5 Myths About Root Canals

Over the years, there have been many myths about root canals. Sometimes these myths get in the way of people seeking treatment that can help end their pain.

We want to take a moment to clear up five myths about root canals. As endodontists, we truly believe in root canals and their ability to save teeth! We have seen results from this treatment time and time again, including relief from sometimes intense and persistent pain and renewed well-being. Unfortunately, some people delay or decline treatment because they believe in one of these harmful root canal myths.

Please remember, this article is purely for education and to explain why it is so crucial that you follow up with your dental care. We don’t want anyone to feel like they have to live with pain when there may be highly effective treatment options available, including root canals. Of course, your oral health needs are specific to you, and there is no substitute for care from a skilled dentist or endodontist.

Myth 1: Root Canals Cause Pain

People often compare a painful or uncomfortable experience to a root canal. Sadly, this is one of the most persistent myths that root canals hurt. In reality, a successful root canal treatment resolves pain. If you need a root canal, this is because you have a deeply damaged, diseased, or infected tooth. In fact, general tooth pain, sensitivity to temperatures, and pain when biting down are classic symptoms that you may need a root canal.

An endodontist first conducts a thorough examination before choosing a specific treatment. Most root canal treatments result in a bit of tenderness while healing but ultimately resolve the pain that led you to seek dental care in the first place.

If you have had a root canal treatment and are experiencing new or intensifying pain, please get in touch with your endodontist or dentist. This could be a sign that some aspect of the treatment was unsuccessful. While modern root canals are highly effective, sometimes the treatment fails, though this chance can be reduced by seeing an experienced specialist.

Myth 2: Root Canals Remove the Tooth’s Root

Sometimes patients believe that a root canal removes their tooth’s root. This is inaccurate; during a root canal, the endodontist opens the tooth to clean it from the inside and remove the diseased pulp.

This myth has another variation stating that a root canal “kills” the tooth. The American Association of Endodontists clarified this misconception. While most root canals “remove nerves inside the tooth,” the tooth looks and functions as it did, just without the pain from decay and disease. The nerves are not essential to the function of a mature and developed tooth.

Myth 3: Pulling the Tooth is a Better Option than a Root Canal

This myth goes right to the heart of our profession as endodontists. In some cases, tooth extraction is the only option. However, our goal is to offer a solution to the pain and disease before it gets to that point. 

Your dental alignment is unique; the way your teeth fit together is specific to your mouth. In other words, nothing will fit quite as well as your natural tooth. In some cases, the tooth becomes too diseased to be saved, causing pain, bone loss, and infection. But in cases where a root canal treatment can save the tooth, preserving the tooth is ideal. 

Successful root canals help maintain your smile, end or manage pain, help preserve bone and supporting tissue, and help restore wellness. 

Myth 4: Root Canals Can Cause Illness

The American Association of Endodontists debunked an old myth that root canals increase the odds of illness. As explained, this myth was based on one flawed study published almost one hundred years ago that has been repeatedly disproven. The medical and dental professions have moved on to a new understanding as more studies were completed and more patients have experienced healing resulting from a successful root canal treatment. 

Here’s the origin of the myth and why it’s incorrect. Back in 1920, a dentist named Weston Price published research on his theory that having a diseased tooth extracted prevents disease and infection. He questioned the effectiveness of root canals in treating infected or diseased teeth. As soon as the 1930s, other studies challenged and debunked this theory, showing that root canals restore your oral health. 

Plus, technology has made massive leaps forward since the 1920s. Just take a look at your cell phone or computer. Modern-day root canals are considerably more effective with the help of advances in medical and dental technology. Today, endodontic treatments, including root canals, are considered effective and beneficial.

Myth 5: If a Root Canal is Unsuccessful, Extraction Is the Only Option

We work our hardest to ensure that our treatments are successful, but there is no such thing as a 100% success rate since root canals are a biological process. Rest assured that your endodontist is committed to your healing, though. In fact, Ballantyne Endodontics founder Dr. Sonia Chopra knows firsthand the pain and disappointment of failed dental care. She was born missing eight teeth and with a range of other oral health concerns. She had braces, root canals, fillings, tooth extractions, and implants from a young age. Some of these treatments were unsuccessful and caused further discomfort. Because of this, she also knows firsthand the transformational power of successful endodontic care, which led her to her professional passion of saving natural teeth whenever possible!

Sadly, a root canal can fail for multiple reasons, including some that are no fault of the dentist who performed the procedure. If the tooth is chipped, cracked, broken, or decayed, harmful bacteria can reenter the treated tooth, leading to new pain and infection. Fortunately, retreatment of a previous root canal can often restore your oral health by addressing the new source of the infection. 

We recommend that you seek care from an endodontist who specializes in retreatment or who has extensive experience with this procedure. 

Increasing Your Odds for a Successful Root Canal

Hopefully, this article has served to alleviate some fears you may have had about root canals! For a variety of reasons, we have found that some people ignore the signs that their tooth has been diseased for too long, hoping it will go away. Even after seeing a dentist, some procrastinate getting a root canal due to fear or dread. However, the sooner you seek treatment, the better your chances of a positive outcome and saving your tooth.

As time passes, the disease and decay will only worsen. The source of the infection will not go away on its own, even if your symptoms go away for a while. Delaying or avoiding treatment can result in more severe infection, bone loss, a dental abscess, and pain. The sooner you seek treatment, the better.

If you live in the Charlotte, NC, area and need a root canal or retreatment, we are happy to help. The team at Ballantyne Endodontics specializes in endodontic care and saving natural teeth. We bring to the table decades of expertise, today’s best practices and technology, patient-centered compassion, and first-hand experience to provide the best patient experience possible.

Contact us today to schedule your appointment or to learn more about how to request a referral from your general dentist.