Root canals have a reputation for being an awful dental procedure that you should avoid at all costs. There is so much misinformation surrounding root canals, whether it is in a shared post on Facebook, an independent film, or stories passed down through generations about terrible experiences. In this article, we will explain the truth about root canals and dispel these dangerous myths.
Myth #1: The dental procedure is called a root canal.
The term “root canal” actually describes an anatomical structure within every tooth. Teeth are hollow, and the hollow chamber that extends down each root is long and skinny, so we call it a canal. Every root canal contains nerves and blood vessels that supply the tooth with sensation and hydration.
Every root contains at least one canal, and some have more than one. So each tooth can have multiple canals.
The dental procedure most people call a “root canal” is technically a “root canal treatment”. The root canal treatment, or RCT, involves the removal of the nerve and blood vessel tissue from the canals, the disinfection and cleaning of each canal, and the sealing of the canals with a biocompatible filling material.
Myth #2: Root canal treatments are extremely painful procedures.
A root canal treatment, like any other dental procedure only takes place with the aid of local anesthetic. Your dentist or endodontist uses anesthesia to remove the sensation from the tooth so he or she can perform the procedure painlessly.
In cases of extremely inflamed or infected teeth, it may require additional doses of local anesthetic to remove all sensation. The procedure itself should cause you no discomfort at all. If it does, you must communicate to your dentist that you are feeling pain.
Myth #3: You only need a root canal treatment if your tooth hurts.
Root canal treatments are necessary to remove an inflamed or infected nerve from within a tooth that has a severe toothache. However, that is not their only application. Root canal treatments are also necessary to remove nerve tissue that is necrotic or “dead”. When the nerves and blood vessels within a tooth die, they lose sensation. This means you can have a tooth that needs a root canal that is NOT causing any pain.
The problem is that dead tissue very readily becomes infected, and the infection can spread to the jawbone surrounding the tooth. Without any treatment, a dental infection can spread into further areas, leading to life-threatening situations. And yes, it is possible for this to occur without pain!
Myth #4: A tooth with a root canal treatment no long has a root.
We commonly hear patients state that they have no roots on a tooth because it had a root canal. This is based on a mistaken assumption that the root canal treatment removed the root of the tooth. The root canal only removes the tissue from within the root.
In fact, one of its most important purposes is to preserve the tooth’s root structure within the jawbone!
Myth #5: A tooth that has had a root canal can no longer feel any sensations.
People are often confused when they experience pain or tenderness on a tooth that has had a root canal treatment at some point in the past. There is truth to this assumption because the root canal treatment does remove the nerve tissue from the hollow chamber inside the tooth.
It does not, however, remove the sensation from the tissues around the tooth. Teeth with root canal treatments may continue to have tenderness of pain because the nerve tissue surrounding the tooth’s roots can continue to send signals of pain to the brain.
Myth #6: Root canals cause cancer.
This myth has gained in popularity in the age of social media. There is a film claiming that the dental procedure of a root canal treatment causes cancer. The claim is based on a rather dubious statistic that over 90% of people who have cancer have also had a root canal treatment.
The truth is that even if that statistic were true, it still would not mean that root canals cause cancer. It would simply present an interesting fact. It would be like noting that more than 75% of the residents in your neighborhood drive red cars. Living in your particular neighborhood does not force you to purchase a red car, nor magically paint your car red.
There is absolutely no scientific evidence linking root canal treatment to cancer of any kind. This is a dangerous myth because it could cause some to avoid or delay an important treatment that removes a dangerous infection from the body.
More Questions about Root Canal Treatments?
Call Rockland Dental Specialists today and schedule a consultation with one of our experts. We can answer any question you have about root canal treatments and help you get started on the dental care you need.