Endodontic Myths

What are some common myths about root canals?

MYTH: A root canal is painful

FACT:  Root canal therapy is almost always performed as a result of an infected pulp, a broken tooth, or a dying nerve. While those conditions can be painful, not all endodontic problems and treatments are accompanied by pain. Some untreated problems develop into infections and this can greatly increase not only the pain factor, but also the length of time it will take to treat the problem. For a few days after the treatment, there may be tenderness around the treated tooth.

MYTH: Root canal therapy causes illness

FACT:  Much of the misinformation about root canals being linked to illness dates back to a long-dispelled theory by Dr. Weston Price from the 1920’s. Dr. Price's research techniques were criticized by the scientific community at the time they were published, and by the early 1930s, a number of well-designed studies using more modern research techniques discredited his findings. In 1951, the Journal of the American Dental Association took the extraordinary step of publishing a special edition reviewing the scientific literature and noted it lacked many aspects of modern scientific research. The American Association of Endodontists has also addressed Price’s research and discredited it. The AAE noted that research published in 2013 concluded that individuals who underwent multiple endodontic treatments actually experienced a 45 percent reduced risk of cancer. Yet, the myth persists.

MYTH: Root canal therapy results don’t last long

FACT:  Once the nerve is removed from the inside of the tooth, there is no longer blood supply to the inside of the tooth and the tooth could eventually become brittle. The forces from grinding, eating, and talking, combined with the size of the filling, may cause the tooth to break. This is how the benefit of having a crown placed can prevent further damage to the tooth. Usually, it is not the root canal that has failed; instead, it is the restoration on the tooth that has failed.