Is root canal therapy not so painful after all?

Dental Tribune International
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ADELAIDE, Australia: Self-reporting of dental health suggests that Australian patients find that root canal therapy is no worse than any other dental work. The findings overturn the popular belief that this endodontic treatment is the most unpleasant dental procedure of all.

For the study, data on 1,096 randomly selected Australian adults between the ages of 30 and 61 was collected through questionnaires, dental records and treatment receipts in 2009. Their self-rated dental health scores were checked at the time when they had their dental work done and they had to re-evaluate their scores two years later.

“Patients who had root canal work reported similar oral health-related quality of life as people who had other types of dental work. The effect of root canal work on patients’ oral health-related quality of life was compared to other kinds of dental work such as tooth extraction, restoration of teeth, repairs to the teeth or gum treatment, preventative treatment and cleaning,” summarised Dr Tallan Chew, co-author of the study and a postgraduate student at the Adelaide Dental School at the University of Adelaide.

Co-author Prof. Giampiero Rossi-Fedele, Head of Endodontics, said: “There is growing interest in the dental profession to better understand the effect and impact oral diseases and their associated treatment, such as root canal work, have on patients’ quality of life. Treatment outcomes need to be re-examined from a patient-based perspective using self-reported measures as this more accurately reflects the patients’ perception of treatment outcomes and the effect it has on their overall well-being.”

“Patient-reported treatment outcomes are now the principle driving force behind treatment needs, as opposed to clinician-based treatment outcomes. With this change in emphasis, the perspectives of patients and their relatives are important factors in identifying need for treatment, treatment planning, and determining outcomes from any healthcare intervention as part of shared decision-making,” added Rossi-Fedele.

The study, titled “Comparative longitudinal study on the impact root canal treatment and other dental services have on oral health–related quality of life using self-reported health measures (Oral Health Impact Profile-14 and global health measures)”, was published online on 12 June 2019 in the Journal of Endodontics, ahead of inclusion in an issue.

Most people associate having root canal therapy with considerable pain and discomfort. (Photograph: Ales Munt/Shutterstock)

Most people associate having root canal therapy with considerable pain and discomfort. (Photograph: Ales Munt/Shutterstock)