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Root Canals: Fact or Fiction?

Root canal treatments inspire fear and anxiety in almost all patients. They have heard it is bad, are not sure what it is, but know someone who had a very painful one. The internet is no help here either. The term root canal treatment brings up search queries of horror stories and mutilated teeth, but this is far from the truth. Let us tell you what a root canal is, and then deal with some of the misconceptions surrounding it.

What is a root canal treatment?

A root canal treatment is a conservative dental procedure in which the tooth pulp and the inside of the tooth is removed, and the roots are enlarged and the entire tooth is filled up, not just the outside. It is used in cases when the tooth is infected and cannot survive the infection it has. It is a last ditch effort to save the function of the tooth, but the tooth definitely dies during the procedure. The dead tooth can go on to be used for decades though, if properly maintained. Root canal treatments require multiple visits, and may require the patient to take antibiotics if the infection is serious enough.

Root canal treatments are painful

A root canal treatment, just like any other dental procedure, is done under local anaesthetic, and thus you should not feel a thing.

A root canaled tooth cannot ever have a problem

Once the root canal treatment is done, the tooth is dead and will not hurt, but the tooth can have many problems if not properly cared for. It can become infected, the gums around it can be swollen or painful, and the tooth can break and cut your tongue or expose some of the dental nerve and be sensitive.

If the tooth does not hurt, it does not need a root canal treatment

This is false to the extreme. You may not feel pain because the tooth is already dead, but a root canal can extend its use for decades, and the infection that killed the tooth can still be present in your mouth.

Root canals are useless because you should just get the tooth extracted

While a root canal treatment does necessarily imply that the tooth will die, an extraction is bad for numerous reasons. For one, you will have a gap in your teeth, which is unsightly, and will make speech and eating food harder. The alveolus that holds the tooth roots will start to disintegrate if you have a missing tooth, and this can lead to tooth loss as a condition.        

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