There's no reason to be alarmed when your dentist tells you that you need a root canal. You might have heard that it's painful or that it's unlikely to work and might make your problem worse. In fact, you might prefer that your dentist just removes the tooth so a prosthetic replacement can be fitted. If you're still concerned about the prospect of a root canal, it's time to face facts.
Common (and Quick)
Root canals are a common part of general dentistry—extremely common, in fact (and there are some 15 million root canals performed each year in the US). Your dentist accesses the tooth (often via the cavity or breakage that resulted in the root canal) and removes the infected internal nerve (the pulp of the tooth). The empty pulp chamber is cleaned, filled, and then the tooth is sealed with a filling, which is often followed by a dental crown. It can be over in as little as 30 minutes.
It Won't Hurt
Although it's brief, surely a root canal must hurt? It would hurt, aside from the fact that your dentist will numb your jaw prior to beginning work, and the injection is the only part of the process likely to cause discomfort. Once it takes effect (which will be quick), you won't feel a thing. In fact, when the infected nerve was causing pain, its removal will result in fast relief.
Extremely Low Failure Rate
So while it's quick and comfortable, what about if the root canal doesn't actually work? This can't be entirely ruled out, but it's statistically unlikely. A wide-ranging study examined some 1.5 million teeth that had undergone a root canal over a period of five years. Of these, 90% were perfectly healthy after five years. Of the remaining 10%, 3% needed secondary work (another root canal), and only 7% required extraction. So you only have around a 7% chance of the work being ultimately unsuccessful.
The Last Resort
Those unlucky few who required extraction only received this option as a last resort, so there's no need to ask your dentist to jump the gun and extract your problematic tooth. You'd probably have difficulty convincing them anyway. It's always better to restore a tooth when possible, as extraction and replacement are unnecessarily traumatic (not to mention the added time and financial cost).
Hopefully, you now feel more comfortable about your upcoming root canal. Remember that it's a simple and effective procedure, and perhaps most comfortingly, it's wonderfully predictable. Reach out to a dentist near you, such as Mark A. Massa, DDS, Inc, for more information.