Root Canals: Debunking Myths and Explaining the Process

by Dental Spa of Texas
June 5, 2023
boy getting teeth cleaned by dentist

For many, the mention of a root canal conjures up feelings of anxiety and fear. Misconceptions surrounding this procedure are aplenty, but as a Doctor of Dental Surgery, I believe it’s crucial to educate people on the true nature of root canals. In this blog post, we’ll dispel common myths, provide a clear understanding of the process, and leave you feeling reassured about this essential dental treatment.


As a dentist at Dental Spa of Texas, I frequently come across patients who are either afraid or misinformed about root canals. Root canal treatment is a dental procedure that involves removing the infected or damaged pulp from the inside of a tooth, cleaning and sealing the root canals, and ultimately saving the tooth from extraction. This treatment is crucial for maintaining good oral health, and that’s why I think it’s essential to debunk some of the myths surrounding root canals and provide clarity on the process. In this blog post, I will address common misconceptions and outline the various steps involved in a root canal procedure.

Dispelling Common Root Canal Myths

Myth 1: Root canals are extremely painful

Contrary to popular belief, root canals are not as painful as they are made out to be. With advancements in dental technology and the use of local anesthesia, most patients experience minimal discomfort during the procedure. In fact, the pain caused by an untreated tooth infection is often far worse than the discomfort experienced during root canal treatment. According to the American Association of Endodontists, the majority of patients who have undergone root canal treatment report that the procedure was painless.

Myth 2: Root canals cause illness or infection

Some people mistakenly believe that root canal procedures can lead to health issues, such as infections or even cancer. This myth is baseless and has been debunked by numerous credible sources, including the American Association of Endodontists. The goal of a root canal treatment is to remove the infected pulp, thereby eliminating the bacteria responsible for causing the infection in the first place. By thoroughly cleaning and sealing the tooth, the risk of future infections is significantly reduced.

Myth 3: Extraction is a better alternative to root canals

Some patients might think that having their tooth extracted is a better option than undergoing root canal treatment. However, most dentists agree that saving a natural tooth is always the best course of action whenever possible. Losing a tooth can have negative consequences, such as shifting teeth, bone loss, and a negative impact on a patient’s overall oral health. Root canal treatment preserves the natural tooth and allows it to function normally, which is always preferable to extraction when feasible.

Myth 4: Root canals are not effective in the long run

There is a misconception that root canals are only a temporary solution and that the treated tooth will eventually need to be extracted. However, this is not the case. When performed correctly, root canal treatment has a very high success rate. A study in the Journal of Endodontics found that the success rate of root canal treatment ranged between 86% and 98%. With proper aftercare, including maintaining good oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups, a root canal-treated tooth can last a lifetime.

Myth 5: Root canals are only necessary for severe toothache

Many people believe that root canals are only needed when the toothache becomes unbearable. However, it’s important to understand that a severe toothache is not the only indication for needing a root canal. In some cases, a tooth may need a root canal treatment even without causing any pain. Symptoms such as prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold, swelling, or a discolored tooth can also indicate the need for a root canal procedure. It’s always best to consult with a dental professional to determine the appropriate course of action based on your specific needs.

Understanding the Need for a Root Canal

A root canal treatment becomes necessary when the pulp – the soft tissue inside the tooth containing blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue – becomes infected or inflamed. This can happen due to various reasons, including deep decay, a crack or chip in the tooth, or trauma to the tooth.

Signs and Symptoms Indicating a Root Canal

While some teeth requiring root canal treatment might not display any noticeable signs or symptoms, it’s crucial to be aware of certain indications that might prompt a visit to your dentist. Some of these signs and symptoms include:

  • Severe toothache upon chewing or applying pressure
  • Prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures, even after the stimulus is removed
  • Darkening or discoloration of the tooth
  • Swelling and tenderness in the surrounding gums
  • A recurring or persistent pimple-like bump on the gums

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to visit your dentist promptly, as early detection and treatment can help save the tooth.

