Root canals are safe, effective, and the best way to deal with an infected tooth. They are also common, which is why it’s surprising when we hear people’s preconceived ideas of what a root canal is:
“Isn’t a root canal the most painful and most drastic procedure you can get at a dentist’s office?”
“I don’t have time for a root canal because it will take multiple appointments and I can’t take off for the long recovery time.”
If you read our last post, we talked a little bit about how root canals get a bad rap because people have anxiety about the pain they’ll have to endure, or how long the recovery time will be. As we said in that post, a root canal is no more painful than a filling, and it has a similar recovery time (usually the same day as the procedure). We also discussed the symptoms that might be a sign that a root canal is needed, and what you can expect if your dentist recommends a root canal.
If nothing else, we want our patients in Kennewick, WA to understand one thing:
A root canal doesn’t hurt. What really hurts is avoiding one!
Tip of the Iceberg
It’s one thing to be afraid of an experience you expect to be painful and inconvenient. However, there are other destructive rumors floating around out there (especially online) that keep people from getting the dental care they need. In this post, we’d like to address those rumors (though at this point it might even be better to call them myths).
Root Canals DO NOT cause cancer or any other disease!
Never in the history of modern dentistry has there ever been a link between root canals and disease of any kind (other than the infections caused by avoiding them).
Yet all over the Internet you’ll see some terrifying claims. Some are made by those who don’t know any better, others are made by those who do and stand to profit from their deception.
We’ve heard or read a lot of them. According to Google University graduates, root canals are either the direct or indirect cause of any or all of the following:
- Kidney disease
- Heart disease
- Arthritis, joint, and rheumatic diseases
- Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS)
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Lupus and other autoimmune diseases
- Breast cancer, oral cancer, and other cancers
None of this is true and none of it has any basis in legitimate science or evidence.
The “Root” of the Problem
Usually for something to become a scientific “fact” it is supported by the research of many individuals and groups. The idea of the lone scientist discovering new laws of nature, while romantic, is simply false. However, this is exactly the root of the root canal rumor mill!
All the “theories” tying root canals to serious disease can be traced back to a single individual. His name is Dr. Weston A. Price (b.1870, d. 1948), and he was a dentist working in the early part of the 20th century.
In 1925, Dr. Price published a shocking body of research, with a controversial recommendation. According to his research, root canals could be directly linked to a number of ailments in other parts of the body. Not only did he link root canals to cancer and heart disease, he also claimed that everything from complexion problems to anemia could be eliminated entirely if dentists would stop performing root canals to deal with infected teeth. Instead, Dr. Price advised his fellow dentists to perform an extraction instead.
Many in the dental community at the time completely disagreed with his findings. Many found fault in his research methods, as well as his interpretation of the data his experiments produced. Unfortunately, this was not enough to prevent his conclusions from getting into dental textbooks, and soon tooth extractions overtook root canals as the best procedure for infected teeth.
“So why not just pull the tooth?”
Let’s take a break from the history lesson to make something very clear:
A root canal is ALWAYS preferable to an extraction.
Dental technology has evolved a great deal since the beginning of the last century, and many procedures that were once extremely painful (including root canals) are now much more comfortable. Even so, a tooth extraction is still a very serious undertaking, and most dentists will only recommend them under a very limited set of circumstances, as a last resort. The short-list of reasons for this are:
Long recovery times: depending on how complicated your extraction is, recovery can take days. Also, to say that this recovery period is uncomfortable for the patient is a great understatement!
Risk of serious infection: an extraction, no matter how complex, means that there is going to be an open wound in your mouth. Your mouth is a host to a lot of bacteria, and that open wound where your tooth used to be is an open invitation to infect the body.
Complications: besides infection, complications are common. An example is “dry socket”, which happens when a blood clot doesn’t form in the socket like it’s supposed to. This leaves the nerve and bone in the socket exposed. This is very painful and can add up to 6 days to your recovery time!
Above all, your dentist wants to preserve your natural teeth, because your natural teeth are the best thing going; there is NO implant that matches your natural tooth for performance.
“So what happened to Dr. Price?”
After his research on root canals, Dr. Price went on to conduct even more questionable research, in the area of nutrition (we’ll leave those for you to uncover yourself). He died in 1948, but it wasn’t until 1951 that the Journal of the American Dental Association published an assessment of Price’s research methods and data. As it turned out, there were a lot of problems in how he conducted his research and how he interpreted his results. With Price’s work completely discredited, text books changed and dentists returned to the root canal, and it has been that way ever since.
If you’re in pain, contact us now!
Even after reading this, you might still have some anxiety connected to the root canal procedure. No, a root canal isn’t a walk in the park, but consider this:
If you have an infected tooth, or a persistent toothache, your pain will never just go away. It will only get worse and worse, and as you delay, you risk even more serious procedures, including a tooth extraction, and that’s not even the worst of it. If a tooth is infected and not treated, the bacteria will move through the tooth, down to the roots, and into the gums, and possibly even the bone in your jaw. This is called an abscessed tooth, and they can be very serious, even deadly.
Marineland Dental is here for you, and your oral health is our top priority! If you’re reading this and you’re in pain, click here immediately and fill out our online appointment form. You can also speak to a friendly member of our staff to make your appointment by calling 509-591-0515.