Root Canals Get No Lovin’

Root Canal awareness week banner

Root Canal Awareness Week 2014. Logo courtesy AAE.

As we get ready to kick off the 8th annual Root Canal Awareness Week on Sunday March 30, it is remarkable to see that root canals are still perceived to be horribly painful and worse than torture. I outlined this myth in one of my Dental MythBuster posts called Dental MythBuster #3 – Root Canals Hurt!

Needless to say, despite that post getting over 12,000 views, the myth lives on in the popular media. Let’s see where:

  • The New York Times, February 7, 2014. “…taxes you pay on your investments has as much appeal as a root canal.”
  • The Los Angeles Times, June 14, 2009. “For the average American, modern air travel has all the appeal of a root canal.”
  • Northwest Indiana News, February 20, 2014. “… the topic of life insurance has about as much appeal as a root canal.”
  • The Los Angeles Times, March 29, 2011. “I had a root canal, and that was fun” (this was done in a sarcastic manner).
  • Washington’s Blog, August 26, 2013. “the American people would much rather get a root canal or a colonoscopy than bomb Syria.”

At least in the last example, the procedure is considered more desirable than a regional war and on on the same level as a colonoscopy!

And lastly, we have the President of the United States publicly maligning the procedure in his State of the Union Speech seen here:

So clearly, the procedure is believed to be unpleasant. But shouldn’t we all just stop worrying and appreciate root canals for what they do?

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Root Canals

Dr. Strangelove who would not have worried about a root canal

Dr. Strangelove would have loved what a root canal could do (image courtesy

While there are different view on this borrowed line from Dr. Strangelove, there is no ambiguity when applied to the root canal procedure. This procedure helps to save teeth and prevents premature tooth loss.

Once you are adequately numb, you feel no pain during the procedure.

So let’s get this straight. You have a broken down tooth, one that you are at risk of losing. A procedure is available, one that does not hurt, that will allow you to save the tooth and not go around toothless!

And despite all the inherent benefits, the procedure is maligned by nearly everyone, including President Obama.

For this Root Canal Awareness week, let’s try to appreciate them. Or, to take inspiration from Stanley Kubrick’s film, let’s stop worrying and love root canals!



  1. I’ve had one root canal. It took at least eight horribly painful shots to get me numb. The procedure took at least three hours because my dentist stopped halfway through and sent me to an endodontist. I have TMJ, so my jaw was killing me the entire time. Afterward, it took four visits for them to actually make the crown the correct shape; every time I went back, they had made it wrong again, even though they’d taken impressions. That doesn’t count the extra visit in there when I had to go back because the temporary fell off.

    There are different kinds of pain and different kinds of torture. I really love this blog, but sorry, I don’t believe the idea that root canals are horrendous is a myth to anyone but the dentist doing them.

    • Amy,
      The real question is how long it took the endodontist to do it? Had you been referred to the endodontist to begin with, I don’t think the experience would have been so negative. The crown, which took many visits, is a distinctly different procedure than the root canal, so don’t lump that experience into the root canal procedure.

      That being said, I have had many patients who don’t simply want to sit through a root canal and crown. It’s not because it is painful, they just don’t have the patience. So we just end up extracting the tooth instead, which is nearly always an option.

  2. Silas Knight says

    It’s great to know that root canals are actually pretty pain free. I had always heard that they were super painful, so it’s good to clear that up. Now I am not afraid to have this procedure done!

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