Why So Many People are Afraid of Root Canals (and Why They Shouldn’t Be)
Within the American lexicon, the phrase “root canal” is instantly understood by everyone to mean a horrible experience. How many times have you heard, “I’d rather have a root canal”? This anecdotal designation of root canals as one of life’s most unpleasant experiences is well-ingrained, but extremely unfair. In the world of modern dentistry, one could argue that having a root canal is one of the easiest dental procedures to undergo. Nevertheless, fear and widespread misinformation continue to haunt root canals and give them an undeserved bad rap. Here are a few reasons why people fear root canals, and the reasons why they shouldn’t.
- Root canals hurt!
Obviously, the expectation of pain is the number one reason root canals are considered to be so torturous. The truth is that root canals should not cause any pain; certainly no more than any other dental procedure. The incorrect belief that root canals are painful arguably stems from two facts.
First is the fact that the problem that necessitates a root canal is in fact very painful. An abscessed tooth is one of the painful things a person can experience. Perhaps people assume that since the toothache is so awful, the procedure for fixing it must be equally as bad? Luckily, that is not the case.
Second, from a purely clinical standpoint, teeth that are infected by bacteria are often times more difficult to get numb. In the “olden days,” it may have been more likely for a patient to experience brief episodes of sensitivity or pain while having a root canal, simply because the tooth was not fully anesthetized. But again, in modern dentistry, this is rarely an issue. Many people actually fall asleep during their procedure. How bad could it be?
The truth is that root canals do not hurt, and there is no reason why one cannot be completed without discomfort of any kind.
- Fear of the unknown
Root canals are one of the least understood procedures in dentistry. Many people assume it to be so awful because the true nature of what a root canal is escapes most people. And, unfortunately, explaining a root canal procedure does not make it sound very pleasant. For example, saying “a root canal procedure consists of drilling a hole in your tooth and using special instruments to remove the nerve and blood vessels from the interior of the tooth” does not exactly instill feelings of calmness or acceptance. As bad as it may sound, actually having a root canal is pretty boring—and pain-free.
- Fear of the cost
Root canals are a complicated, specialized procedure, and thus are among the more expensive dental treatments. However, nearly all dental insurance plans cover at least some cost of a root canal (and the subsequent crown). More importantly, the value of a root canal is far greater than its price, especially when you consider the only other option is to extract the tooth—at which point you’ll have to pay even more to replace it with something like a dental implant.
The bottom line is that root canals have an awful reputation that is completely undeserved. Almost all root canals are completed painlessly and relatively quickly. Rest assured that if you need to have a root canal, there is nothing to fear.