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Six Surprising Myths About Root Canals

Root canal. Just saying the term brings up lots of confusing and probably not-very-pleasant images. This restorative dentistry treatment is needed when bacteria get inside of a tooth and start to infect the pulp, because it ends the pain and saves the tooth. But if root canal therapy is so useful, why are people concerned about it? Here are six surprising myths about root canals that explain why.

Root canals are complicated: Somewhere along the line, people started talking about root canal therapy like it was some giant, complicated treatment that required repeated visits, lots of work, hard-to-find dental specialists, and so on. It’s true that not every dentist can provide root canal therapy. (Dr. Moores can, however.) But that’s true for almost every dental procedure. Not everyone is trained in every treatment. In reality, root canals are straightforward and commonplace these days.

Root canals need to be redone every few years: This myth is fairly easy to understand. Root canal therapy can get rid of an infection by removing the infected pulp. In other words, you get rid of the bacteria by taking it out of the tooth. But there’s always a small chance that you don’t get rid of all the bacteria. That means a few people who get root canals have to have it redone later when signs of the infection come back. That’s probably why some people think root canals need to be redone every so often. The truth is that almost all root canals are successful with the first treatment.

Root canals cause illness: Back in the 1920s, a dentist named Weston Price began to research how infection spreads in the mouth. He suggested that the only way to prevent an infection from spreading was to extract the whole infected tooth, and that trying root canal therapy would spread the infection to the rest of the mouth. This is where the myth of illness caused by root canals comes from. However, Price’s theory on infections never really caught on, and even as early as the 1930s, dentists found new research proving Price was wrong and that root canal therapy did not cause any new infections. With all of the misinformation and fringe ideas about health floating around the Internet these days, it’s no wonder this myth is still making the rounds. 

Removing the tooth is better than a root canal: Along the same lines, there’s a myth out there saying root canals don’t work, or at least it’s much better in the long run to have a tooth removed instead of going through root canal therapy. Often, this myth is combined with the others saying root canals are painful (they’re not), complicated (untrue), or can cause the infection inside that tooth to spread (proven incorrect). It all comes together to say extracting a tooth is better than having root canal therapy. This is true only in rare cases when the infection has been untreated so long that there’s just not enough pulp to save and the tooth is all but dead already. It’s almost always better to save a tooth and keep it in your mouth, as there are all kinds of problems associated with an empty space in your smile. Since root canals can save that tooth, they are much preferred over any tooth removal.

You only need root canals when you’re in a lot of pain: This myth comes from one of the main reasons for getting root canal therapy: to get rid of the pain. When a tooth becomes infected, the bacteria can trigger the nerves in the pulp, causing a powerful toothache. In fact, such a toothache is one of the warning signs that you need a root canal. But waiting for the infection to spread and get very painful is like waiting for a fractured bone to finally break. It makes no sense! In fact, root canals are best done to prevent the pain so you don’t have to suffer from it. Our digital X-rays can help identify infection inside the tooth, and our root canal therapy can remove the infection before it starts to hurt.

Root canals are painful: Of all the root canal myths, this is probably the biggest and most known. When you tell people you’re getting a root canal done, they often react with sympathy and fear. “You poor thing! Are you going to be OK?” That is, unless they have recently undergone root canal therapy themselves. Then they already know that modern root canals are not any more painful than other dental procedures. In fact, because it shares so much in common with getting a cavity filled, the feeling from a root canal is often compared to that of fillings. With a little local anesthesia, most patients report feeling no pain. And if you are still anxious about it, we can offer oral sedation to help you relax.

At our dental office in Paradise, CA, Dr. Moores has the right training and tools to give you the root canal therapy you need to end the pain and save your tooth. Call us today at 530-413-7002 to schedule your next appointment or ask any questions you may have about root canal therapy.

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