If the idea of getting a root canal sends chills down your spine, you’re not alone. Many dental patients would rather have just about any dental procedure outside of a root canal. But this procedure is actually very common and relatively routine. In fact, it’s fair to say that root canals have gotten a bad rap. They’ve been associated to everything from breast cancer to Alzheimer’s disease. So we thought it was about time to clear up some of the misinformation related to root canals and set the record straight once and for all. Here are just a few examples of the untruths that circulate about this dental procedure.
- Myth #1: Root canals cause breast cancer. There is absolutely no documented evidence that having a root canal increases your risk for developing breast cancer. But it is possible to trace this myth back to its probable origins so that we can understand why it started to begin with, and why it’s still perpetuated today. In the early 1900s, the focal infection theory was widely held to be true. Believers of that theory thought that bacteria left behind in the mouth after a root canal was performed would spread to other parts of the body, causing cancer and other diseases. But that has never proven to be the case. In fact, root canal procedures are designed to save teeth that are infected. If an infected tooth is not treated, the infection can spread and become quite serious for the patient.
- Myth #2: Root canals make it possible to spread Alzheimer’s disease. Some people believe that Alzheimer’s disease can be spread from one patient to another through use of contaminated dental instruments. There are two things wrong with this theory: 1) There are no studies that show that Alzheimer’s disease is infectious, much less capable of being spread by a dental instrument; 2) The vast majority of dentists who perform root canals either utilize single-use tools or employ a procedure that completely sterilizes their instruments before they are used on another person.
- Myth #3: Root canals are extremely painful. Thanks to modern methods of dental sedation, root canals are no more painful than any other dental procedure – which is to say that they are not painful. In fact, one of the primary goals of any root canal procedure is to alleviate the pain felt by the patient. If you need a root canal, you are probably in a significant amount of pain to begin with.
If your dentist tells you that you need a root canal, don’t worry! This procedure is safe, simple, relatively fast, and is an excellent way to save a tooth that might otherwise be lost.