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7 myths about root canal treatment

Oh no, anything but root canal treatment! Most of us are usually scared if not panicked when we realise that we have to undergo root canal treatment. After all, everybody who has come through this experience claimed it was the worst thing to happen in life.

As it turns out, our convictions are usually shaped by stories passed on, very often a little bit “jazzed up”, told by the friends of friends without the possibility of verifying if they are true or not. Today we are going to debunk the myths on root canal treatment.

1. First, the tooth must be devitalized

Many people think that before the root canal treatment the tooth, namely its pulp tissue, must be devitalized. It is correct that this procedure has been applied until recently. It has, in fact, constituted a prerequisite element of root canal treatment. Now it is a thing of the past. What is more, today it is not only unnecessary but even not recommended! In the majority of cases, at least, as situations when a tooth devitalization is the only solution enabling further steps of therapy still take place.

Usually a procedure of the so-called pulp extirpation, i.e. the removal of infected tissue is sufficient. The procedure is carried out under local anaesthesia and is nothing like the devitalization mentioned above, which still strikes fear into patients requiring root canal treatment. While the pulp’s gradual dying off takes approximately two weeks, after the extirpation a proper treatment can be started at the very same appointment.

Root canal treatment is necessary in case of pulp inflammation or infection

2. Several weeks of a nightmare

As we already know from the paragraph above, it is a myth fuelled by a conviction that the proper treatment follows a procedure of tooth devitalization. It has been the case so far, and the entire therapy was extended in time. Today, it can be completed during just one appointment! The aim is not only the comfort of a patient but his or her safety as well – this kind of behaviour reduces to minimum the risk of the bacteria development.

Obviously, there are individual situations that require a prolonged therapy time. These may include canal exudation, presence of fluid or simply limitations related to the duration of the visit (time required for the proper treatment may extend to up 2-3 hours). Fortunately, limitation on the intervals between visits are no longer valid. If at all possible, the next appointment to complete the treatment can be arranged even for the next day.

3. Root canal treatment is very painful

Most likely, the majority of worries regarding the root canal treatment come from this myth. It is widely believed that this kind of treatment is extremely painful. Where does this belief come from? You don’t know? For sure, an inflamed tooth cannot be well anaesthetized! Oh, but it can! Contemporary dental medicine is very well developed and has various methods at its disposal, allowing dentists to painlessly carry out an endodontic procedure. Among other methods, we may name pulpal anaesthesia (a doctor injects an anaesthetic directly into the pulp chamber) or intraosseous anaesthesia (when a needle is introduced into the furcation, then into the cancellous alveolar bone).

Patients suffering from a paralyzing fear of dental procedures, the so-called dental phobia, are offered the possibility of undergoing the procedure under general anaesthesia. It is also worth noting that the above-mentioned fears of pain were usually associated with the first stage of the procedure, i.e. the process of tooth devitalization, which has now been eliminated.

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Can a tooth be cured during one appointment?
It can and it is recommended. Unfortunately, this is not always possible.

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4. During root canal treatment an antibiotic is needed

People who tend to avoid antibiotics like the proverbial plague may be scared off by a conviction that endodontic treatment requires taking this kind of medication. It does happen sometimes, but only when we speak about cases of very serious infection threatening to spread out onto periapical tissues.

In standard circumstances antibiotics are not applied. If a doctor administers antibiotic therapy, we can be certain that in our situation it is absolutely necessary and the best available solution.

5. Root canal treatment is very costly

It is not. Postponing an appointment due to the fear of exorbitant costs is groundless. The price of root canal treatment depends on the number of canals requiring the treatment. The treatment of single-root teeth (central incisors, lateral incisors, canines as well as lower first and second premolars) is cheaper than of teeth with more roots (lower first or second premolars, upper and lower first, second and third molars).

What is more, postponing of treatment creates a threat that it will be too late for it and inserting an implant or denture will prove necessary. In such a case the costs will be significantly higher, and the entire treatment process will be considerably lengthened in time. Taking into account that the root canal treatment is aimed at saving a diseased tooth and making it last for many years, it really pays to decide to do it, for financial, time and health reasons.

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6. A tooth after root canal treatment requires special care

Yes, it is true – all our teeth need that. We should brush our teeth after each meal, use dental flosses and rinse our mouth with a special mouthwash. A canal treated tooth should be dealt with exactly the same way as every other tooth. Nevertheless, after the treatment the patient should refrain from eating and drinking until the numbness has completely worn off and avoid eating hard food possibly until the full restoration of the tooth crown (time recommended: 30 days).

It is normal to experience discomfort for a few days after the treatment. Usually it is the tenderness that reverses spontaneously. In six months following the treatment a dental X-ray should be performed to check up the condition of teeth.

The duration of the procedure depends on the extent of lesions. In most cases it takes between 1 and 3 hours

7. There are alternatives to root canal therapy

Both yes and no. If we consider the removal of a tooth and placing an implant in its place – then yes. In many cases, the root canal treatment is the only solution to preserve our own dentition. No dental restoration, even the best one, is able to replace a natural tooth.

Root canal therapy is undoubtedly a much cheaper method of treatment that extraction of a tooth and then filling in the space with a dental implant or bridge. Today, endodontic treatment has a very high success rate, and the teeth treated in this way will serve their purpose flawlessly for many years.

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