Root canals are a common dental procedure—more than 41,000 take place in the United States every day—but that doesn't mean that they're well understood. There are many myths being passed around about root canals, and if you believe what you hear, you could put your dental health at risk. Here are three myths you shouldn't believe about root canals.
Extractions are just as good
When your tooth gets damaged due to decay, your dentist may give you the option of getting the tooth pulled or getting a root canal. You may have heard that extractions are an equally good option and so may opt to simply have your problem tooth pulled out. However, a root-canal procedure allows your dentist to save your tooth, and saving your tooth offers a lot of benefits to you.
When you can keep your tooth, it's easier for you to chew your food. Missing a tooth, especially when it's a molar, can make it hard for you to eat some of your favorite foods. The sensation of having a missing tooth in your mouth may also be distracting, and the missing tooth can interfere with your normal bite force. A missing tooth can put your other teeth at risk of strain or wear due to your altered bite forces.
Another problem associated with getting a tooth pulled out is jawbone atrophy. Once your tooth is extracted, bone tissue and gum tissue both try to fill the empty socket that's left behind, and once the healing process is complete, that section of your jawbone can have lost as much as 75% of its height. For these reasons, it's worth trying to save your tooth with a root canal.
Root canals cause serious diseases
It's been widely claimed online that root canals are a cause of cancer, but this is just a myth—there's absolutely no valid evidence to back it up. The studies that claim root canals are dangerous are almost 100 years old, and these studies were debunked a long time ago. Recent studies, like a 2013 American Medical Association study, have shown that patients who've had root canals performed don't have a higher risk of cancer.
Another claim you may have heard is that root canals cause Alzheimer's disease, a type of dementia that causes progressive memory loss. This claim would be scary if there were any evidence that it were true! Fortunately, there's no evidence that Alzheimer's is a contagious disease or that you can get it from any dental procedure, including root canals.
Root canals are very painful
Root canals have a reputation as being a very painful, unpleasant procedure, but this is just a myth. When you need a root canal, your tooth is already damaged or decayed, and this is what causes the pain that some people associate with the procedure. The goal of the treatment is to fix the painful problem with your tooth.
Root canals used to be more uncomfortable in the past, but dentistry is advancing quickly, and things have changed a lot just in the last decade. If the people who are telling you that root canals are terrible haven't had one recently, don't let them scare you. Dentists have new anesthetics, better drills, and even laser drills that make root canals less painful than ever. Modern root canals are about as uncomfortable as having a filling placed.
Root canals are a widely misunderstood procedure. Avoiding a necessary root canal because you've heard that they're not useful, because you've heard they cause diseases, or due to a fear of pain can harm your dental health, so don't believe these myths.