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Debunking the Root Canal Myth

April 28, 2014
facebook image share Dr.Shah interviewed for Spring 2014 AAE Focus Newsletter

As Root Canal Specialists, we have always had the challenge of dealing with a major misconception  — that Root Canal Treatment is a painful procedure.  Over the years, we are thankful to see this myth debunked thanks to advances in Endodontics. Increasingly, people are becoming aware that the root canal procedure itself is not painful, and it results in relief of pain from the troubled tooth.

The perception of root canals being painful began decades ago, but with modern technologies and anesthetics, root canal treatment today is no more uncomfortable than having a filling placed. In fact, a recent survey showed that patients who have experienced root canal treatment are six times more likely to describe it as “painless” than patients who have not had root canal treatment.

Saving Teeth – Quickly and Painlessly

Today, people are more interested in restoring their teeth than losing them.   The research also shows that given the option of saving a tooth versus extraction, 66% choose to save the tooth. That explains why some 40 million root canals are performed annually in the U. S. and root canal procedures boast a 95% success rate, and can last for the life of the tooth, as long as regular check-ups and good oral health are maintained.

Just as it is commonplace to see a cardiologist for a heart condition or an oncologist for a cancer diagnosis, consulting a specialist is crucial for maintaining dental health. Routinely seeing a general dentist is the cornerstone of sustaining a healthy mouth, but for more complex and challenging procedures, such as a root canal, a visit to an Endodontist may be preferable.   According to the AAE, in a L.C. Williams & Associates Research Group poll, 89% of individuals who underwent a root canal by an Endodontist would return to the same specialist for future procedures.

Endodontist specialize in administering anesthesia and using of leading-edge technologies that makes root canal treatments more effective and predictable, resulting in a more positive patient experience.   Furthermore, since a root canal can usually be accomplished in one visit, the procedure can be scheduled to accommodate people’s busy schedules. With anesthesia and modern methods, many people experience little or no pain during a root canal. Most important, as a result of the procedure, the pain a patient was experiencing from the tooth disappears.

At our practice for example, the use of digital radiography and operating microscopes, enable us to uncover previously undetectable problems and dramatically improve the precision and success of every step of the root canal procedure. By harnessing this technology, our Endodontists are able to save teeth that, not so long ago would have been pulled.

Another great advancement we employ is the 3D Cone Beam CT (CBCT), a medical imaging technique that improves diagnostic speed, accuracy and outcome. During a CBCT scan, the scanner rotates around the patient’s head, obtaining up to 600 distinct images. The software collects the data and reconstructs it into 3D anatomical data that can then be manipulated and visualized. Such instant image viewing enables immediate analysis of the case and gives us the ability to graphically show the patient what our treatment plan is – again taking away the mystery and improving the patient’s outcome.

As Endodontists, we regularly deal with emergency treatment and anxious patients.  When a patient appears (usually through a referral) with an emergency, complaining of pain, infection or swelling, our first action is to help reduce anxiety and relieve pain.  As quickly as possible, our compassionate team members administer local anesthetics, and may employ sedation dentistry, using specific drugs designed to calm and relax.

We have always been in the business of saving teeth.  This hasn’t changed.  What has changed are the training, tools and technology available to us – to make root canals a quick and virtually painless procedure.  As thankfully, the public perception of root canal treatment is changing.

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