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Why Root Canals Are Nothing to Fear

Jun 30, 2023
A lot of people are apprehensive about going to the dentist, and that only worsens if someone needs a root canal. But this procedure is essential for helping to preserve teeth, and here we’ll help you see why you shouldn’t be afraid.

Dentophobia is a fear of dentists, and as odd as it may sound for some, you should know that 36% of Americans have this fear and in 12% that fear is considered extreme. Approximately 3% of adults in industrialized nations have a severe enough fear they avoid the dentist altogether. This phobia can present itself as a specific fear of things like the anesthetic not working, blood, not being able to breathe or swallow, pain, needles, noises, smells, or of the person of the dentist.

This is also true of a treatment commonly administered by dentists: root canals. A recent study shows that the fear of root canals is greater than many other things people find uncomfortable, including public speaking, being trapped in an elevator, snakes, spiders, or swimming with sharks. But this treatment helps to prevent dental health problems from worsening, and dentists are nowhere near as bad as you think. Let’s try to help relieve some of these fears by looking at the basics of root canals, why people are afraid of them, and why you shouldn’t be.

If you live in the Sacramento, California, area and you’re struggling with dental problems but are apprehensive about dental visits, Dr. Peter Kim and his team at Sierra Oaks Dental specialize in sedation dentistry and are dedicated to making the experience as painless as possible.

Root canal basics

When a tooth becomes damaged, you can experience persistent pain, heat and cold sensitivity, gum swelling, chips, cracks, or discoloration, which can stem from a variety of causes. When the damage is bad enough (often from cavities or abscess), root canals are a method of removing infected or inflamed material and saving the tooth, often being filled and covered with a crown. 


The process consists of giving you a local anesthetic, placing a dental dam for access to the tooth, and creating a small hole in the tooth to get to the pulp. This is followed by the infected nerves and tissue being removed with tiny instruments and cleaning, disinfecting, and reshaping the pulp chamber (the root of your tooth). Then, the tooth is filled and crowned if necessary.

Why people are scared of root canals

It’s important to understand that while some of the things described above can seem a little scary, often the issue is fear of the unknown. If you’ve never been to the dentist or only go for the occasional checkup, the combination of misconceptions about the procedure for people that have never had one, and the factors that can trigger problems for people with dentophobia can make this seem scary. Many of the anxieties mentioned above, especially the fear of pain, can factor into why people are apprehensive about getting root canals, but not going and getting the tooth treated will only make the problem worse.

Reasons why they're perfectly safe

The pulp of your tooth is the nerves and tissue that are protected by the dentin and enamel that form the chewing surface, and when you’re struggling with pain, it’s coming from the inflammation or infection of that area. Root canals remove the pulp, so you are free of the pain in that tooth. Numbing the tooth is one of the first steps of the treatment, so you won’t feel anything while the root canal is being performed. We offer sedation dentistry for people that have phobias and anxieties about dental visits to help you relax as we help preserve your teeth.

A lot of people are hesitant to make dental visits if they think it will cause pain, or trigger other forms of anxiety, but not treating the problems will only make the problem worse, and we want to help you and your teeth to stay healthy. If you’re coping with pain and other symptoms that can be managed with root canals or other dental treatment, make an appointment with Dr. Kim and Sierra Oaks Dental today.