They’re perhaps the most dreaded words that patients hear at the dentist’s office: you need a root canal. For fearful patients, hearing a dentist recommend root canal treatment is akin to hearing that they’re being recommended to spend some time in a torture chamber. Many imagine drills, needles, severe pain, and a procedure that takes several hours to complete. Thankfully, a root canal—which is a dental treatment that repairs and saves a badly damaged tooth—is a relatively easy procedure that can preserve the natural tooth indefinitely. Much of the anxiety patients experience when considering root canal therapy is a product of several myths about the treatment. Some of the most common misconceptions include the following:
- Tooth extraction is a better option than root canal therapy. When patients find the prospect of root canal therapy intimidating, they might feel that extraction is a better option. This is simply not the case. Whenever possible, preserving the natural tooth is the ideal choice. No replacement tooth can compare to natural teeth in terms of functionality. Furthermore, in addition to requiring more time in the treatment chair, replacement options like bridges and dental implants are typically more expensive than root canal therapy.
- Root canals are severely painful. This is perhaps the most widely circulated myth concerning root canal therapy—and the number one reason why fearful patients try to avoid the treatment at all costs. Indeed, root canal therapy likely involved some discomfort in years past. However, with modern advances in dentistry, patients undergoing root canal treatment typically experience no more discomfort than patients having a simple cavity filled. In fact, root canal therapy actually relieves tooth pain.
- If I’m not in pain, I don’t need a root canal. For many patients, root canal therapy is preceded by a severe toothache. However, pain isn’t always present in patients requiring root canal treatment. Sometimes, the nerve in the tooth dies, so the patient no longer feels pain or discomfort. Treatment is still required, though, because if left untreated, the dead tooth can become infected. Simply put: while pain is often present in teeth requiring root canal therapy, it’s not a reliable indicator of teeth needing treatment. So, how is a dead tooth detected? Typically, a dead or dying tooth is discovered during a routine check-up at the dentist. Then, the dentist might use a confirmation test—like temperature testing or percussion testing—to confirm the tooth has indeed died.
- Root canals are just a temporary fix. Another common misconception related to root canal therapy is that it’s just a temporary solution that will require further treatment down the road. However, the benefits of root canal therapy are typically long lasting. In fact, when the crown—which is the final restoration in root canal therapy—is well-made and good oral hygiene is practiced by the patient, the preserved tooth can last indefinitely.
- Root canal therapy requires several appointments to complete. When considering root canal therapy, many patients envision themselves sitting in the treatment chair day after day for hours on end. Often, however, root canal therapy can be completed in one or two office visits. How long the process takes depends on a number of factors, including: the severity of the infection, how difficult the procedure itself is, and whether or not a referral to an endodontist—a dentist who specializes in root canal treatment—is necessary.
Remember: when it comes to dental-related anxiety, knowledge is power. If you’d like to learn more about root canal therapy, contact us today. At Aurora Dental Group, we take pride in our ability to provide patients with a comfortable experience while improving the health of their smiles.