The Importance of Early Detection and Treatment

Delaying or avoiding root canal treatment can lead to various complications, including severe pain, infection, and even tooth loss. In severe cases, an untreated infection can spread to the surrounding tissues, leading to an abscess or even systemic infection that can affect your overall health. In these situations, a more invasive and complex dental procedure or even teeth extraction may become necessary. Consequently, seeking timely dental care is vital for preserving your natural tooth and maintaining your dental health.

The Root Canal Procedure: Step by Step

The root canal procedure typically involves the following steps:

1. Diagnosis and Local Anesthesia

Your dentist will perform a thorough examination, including X-rays, to assess the extent of the damage or decay and determine if a root canal is the most suitable treatment option. Once the need for a root canal is established, your dentist will administer a local anesthetic in the area of the affected tooth, ensuring that the procedure is pain-free.

2. Opening the Tooth and Removing the Pulp

After isolating the tooth with a dental dam, your dentist will create an access hole in the crown of the tooth, which allows them to reach the pulp chamber. Using special tools, they will carefully remove the infected or inflamed pulp tissue.

3. Cleaning and Shaping the Root Canals

With the pulp removed, your dentist will clean and shape the root canals. This involves removing any remaining infected tissue and debris, as well as slightly enlarging and shaping the canals to facilitate the filling process. This step may involve the use of various dental instruments and specialized irrigation solutions.

4. Filling the Root Canals with Gutta-Percha

Once the root canals are cleaned and shaped, they are filled with a biocompatible material called gutta-percha. This rubbery substance is used to seal off the root canals, protecting them from future infection.

5. Placing a Crown or Other Restoration

Lastly, your dentist will seal the access hole and place a temporary filling material. In most cases, a permanent dental restoration is required after root canal treatment to protect and provide structural support for the tooth. This might involve placing a dental crown or a filling, depending on the specific needs of the tooth in question.

With advancements in dental techniques and technologies, a root canal procedure is a predictable and effective solution for saving a damaged or decayed tooth, allowing you to maintain your natural teeth and oral health for many years to come.

The Benefits of Root Canal Treatment

Saving the Natural Tooth

One of the most significant benefits of root canal treatment is that it allows me to save your natural tooth, rather than resorting to extraction. Saving the tooth helps maintain your natural bite and prevent the surrounding teeth from shifting. It also preserves the bone structure and stability of your jaw, which can decrease the risk of future dental problems.

Restoring Normal Function and Biting Force

After a successful root canal treatment, you will be able to use the treated tooth just as you would any other tooth. This restored function means that you can chew, bite, and speak as you normally would, without having to adapt or compensate for a lost or damaged tooth. Many patients do not even notice any difference in function or feel after the treatment, which is a testament to the effectiveness of modern root canal procedures.

Preventing Further Infection or Damage

A root canal treatment effectively cleans and seals the tooth, which helps to prevent future infections or damage to your tooth. By removing the infected or damaged pulp, I eliminate the source of the pain and problem. Sealing the tooth with a high-quality filling or crown ensures that bacteria cannot re-enter the tooth and cause a reinfection. This preventative measure will save you from further discomfort, possible tooth loss, and additional dental procedures in the future.

Post-Root Canal Care and Follow-up

Proper Oral Hygiene Maintenance

Taking care of your post-root canal treated tooth is essential for its long-term success. Maintaining proper oral hygiene is a crucial step in this process. Make sure you are brushing your teeth at least twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, and using an antiseptic mouthwash to help kill any lingering bacteria. This routine will help keep your tooth and the surrounding gums clean and healthy, reducing your risk of any future dental issues.

Regular Dental Check-ups and Cleanings

It’s important to continue visiting your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings, even after having a root canal treatment. At these appointments, I will thoroughly examine your teeth and gums to look for any signs of problems or reinfection. Professional cleanings also help remove any plaque or tartar buildup that your at-home oral hygiene routine may not be able to reach, which can contribute to tooth decay and gum disease.

Watching for Any Signs of Complications

Although root canal treatments have a high success rate, it’s essential to be aware of any potential complications and contact your dentist if you notice any of the following:

  • Persistent pain or sensitivity in the treated tooth
  • Swelling or redness in the surrounding gums
  • A loose or cracked filling or crown
  • Any signs of infection, such as pus or a foul taste in your mouth

By addressing any complications promptly, you can help ensure the long-term success of your root canal treatment and avoid any additional dental procedures.

