Often, patients will ask or comment:
“Does the Dr. do Root Canals?”
“Root Canals are toxic, I don’t want one.”
“What I’ve read and seen on the internet tells me Root Canals leak and make you sick “
“Are you familiar with the research of Dr. Weston Price?”
It is critical that some accurate, basic information on this important issue be addressed first.
What is a Root Canal?
It is a channel or chamber inside the root and crown of all teeth. If you have 28 teeth, you have 28 Root Canals. They house the nerves and blood vessels that enter from the tip (apex) of each tooth.
Why do we have those nerves and blood vessels in the tooth?
They will warn us if the tooth is irritated, decayed, infected or traumatized by becoming painful. Most of the time the nerve does a lousy job of it. The tooth can be badly infected or decayed for years before pain is felt. Actually it’s important function is to literally cause the tooth to form before it is erupted in the mouth. The roots are actually formed from the inside out.
Isn’t the tooth dead?
The root itself is kept moist from fluid not just from inside the canal but from the bone that holds the tooth in. Therefore even if the nerve/vessels die, the root still contains fluid supplied by the circulation, but is not dead. If the root was dead, your immune system would react to it as a foreign body and attack it in an effort to be rid of it. In fact if the tooth were to be removed it would simply dry out. That is a dead tooth.
How does this happen to the tooth?
The most common cause is decay. Decay (Caries) is really an infection of the tooth crown that occurs through acid weakened enamel. If this decay process is left undetected or untreated the bacteria will reach the top of the nerve (called the pulp) and infect the nerve in the canal. If left untreated it can infect the bone as well. This is now a disease within the tooth roots. (Endodontic infection.) There is no circulation inside this affected canal therefore Natural or traditional antibiotics, nothing that is swished, brushed, no vitamin or herb can reach inside the canal. This infection will leak out the root end releasing inflammatory toxins and bacteria into the systemic circulation.
What can I do to stop this toxic exposure?
One option is to extract the tooth so the source of the problem is removed. The other is to rid the canal of bacteria and toxic debris. This option is termed Root Canal Treatment.
Won’t that RCT treatment be sealing in bacteria that leak?
Endodontics is a specialty of dental science and practice. Until post WWII it was guess work, poorly done and failures were the rule. So for the last 70 years dedicated, studied, skilled professionals have created a viable safe and successful treatment. Methods to disinfect are highly effective and sealing insures long term success. Long term retention of the tooth is over 90%. Yes, there are and will always be teeth that cannot or should not be treated and there are those that fail despite all efforts.
What should I do Dr.? I don’t want an extraction but I’m worried about treatment?
There are only three options: the good, the bad and the ugly.
1. The good is to save the tooth with Root Canal Treatment and restore it to proper function, assuming it is possible and indicated by Dental examination and X-ray.
2. The bad is to extract it. This creates problems with no replacement. This would be drifting of adjacent teeth, increase risk for decay, gum disease and TMJ dysfunction. The bone that was holding the tooth will be lost over time as well. Replacement with implant or bridgework or dentures, have their downsides such as higher expense and compromised results.
3. The ugly is to do neither. The untreated tooth that is still in its place, will leak high levels of infectious material, causing systemic exposure, potentially severe pain and swelling, loss of bone and often will need to be extracted. Ironically this will be exactly the result that the patient is trying to avoid but is worse.
What about the research of Weston Price? He did experiments that proved that Root Canal teeth can cause serious diseases.
Dr. Price was a dentist and researcher approximately 1900-1930. He was known to be a pre-eminent man in Dentistry at that time. He traveled and found Island cultures that had no decay. Ironically the diet was high in fat and organ meats. That caused him to recommend avoiding fruits and vegetables. He implanted root canal treated teeth into animals and observed the diseases they developed. There are several serious problems with concluding that RCTs therefore cause those diseases.
1. The rigorous standards required for research could not be met by the practices of 100 yrs ago.
2. The teeth he used have little to do with modern Endodontic treatment.
3. When the common principals of reason and logic are applied, his results do not support his conclusions.
His work has been used by authors and some prominent holistic practitioners to denigrate and condemn RCT’s as a hidden evil in the causation of serious diseases. Sadly, this ill based thought led to a belief by many dentists (after Price) that FULL mouth extraction of teeth could improve or cure serious diseases. They were called the “Hundred Percenters”. That is, ALL the teeth have to come out. As an intelligent population and profession we can do better than that.
The implication is that an entire profession and 70 yrs of research is a hoax and self-serving quackery.
I believe that because many holistic approaches to health and disease have discovered that old and ancient practices are superior to present medical practices, it is easy for us to believe that the folks from one hundred years ago probably had it right. Also many of us have learned to distrust a medical and drug establishment that prioritizes profit and power over the health and welfare of the public. Much of that distrust is sound and some of it is not. The real danger for us is to avoid information, reason and be deceived by half-truths and the self-serving motivation of others. The good news is that by now, we can be empowered by our own curiosity. However, an open mind, practiced discretion and instinctive perception of genuine trustworthiness, will always serve us well. Let’s continue the dialogue in the interest of truth and well-being.