A root canal treatment is a dental procedure that is used to save tooth whose nerves are infected or damaged as a result of plaque buildup, dental trauma, tooth erosion or gum disease. The procedure itself is painless but it is quite expensive. Root canals are usually recommended for dental cavities that have progressed into the root of the teeth. The treatment involves drilling an access hole into the tooth so that the infected pulp inside of the teeth are removed and cleaned out entirely. Before filling the empty pulp chamber back with filling materials, a chemical solution is injected into the tooth to sterilize the infected area which is then tightly sealed off permanently.
However, the procedure allows patients to save and keep their dead or decaying tooth without extraction. After the procedure, the living tissues and nerves inside of the tooth are replaced, and the tooth is considered dead. Well, in theory it is believed that the sterilization and the whole root canal treatment is capable of removing all bacteria that causes infection. But is this possible? Numerous scientific research have reported that dozens of diseases related to bacterial toxins are created by bacteria in root canals.
Also, it’s believed that X-ray images can provide greater insight into detecting infections inside the tooth. Unfortunately, under the X-rays both the healthy and the infected tooth appear normal and otherwise healthy. (1)
Is root canal treatment safe?
The safety of root canal is a controversial topic in dentistry. An increasing amount of scientific evidence continues to show evidence that our dental health can actually affect our overall health and well-being. The controversy on the safety of root canals started from the misunderstanding that microbes, fungi and viruses can actually be eradicated from the tooth and gums with 100% effectiveness through the procedure.
According to some studies, it has been reported that root canals can serve as the primary sites of infection which can seep into other tissues in the body causing lowered immunity and chronic disease. For instance, a test was carried out to determine the effectiveness of the procedure in disinfection. Sodium hypochlorite which is a commonly used disinfectant for root canal was tested to determine how much bacterial residue was left behind a treated area.
After the study it was discovered that the cleaning procedures cleared only 50% of these bacteria, the other 50% of the bacteria population remained following the sanitizing process. Most scientists have reported that root canal does not guarantee a solution but rather the delay of more significant health problems. Some research has shown that root canals may allow dangerous bacteria to grow in the mouth and the rest of the body. The ineffective sterilization techniques leads to exposure to bacteria and risks of secondary health complications.
On the other hand, the American Association of Endodontists (AAE) says that upto 90 percent of the procedures are successful. American Association of Endodontists also stated that there is no evidence that root canals could be linked to cancer, inflammatory diseases or any other serious health problem. Recent research confirms that bacteria are not confined to the tooth, most of them remains out of reach and unexposed to sanitizing solutions. However, the American Dental Association continued in saying that there is no solid scientific evidence to prove that root canals can cause major health risks. (2)
Is root canal Dangerous or Just Misunderstood?
This question is really confusing, but let’s look at current studies and reports. A root canal treatments does not always guarantee a complete removal of bacteria and Infection inside or outside of the root canals. For instance, the sanitization procedures does not provide total removal of bacteria, high number the bacteria always remain even after the root canal procedure is completed. The presence of these remaining bacteria can lead to infections and other serious health problems.
However, most dentists may recommend the use of antibiotics to fight the remaining bacteria and infections, some studies have shown that antibiotic use does not significantly reduce infections or bacteria following root canal treatment. In order not to get you confused, I will explain more on this. After a root canal treatment, the tooth is considered dead, with no circulation and blood flow reaching the sealed area or the miles of tubules fostering microorganisms, infectious agents are safe from the antibiotic’s threat. As a result of this, the antibiotic may take a detrimental toll on decreasing the populations of good bacteria in the rest of your body which are required to boost your immunity and fight off sickness. (4, 5)
Moreover, root canals are considered as a perfect breeding grounds For bacterial toxins. Sealing the treated tooth permanently after the procedure, provides a suitable oxygen free environment which is a perfect brewing spot for anaerobic bacteria to inhabit and multiply. Anaerobic bacteria which are persist after the procedure, tend to harbor toxins which can leak into surrounding tissue and to any location in the body through the blood.
A recent report was published by Okabe, in the study it was shown that 72.1 percent of the patients with root canals had bacteremia in their blood. Bacteremia is identical to the type of bacteria that are found in an infected tooth pulp. A recent scientific study was also carried out on 87 patients who had root canal procedure. For three years the health conditions of these patients were monitored, at the end of the study most of the patients experienced deteriorating health symptoms. (6)
Dangers of root canal treatment
Some years back a group of microbiologists led by Dr. Weston Price, worked tirelessly to get an evidence that root canals can and do cause systemic dysfunction. During their well controlled study, Dr. Price and his research team implanted lots of infected tooth fragments from humans under the skin of the belly of 60,000 rabbits. From the results obtained, it was discovered that diseases of the humans, traveling in the root canaled teeth, could produce the same disease in the rabbit in a matter of weeks.
The animals experienced same systemic complications as the human was suffering from. From the experiment, Dr. Price with his team of experts discovered that animals infected with the toxins from the tooth alone had a significantly higher rate of becoming sick and dying. Based on Dr. Price study, we learned that the cause of secondary health symptoms is not only directly dependent on the presence of bacteria, but also the production of toxins produced from the bacteria.
Diseases that are associated with Root Canals
The root canal can be infected by variety of strains of harmful bacteria, most of these bacteria are antibiotic resistant, they also pose life threatening risks. The presence of bacteria in a tooth are thought to stimulate the production of toxins and further infections in the entire body. Furthermore, inside the root canal, you can see different groups of bacteria, these groups of bacteria are called Fusobacterium, Parvimonas, Prevotella, Porphyromonas, Dialister, Streptococcus, and Treponema. They includes Streptococci, Staphylococci, Pseudomonas and Enterococcus feacalis.
Surprisingly, many of these bacteria mentioned here are naturally present in the mouth in certain amounts. But these bacteria can become dangerous when we are infected with them. As we already know, after the root canal procedure, the tooth is sealed off providing a perfect anaerobic environment. The anaerobic nature inside the root canal can cause these bacteria to become even more dangerous.
In addition, these bacteria can lead to serious health problems which includes strep throat, pain, fever, swelling, dizziness, skin infections, confusion, abnormal blood pressure, pneumonia, blood poisoning, toxic shock syndrome, urinary tract infections, meningitis, heart diseases, diabetes and lowered immunity.
Alternatives to root canal treatment
Well, as we have seen above, bacteria from dead tooth or dead cavities can be very dangerous. Having a root canal treatment is not always the best solution. Taking proper care of your teeth and gums is always the best way to prevent deterioration and your risks of chronic diseases linked to poor oral health or even root canal.
Well, the safety of root canal is highly controversial. According to recent reports from studies, many scientists now believe that root canals can serve as the primary sites for infection which can cause lowered immunity and chronic diseases. Apart from root canal, there’s another well known alternative, that has lesser dangers to worry about.
Most holistic dentists would always recommend tooth extraction if the dental decay is too deep or severe. Although, it’s not everyone that would like to have his or her tooth extracted. But during extraction the whole tooth plus the periodontal ligament are removed completely to prevent further infections or risks. Tooth extraction does not actually mean that you will have a missing tooth forever, you can still replace the missing tooth with dental implants, dental bridge or partial denture.