Root Canal Myths: Addressing Misconceptions

Root Canal Myths: Addressing Misconceptions
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Root Canal Myths: Addressing MisconceptionsClinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
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Table of Contents

  1. Most Common Myths
  2. Root Canal Truths
  3. References
No two words in the vocabulary of dentists strike more fear into the heart than these two: root canal. In fact, 41 percent of Americans said they would rather swim with sharks than make the trip to a dentist — and that’s just for a routine teeth-cleaning. There are plenty of myths about going to the dentist, and more than a few about getting a root canal.

Most Common Myths on Root Canals

Most myths and misconceptions about root canals center on the process and pain during and after the procedure. While narratives contain some accurate information, many negative details are blown out of proportion. 

The most common myths include pain, infection, getting sick and similar issues.

Root Canals Are Painful

You are most likely to avoid a root canal for fear that it will be painful. That is a false analysis since there are strategies to ensure that you are comfortable and have a painless experience. Anesthesia numbs the nerves, and any pain that may come afterward is manageable through pain killers.

You Get Sick after Getting a Root Canal

Some believe that a root canal procedure somehow weakens your immunity or causes illness. People have carried on this rumor from historical recordings. Records from the past are baseless since they don’t have research to back them.

Studies are still underway to link root canals to diseases after the procedure. Complications after a root canal happen if the process cannot manage the damage in the tooth.

Root Canals Involve Root Removal

The objective of a root canal is to save the root in your tooth. Roots are necessary to keep holding a tooth in position inside the jawbone. During the procedure, a dentist removes the inflamed tissue in the tooth, which is usually the source of pain.

Having a Root Canal Is Not as Effective an Extraction

A root canal is considerably effective since it gives you a chance to save your natural teeth and ensures a repaired tooth lasts a lifetime. Extraction often means you have to replace teeth with dental implants. Also, extraction takes more time and multiple visits than a root canal.

The Procedure Involves Multiple Visits

A single visit to your dental care provider is often enough to get your root canal performed. In some cases where the damage and infection are severe or the tooth has complicated anatomy that will you need a follow-up appointment to finish the procedure.

You Can’t Have a Root Canal if You Are Pregnant

If you are pregnant, it doesn’t mean you are exempt from a root canal procedure. First, the anesthesia used is safe for use during pregnancy. Second, there is minimal exposure to radiation during X-rays on pregnant individuals since the mouth is far from the abdomen. 

And there is adequate protection from X-rays using a lead apron. 

Root Canals Only Fix Painful Teeth

A throbbing toothache could make you a candidate for a root canal. But that is not the only way to ease your mind because a painless tooth can also need the procedure. A test confirms if a painless tooth has damaged pulp that needs a root canal.

A Root Canal Is Not Applicable When There Is Infection

It is most appropriate to have a root canal when you have an infected tooth, which would also relieve any pain. Infection is a sign there is damage in your tooth reaching the nerves. Failing to get a root canal at that point only worsens the infections.

Studies have found that only 17 percent of people who have had the procedure complained about pain.

The Truth about Root Canals: A Common Procedure

About 15 million root canals are performed yearly, which translates to about 41,000 treatments per day. Root canals procedures have a 97 percent success rate. 

That is, the tooth stays intact eight years after the procedure. General dentists perform about 70 percent of all root canal treatments. 

Dentists Can Carry Out the Procedure in Either of Two Ways

Conventional root canal treatment is one of the alternatives, which involves removing pulp through the top. The other alternative is a surgical root canal which entails removing the pulp through the bone under the gum. You may need a surgical root canal if the first root canal treatment fails or if a tooth has exceptionally difficult anatomy.

Your Molar Teeth Are Most Likely to Need Root Canal

Mandibular molars are the most likely to require root canal treatment due to their exposure and bite forces. However anterior teeth (your front teeth) are more likely to require surgical and non-surgical options.


Spooky Stats and a ‘Teeth’giving Date Worth Saving. (November 2019). American Association of Endodontists.

Various Strategies for Pain-Free Root Canal Treatment. (December 2013). Iranian Endodontic Journal. 

Root Canal. (September 2021). Cleveland Clinic. 

What is a Root Canal? (Retrieved April 2022). American Association of Endodontists.

Dental Implant Procedures. (Retrieved April 2022). American Academy of Periodontology. 

X-Rays during Pregnancy. (Retrieved April 2022). American Pregnancy Association. 

Pain Prevalence and Severity Before, During and After Root Canal Treatment: A Systematic Review. (April 2011). American Association of Endodontists. 

Endodontic Surgery. (Retrieved April 2022). American Association of Endodontists. 

Tooth Restorations. (Retrieved April 2022). University of Rochester Medical Center. 

Relative frequency of teeth requiring conventional and surgical endodontic treatment in people treated at a graduate endodontic clinic. (July 2008). Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, Oral Radiology Journal.

Root Canal Safety. (January 2019). American Association of Endodontists.

Current trends in endodontic treatment by general dental practitioners: report of a United States national survey. (March 2014). Journal of Endodontics.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.