental infection has become so severe that the tooth actually dies. You may no longer be feeling any pain but infection is still present and damaging your underlying bone structure. A lot of the pain and discomfort we feel when dental infection is present is pressure. A dental infection can sometimes cause a bump in the gum tissue where the infection can leak out relieving that pressure and allowing it to feel better even though it is not. Even at this point, root canal therapy can still save the tooth structure itself. This is one of the reasons for routine dental examinations and radiographs. These visits can let us see changes as they happen before they become bigger issues. Regular visits will actually save you money over the long haul but sometimes that is hard to understand.
Myth #4 – Root Canal Therapy Takes A Long Time
Most root canal therapy treatment can be completed in 1-2 visits. If there is no active, serious dental infection present they can sometimes be finished in just one appointment or you may have to return to complete the filling or crown procedure. The condition of your tooth following root canal therapy and the severity of infection dictate the treatment time needed. Sometimes a dental crown is not needed but is usually recommended as the tooth will become more brittle without the natural nutrients and blood flowing thru the tooth.
Myth #5 – Dental Infections Are Common Following Root Canal Therapy
A re infection of the tooth root can happen, but it is not very common. If dental infection returns to the tooth, further dental treatment will be needed. The newest dental materials and technques used to fill a tooth following root canal therapy have been specifically designed to significantly reduce the likelihood of developing another dental infection in that tooth.
Root Canal Therapy Myths Conclusion
Root canal therapy has developed a very bad reputation over the years. Rest assured with new techniques it can be a painless experience. If you are feeling dental anxiety speak to your dentist and they can offer you advice on how to best cope.