The Makings of a Root Canal: Pros and Cons

While modern root canals are nothing to be afraid of, still many consider this endodontic procedure as the worst, most unbearable one they try their best to avoid. While root canals in Madison, WI in years past weren’t nearly as fast, routine and relatively painless as the ones done today with superior technology and overall dental knowledge, their negative stigma still eclipses the reality of the procedure today.

To add to patients’ fear of root canal treatment is a Netflix documentary movie on root canals called Root Cause which recently debuted in the US. The movie reinforces people’s fear of root canals by claiming that they are dangerous and lead to a host of other serious, possibly life-threatening oral health and overall health conditions. The most controversial claims the film make include root canals cause breast cancer, heart attacks, heart disease and depression.

What is a Root Canal

In a nutshell, a root canal is a procedure whereby the dentist numbs the tooth and surrounding area of the mouth, drills a tiny hole in the decayed tooth and extracts the plaque and tartar that is forming either in the center, or pulp of the tooth or, more commonly in the root of the tooth.

Once the plaque has been extracted, the hole on the top of the tooth is then sealed with a filling.

The tedious nature of the procedure can make it take some time to complete, but with new, advanced technology and pain-relieving medications, the procedure is only mildly uncomfortable at worst.

What a Root Canal Does

While fillings and crowns treat and protect teeth from future tooth decay on the surface of teeth, a root canal treats tooth decay that is deep inside the tooth. A root canal is a dental procedure that is necessary to protect a tooth, or teeth and to maintain strong, healthy gums and jaw bones. It helps remove plaque and bacteria from deep within a tooth that can lead to extensive tooth decay if not treated. If the deep tooth decay of tooth roots isn’t treated with a root canal, the decay will spread further into the tooth and can penetrate the surrounding  gum tissue. A tooth that is severely decayed can become abscessed (or infected) and will need to be extracted.

What a Root Canal Doesn’t Do

Point blank, root canals aren’t widespread health crisis concerns that should be banned because they cause heart disease, depression and breast cancer like the film claims. There is either no evidence or not enough evidence to prove a connection between root canals and the aforementioned health conditions.

Root canals are to maintain and restore one’s oral health, not to compromise one’s overall health.

Root Canal Risks

Though modern root canals are a routine and safe dental procedure, it does have some risks.

A root canal involves penetrating the most delicate part of a tooth which is also where the tooth gets the nutrients and blood flow needed to “stay alive.” The tooth roots hold the tooth securely in place in the jawbone. The penetration of these highly important and fragile parts of the tooth yield risks that include infection and loss of the tooth.


In a root canal, a tiny hole is drilled from the top to the root of the tooth, penetrating the tooth pulp. After the plaque and bacteria are removed from the tooth root, an antiseptic is applied, protecting the compromised tooth from getting infected while it recovers.

In rare cases, however, a dentist may not use enough antiseptic or even fail to use an antiseptic at all. As a result, the tooth may become infected (or abscessed). An abscessed tooth can be painful and uncomfortable, negatively impacting one’s life. If the infection becomes too widespread, the tooth will die and will need to be extracted to prevent the infection from spreading into the gum and jawbone tissue.

Loss of the Tooth

Also rare is the instance when a root canal procedure is done on a patient whose tooth isn’t strong enough to handle or recover from the procedure. In this case, the tooth may crack. The excessive cracking of the tooth will be too much for the filling to handle and the tooth can become even more compromised and prone to infection. When this happens, not enough of the tooth is healthy and it will be extracted before the infection gets too bad.

Root canals are safe and necessary to preserve and protect your teeth. They aren’t anything to be afraid of or avoid like the movie Root Cause indicates. While this routine procedure doesn’t cause heart disease or cancer, there are rare instances where the tooth becomes infected and will need to be extracted.

At Madison Smiles Solutions, we understand our patients’ concerns about root canals. Our dental professionals will take great care of you and strive to deliver the most efficient, pleasant experience possible. We’ve done numerous root canals in Madison, WI and have seen how great they are in saving a patient’s tooth and smile. If you think you may need a root canal or a simple check-up, don’t hesitate to contact us and schedule an appointment.