Do Root Canals Cause Health Issues?
Let's set the record straight.
The Root Canal-Cancer Connection Myth
In the early 20th century, a scientist named Dr. Weston Price believed that teeth that have undergone root canal treatment still harbor harmful toxins. He believed that these toxins could cause several severe medical conditions, like cancer, heart disease, kidney disease and arthritis. This was before scientists really understood the causes of such diseases.
Though Dr. Price's research and study techniques were criticized at the time they were published, there was an impact. His study marked the beginning of an era when dentists extracted teeth to treat and prevent systemic diseases like heart disease, kidney disease and cancer. By the early 1930s, more well-designed studies using more modern research techniques discredited Dr. Price's theory.
Broadly speaking, Dr. Price was right in the sense that oral health can affect overall health. However, decades of research have disproven the theory that root canals can cause these medical conditions. Today, there is broad consensus that root canals are safe, they do not cause systemic disease, and they are preferable to the more traumatic alternative of tooth extraction.
What is Root Canal Treatment?
A root canal is a procedure that repairs damaged or infected teeth. Issues like infection or abscess must be treated as soon as possible to avoid complications, including recurring infection. Once a tooth has decayed or been damaged to the point where tooth pulp is affected, root canal or extraction are the only options to treat the issue.
Root canals are similar to fillings in that damaged tissues are removed. However, with root canals, the pulp of the tooth that contains the blood supply and nerves is removed. The dentist then places a filling material inside the root of the tooth and restores the tooth with a filling or a crown.
Why Would I Need a Root Canal?
- Enamel is the outermost layer of teeth. It is the strongest material in the body, but it is subject to decay.
- Below the enamel is a layer of tissue called dentin, which surrounds the tooth pulp.
- Tooth pulp is at the center of our teeth and contains nerve endings and blood vessels.
When a tooth is badly decayed, cracked or broken through the enamel and dentin, the tooth pulp can be exposed to bacteria causing pain, infection, and/or tooth abscess. In this case, you may need a root canal
Root canal procedures have been perfected over decades. Advances in medication, dental tools and office cleanliness make the procedure much safer than it was a century ago. If you are concerned about a root canal procedure, speak to your dentist. They will help guide you to an informed decision.
Note: The information in this document is not meant to replace the advice of your dentist or another licensed healthcare professional. Talk to your dentist for any specific dental advice.