In conclusion, root canal treatments are a highly effective way to save and restore the natural function of your teeth. By understanding the benefits and following the proper post-treatment care steps, you can ensure the success of your root canal and enjoy a healthy, pain-free smile.

Choosing the Right Dentist for Your Root Canal

Importance of an Experienced Dentist

Choosing the right dentist for your root canal treatment is crucial to ensure a successful procedure and a positive experience. A dentist with extensive experience and proper training in performing root canals can diagnose and treat the issue more effectively and efficiently. It’s important to invest time in finding the right dentist to minimize any potential risks and complications.

Credentials to Look for in a Dentist

When searching for a suitable dentist for your root canal, consider their qualifications and memberships in professional organizations. Dentists who are members of the American Association of Endodontists or the American Dental Association have met certain standards and adhere to specific guidelines, ensuring they offer quality care to their patients. Additionally, ask about the dentist’s specific experience with root canals and the technology they use during the procedure. This can provide you with confidence that your dental professional is well-versed in the latest techniques and technologies.

Trusting Your Dentist and Feeling Comfortable

Feeling comfortable with your dentist is important, as it can help alleviate any anxiety or fear you may have surrounding the root canal procedure. Seek a dental professional who is able to clearly explain the process, answer any questions you have, and discuss any potential concerns without making you feel rushed or dismissed. Trust in your dentist’s abilities and bedside manner can make the difference between a pleasant experience and a distressing one.

At Dental Spa of Texas, our team is dedicated to providing the best dental care for our patients in Frisco, Carrollton, Plano, Little Elm, Allen, Addison, Hebron, Lewisville, Farmers Branch, Prosper, The Colony, Dallas, and Garland. We offer a wide range of services, including dental crowns, to help you achieve a healthy, beautiful smile.

So, what are you waiting for? Reach out to us today and let us help you find the best solution for your dental needs. Don’t let damaged teeth hold you back any longer – take the first step toward a healthier, more confident smile by contacting us at Dental Spa of Texas.

About Dr. Linh Nguyen and Dental Spa of Texas

Dr. Linh Nguyen is a highly trained dentist who earned his Doctor of Dental Surgery from the University of Washington School of Dentistry. His practice, Dental Spa of Texas, offers various services, including dental implants, fillings, teeth extraction, root canals, crowns, cleanings, and more. Dr. Nguyen is committed to providing exceptional dental care to patients in Frisco, Carrollton, Plano, Little Elm, Allen, Addison, Hebron, Lewisville, Farmers Branch, Prosper, The Colony, Dallas, Garland, and DFW areas.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does a root canal procedure take?

A root canal procedure usually takes between 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the tooth’s complexity and the dentist’s experience. Some cases may require multiple appointments to complete the procedure.

Is there any pain or discomfort after the procedure?

Some patients experience mild to moderate pain or discomfort after a root canal treatment. It’s normal to have some sensitivity, especially when biting down, for a few days. Over-the-counter pain medications can help alleviate discomfort, but if the pain persists or becomes severe, it is essential to contact your dentist for further evaluation.

How long does a root canal-treated tooth last?

A properly done root canal treatment can last a lifetime if the tooth is cared for correctly. It is crucial to maintain good oral hygiene practices, attend regular dental check-ups and cleanings, and avoid any further damage to the tooth, like grinding or clenching.

What is the success rate of root canal treatment?

Root canal treatment has a success rate of approximately 90%, making it a highly effective procedure. However, the success rate depends on factors like the dentist’s skills and experience, the condition of the tooth, and proper post-treatment care.

Are there any alternatives to root canals?

There are some alternatives to root canals, but they often involve more invasive procedures or can lead to the loss of the affected tooth. Tooth extractions and dental implants can be considered, but these options may be more expensive and time-consuming—ultimately, root canal treatment remains the gold standard for preserving the natural tooth and preventing infection or damage.