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“I’d rather have my root canal done” – this just doesn’t make sense anymore

Posted July 17, 2019

“I’d rather have my root canal done” – that’s what some people say about particularly unpleasant experiences. This expression came to be out of a popular belief that root canal work is very painful, unpleasant and pretty much just torture, for which we also have to pay for. However, a new study from the University of Adelaide revealed that root canal work is actually not that bad.

Root canal work is actually not that bad – certainly not worse than some other dental work. Image credit: Erik Christensen via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Some of you may be fortunate enough not to know what root canal work is. Your teeth have roots and those roots have canals, which contain blood vessels and nerves. Although it is called “root canal” it is actually an anatomic space within the root of a tooth – it may be more like a tree with different intricate anatomical branches that may connect the root canals to each other or to the surface of the root. They may be quite complicated, actually.

When a tooth starts decaying, root canal may get inflamed. This means that a particular procedure, called endodontic therapy, but also known as root canal, has to be performed. During this operation the pulp is cleaned out, the space disinfected and then filled. Dentists literally scoop out the soft material from your tooth to deal with infection.

This does sound painful, doesn’t it? And for many people it is akin to nightmare. But is it as bad as people say? Scientists gave questionnaires to 1096 randomly selected Australian people aged 30-61 and analyzed their dental records and treatment receipts in 2009. First of all, it is important to note that those who did have their root canal done, reported the same level of quality of life (as much as it is about oral health) as those those had other procedures. Self-reported data showed that patients consider root canal work to be not worse than any other dental procedures. This is because nowadays we have technology – these procedures don’t have to be painful and they are not anymore. Furthermore, people who need root canal done, usually are already enduring pain and the procedure helps getting rid of it.

Giampiero Rossi-Fedele, co-author of the study, said: “Treatment outcomes need to be re-examined from a patient-based perspective using self-reported measures as this more accurately reflects the patients’ perception of treatment outcomes and the effect it has on their overall well-being. Patient-reported treatment outcomes are now the principle driving force behind treatment needs, as opposed to clinician-based treatment outcomes.”

Health professionals are listening. They do not want to cause pain and discomfort to people. Their goal is to help. Which is why procedures are constantly improving. So yeah, there are many situations worse than root canal work and that expression in the beginning of the article just doesn’t make sense anymore.


Source: University of Adelaide 

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