For patients, root canals are like pulling teeth

By Theresa Pablos, DrBicuspid.com associate editor

July 15, 2019 -- What's the worst dental procedure? It may not be root canals. The treatment faired about the same as extractions and prosthodontic services in a recent study examining oral health-related quality of life.

In the study, researchers compared the quality of life for patients who underwent root canal treatment to those who received other common dental procedures. Their findings were published in the Journal of Endodontics (June 13, 2019).

“Patients who had root canal work reported similar oral health-related quality of life as people who had other types of dental work.”
— Tallan Chew, BDS

"Patients who had root canal work reported similar oral health-related quality of life as people who had other types of dental work," stated lead author Tallan Chew, BDS, a postgraduate student at the University of Adelaide dental school in Australia, in a university press release.

The researchers sent hundreds of Australian adults a survey containing questions from two quality of life metrics: the Oral Health Impact Profile - 14 (OHIP-14) and the Global Health Measure.

Among patients who had a root canal, 65% reported good health at baseline, and 46% reported good health two years later, according to the OHIP-14 findings. This was significantly worse than all other services except for tooth extraction and prosthodontics. However, the significance dropped off after adjustment.

In the Global Health Measure, root canal treatments faired slightly better. They only performed worse than preventive services and scaling and cleaning.

The findings show root canals are on par with other dental treatments for quality of life, and they may not deserve the amount of public fear associated with them, according to the study authors.

"The [root canal group] presented with overall similar oral health-related quality of life when compared with the other individual treatment groups; however, they consistently reported poorer oral health outcomes when the negative controls were included," they concluded.


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