You may have heard that a root canal is painful. You may have heard that a friend’s aunt’s neighbor had a root canal and ended up losing that tooth, or losing her health. The stories that have circulated for the past several years have portrayed root canal therapy as something we should avoid at all costs. We want to talk about this.
The procedure that addressed infected tissue by removing it and sealing off the canals of a tooth was first developed in the mid-1800s. That’s over 150 years ago. More importantly, it was during a pivotal time in dental innovation, before formalized education and training had been refined. This was a time of trial and error in all things related to dentistry. What that means to you, and to the idea you have about root canal therapy, is that you may be way off in your perception.
Here’s what we’d like you to know . . .
A root canal isn’t going to hurt.
Well, this is a confusing statement. Let’s rephrase this to say that root canal therapy does not hurt. Before you see your dentist for treatment, it’s quite possible that you may experience a toothache – possibly a pretty good one. This is because root canal therapy is performed to remove infection at the centermost part of the tooth, right where the nerves live.
When we perform root canal treatment, we do so with the generous use of local anesthetic. We want you to be comfortable. Because this is a priority for us, your root canal procedure may also include the use of appropriate sedation to keep you feeling relaxed and stress-free during your treatment. This is something we can discuss your procedure.
Extraction is not better than a root canal.
Recently, there has been a proposed theory that it is better to remove a tooth than to treat the infection. Our standard of practice is that we prefer to save natural tooth structure anytime we can do so. To remove an infected tooth would mean creating unnecessary space in the jawbone. Even if we were to replace that extracted tooth with a bridge, there would still be bone loss beneath the gums, and this could be a bigger problem down the line.