The term “root canal” can be rather confusing. On one hand, it refers to the natural cavity inside the tooth where the pulp chamber is located. This is the area where the sensory nerves of the tooth can be found. When the pulp has been badly damaged by injury or disease, the diseased pulp tissues and nerves can lead to severe infection, which is why they need to be removed. This is to stop the bacteria from multiplying and infecting the surrounding tissues, leading to severe dental conditions such as bone loss, tooth abscess and swelling on the neck and face. Herein lies the confusion. The process of removing the infected pulp is also known as “root canal”, which is the way most people identify with root canal therapy.
The root canal, or endodontic treatment, is designed to repair and save the badly infected tooth from extraction. It involves removing the pulp and nerves and protecting it by cleaning and sealing the inside of the tooth. A crown, which is a tooth-like cap, is usually placed over the treated tooth to help strengthen the restoration.
Even though the root canal therapy essentially helps to preserve your natural tooth – so that it does not need to be extracted and replaced with an artificial one – some patients avoid the treatment due to popular myths depicting it as a pain-inducing procedure.
In this article, we will help to dispel some of those myths and show you why a root canal is more beneficial than you think. It is also not as painful as some people make it out to be.
Myth #1: Root canals are painful
This is a common myth that undermines the importance of a root canal procedure, while exaggerating its effects. First of all, it is important to note that the bulk of pain associated with a root canal procedure really has nothing to do with it at all. The pain emanates from the infection of the sensory nerves, and is usually the symptom that triggers the need for treatment. Instead of causing the pain, the root canal procedure actually helps to relieve it. Obviously, any treatment that involves your sensory nerves will involve some measure of pain or discomfort, but the goal of a root canal is to remove the pain-causing infection, so that you won’t have to put up with future bouts of pain. Second, modern endodontic procedures administered using general anaesthesia and minimally invasive techniques help to numb the area and significantly reduce the pain factor.
Myth #2: The treatment requires many appointments to complete
This statement runs counter to the fact that most root canal procedures may be completed in one or two dental appointments. However, it is true that some treatments may require more visits due to several factors, such as the complexity of case, extent of infection and the need to refer to a specialist endodontist. This should be judged on a case-by-case basis, but it certainly isn’t a blanket rule for all root canals to require multiple appointments.
Myth #3: Root canal is only necessary if the tooth hurts
The tooth does not need to hurt to qualify for root canal. As long as the dentist has found a badly infected tooth that has died, the root canal treatment may be recommended regardless whether the tooth hurts or not. This is also why regular screening and checks are important.