Root Canal Treatment: Saving Your Teeth

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As if dark clouds are hanging over the words root canal, the mere mention of this treatment is enough to make most people cringe. Root canals have received a lot of bad reputation and has led some people running the opposite direction when they’re told they need one done.

An infected tooth will not heal by itself. Without proper treatment, the infection will spread, bone around the tooth will begin to degenerate and the tooth may fall out. A root canal is done to treat and save a tooth that is damaged, infected or badly decayed. The treatment involves (1) removal of the nerves and pulp and (2) cleaning and sealing the infected area inside the tooth.

Inaccurate (and widely exaggerated) stories about root canals prevent patient like you from making an informed decision regarding your oral health. In the US, they are addressing this issue through a week-long celebration of their 8th annual Root Canal Awareness Week (March 30 – April 5, 2014). It’s a national effort to promote awareness of endodontists so that patients and general dentists recognize the need to contact a specialist when a root canal is needed.

At Dr. Michael’s Dental Clinic, we recognize the pivotal role endodontists (root canal specialists) play in your oral health and we continuously work towards educating the public about root canal treatments. Here are 5 root canal myths, truths and even more plenty of reasons why it shouldn’t be feared.

Myth #1 – Root canal treatment is painful.
Truth – Root canal treatment doesn’t cause pain, it relieves it.

“Thanks to advancements like modern anesthesia, digital imaging and operating microscopes, today’s root canal treatments are often quick and painless,” said American Association of Endodontists (AAE) President Dr. Gary R. Hartwell. “The root canal doesn’t deserve its bad reputation. Millions of root canal treatments are performed successfully every year, saving natural teeth and helping patients keep their smiles.”

Did you know?

Tooth extraction is known to cause a significantly higher incidence of bacteria entering the bloodstream. Root canal treatment produces much less trauma and a much lower incidence and magnitude of bacteria entering the blood stream.

Myth #2 – Root canal treatment causes illness.
Truth – There is no valid, scientific evidence linking root canal-treated teeth and disease elsewhere in the body.

A root canal is a safe and effective procedure. When a severely infected or decayed tooth (possible causes include deep decay, repeated dental procedures, faulty crowns, or a crack or chip in the tooth) requires root canal treatment, the endodontist works on treating the inside of the tooth, eliminating bacteria from the infected pulp thereby preventing reinfection, all without the need for tooth extraction.

In a 2013 research published in JAMA Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery, found that patients with multiple endodontic treatments had a 45 percent reduced risk of cancer.

Myth #3 – A good alternative to root canal treatment is extraction.
Truth – Saving your natural teeth, if possible, is the very best option.

Nothing can completely replace your natural tooth. If your dentist recommends extraction, ask whether root canal treatment is an option. Worldwide, millions of teeth are treated and saved each year with root canal treatment, enabling patients to keep their natural teeth for a lifetime.

Myth #4 – Root canal therapies are often lengthy, requiring many visits.
Truth – Root canal therapies can be completed in one or two appointments.

The AAE says that modern root canal treatment is very similar to having a routine filling and usually can be completed in one or two appointments, depending on the condition of your tooth and your personal circumstances. Uncomplicated root canals are often completed in a single visit. Some teeth may be more difficult to treat because of their position in the mouth. Teeth with many roots may also take longer. Your endodontist may ask you for follow-up appointments to make sure the infection is eliminated.

Myth #5 – You do not need a root canal if you’re not feeling any pain.
Truth – Teeth that require root canal therapy are not always painful.

Just because you haven’t had any episodes of toothaches doesn’t mean your teeth are in perfect condition. In fact, teeth that are already dead may require root canal therapy to prevent the tooth from becoming infected. Regular dental visits can help detect early stages of decay and determine if you need a root canal.

A root canal treatment helps you maintain your natural smile, lets you eat the food that you love and limits the need for additional (and consequently more expensive) dental works. With proper care, most teeth that have had root canal treatment can last as long as other natural teeth and often for a lifetime.

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