Do patients like root canals?

29 October 2021
1 min read

According to a thesis from a student at the University of Gothenburg, they do! In fact, 87 per cent said they would choose the same treatment again!  

Emma Wigsten of the Institute of Odontology at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, studied various aspects of root canal treatments performed in Swedish general dental practice for her PhD thesis. 

Media outlet Eureka Alert explain the study, “In several of the component studies in Emma’s compilation thesis, data on a patient group initially numbering 243 were analyzed. They had all started root canal treatment at one of the 20 public dental clinics in the region [ of Västra Götaland]. The patients were then followed up for one to three years. 

“Most of the root canal treatments studied were prompted by toothache in teeth with caries and large restorations, which culminated in root fillings within a year. Molars were an exception: only just over half of the root fillings met their purpose and, as a result, many molars had to be removed (i.e. extracted).” 

Emma discussed her findings, explaining, “It seems harder to get a good result in treating the molars, despite time and resources invested. Root canal treatment is complicated: You’re working inside the tooth where you can’t see anything, and the further back you go in the mouth, the more difficult it becomes. 

“Root canal treatments of molars involve significantly bigger challenges than other tooth groups. So, it may be important to investigate whether root canal treatments of molars should be performed to a greater extent by dentists specializing in root canal treatment.” 

During the three year follow-up period, half of the patients said they experienced mild pain of discomfort. However, 87 per cent said they were satisfied and did not regret their choice to get a root canal treatment instead of a tooth extraction.  

These findings appear to be backed up; according to Eureka Alert, another component study, at six public dental clinics in Region Västra Götaland, covered 85 patients in whom either root canal treatment was started, or a tooth was removed. An improved health-related quality of life was observed in the patients who started root canal treatment, but not in those who underwent a tooth extraction. 

Emma offered some concluding remarks, “The studies show that the patients' quality of life benefited from root canal treatment. On the other hand, it’s unclear whether the treatment is cost-effective compared with tooth removal, especially where molars are concerned.”