This blog is dedicated to dental health and how it relates to a person's overall health. I will post articles and subjects relevant to today's most forward thinking on dental health, beauty, and comfort. Your participation and comemnts are welcomed in order to enrich the experience. Dr. Neal
Monday, January 13, 2014
Do Root Canals Cause Cancer?-Crysral Lake Dentist
little history lesson please!!!
Root Canal Treatment Goes Back Thousands of Years.
There are historical
instances of all manner of objects and materials being placed in the root canal
space of teeth including bird droppings as a means of treating teeth. Studies
and published articles go back over three hundred years demonstrating various
techniques and materials to treat infected teeth. The various theories of what
is being done and why are all over the place. The good news from this is that
even though these practices have been discontinued, over time a common sense
approach, improved methods, and materials has led to a very consistent
high success rate for root canal treatment.
Modern Root Canal treatment Begins in the Last Half of the 20th
The modern ideas for
root canal treatment began in the 1950's with the use of certain irrigating
techniques and standardized instruments and materials. Root canal treatment has
continued to evolve with advances in technology and materials so that today root
canals (endodontic treatments) are highly predictable and successful when all
of the necessary steps are followed. Importantly the placing of a well-fitting
crown and buildup are part of a properly completed root canal treatment.
What Does This Have to do
with Cancer and Other Diseases?
In the early 1900's the
"focal infection" theory was developed. This theory stated that
essentially a tiny localized infection would cause inflammation and disease in
other body organs and systems. In addition the bacteria causing the localized
infection would quickly morph into other bacteria which were much more
dangerous. These more dangerous bacteria and byproducts would travel freely
through the body seeking organs and body systems to damage or destroy. So some
claimed that this "focal infection" was leading to cancer.
Once this localized infection was removed, the other body organs and systems
would recover. This focal infection theory was popular for about 25 years
and led to the amputation of many body parts. This focal infection theory
stated that since teeth that were infected had previously been successfully
treated with root canals were still considered infected. Consequently, the idea
was advanced that all of these teeth needed to be removed. In the 1920's,
studies were done by a dentist "Dr. Weston Price". He showed that
these infected teeth could kill lab rabbits quickly. He also attempted to
document how by removing these teeth, many people who were previously suffering
from all sorts of ailments were instantly cured. For the next 25 years, this
theory and Dr. Price's reports led to the removal of countless teeth.
What Have We Learned Since Then about "Focal
The studies by Dr. Price
were and others were flawed and had no valid controls. In addition, published
studies since then have failed to produce or reproduce the same effect claimed
be Dr. Price. The subsequent study of abscesses, bacteremia, and blood testing
of individuals find that the bacteria found in these lesions show that bacteriafrom the mouth play almost no role in infections in other parts of
the body. We now know that bacteria do not evolve/mutate at any rate close to
what Dr. Price was showing. Dr. Price had several accomplishments that did advance dentistry, however his lab experiments and claims about focal
infections have placed a dark cloud over his accomplishments.
Our Immune System is More Than Capable of Handling Oral Bacteria!
The human race would not
exist if it could not handle the bacteria from the mouth. The human immune
system is dealing with bacteria from the oral cavity constantly from accidental
lip, cheek, tongue biting, injuries, from hard foods, flossing/tooth-brushing,
dental cleanings, etc. These injuries would have killed off the host shortly after
birth if the immune system could not deal with the bacteria.
Why do claims like these about dentistry circulate?
There are several reasons:
Many in the Holistic community truly believe some of
the claims that are made without any good science to back it up.
They refuse to seek out properly performed scientific tests for
evidence for their beliefs.
Many people love a good conspiracy theory as well and
think that large companies and organizations are covering up the
Many of these Holistic companies stand to make a lot of
money and many are unscrupulously making false claims to do so just like
the "Snake Oil Salesmen" traveling the country would do in the
Many people are desperate for simple low cost
alternatives to proper health care.
Wives’ Tales and folklore abound with home brews and
anecdotal miraculous recovery from illnesses that are often a coincidence.
Why Root Canals have a Bad Reputation in general?
Face it you don't just
walk into your dentist's office and say hey doctor, I was just passing by and
thought I would like to have a root canal treatment just for fun. Root canals
and severe pain are linked in the media and society. OK let’s dissect the
reason. Many people who seek a dentist for a painful tooth have waited too long
to have the tooth treated hoping the "pain would go away". Well it
did not and now the tooth needs to either be removed or treated with a root
So what causes the pain people associate with root canals?
I will use another
body part to explain the inflammation/infection process. If you injured your
thumb by either getting an infected splinter in it or hitting it with a hammer,
it would do several things at once. It would swell, turn red, and get hot. That
is the way the body reacts to injury and infection. In this same way the pulp
and periodontal ligament will react to inflammation and infection. Teeth are
embedded in bone and the nerve (pulp) is consequently not able to expand when
inflamed or infected. When a tissue tries to swell and cannot, the pain level
increases dramatically. "Hot" abscessed teeth are much more difficult
to numb and take longer for the anesthetic to work. That is just the nature of
inflammation and infection anywhere in the body. If the tooth is removed, the
pain will subside, but the area will still be sore because part of the body has
been amputated. It is the same with a root canal treatment. The pain will
improve but it may take some time for the body to recover from the toxic
products of an abscessed tooth. Today we have better anesthetics, and better
treatment methods as well as better antibiotics and pain relievers to
prescribe. It is not the root canal treatment that is the reason people have any
pain, but the waiting too long to seek treatment that is causing it.
Common sense is needed!
The bacterial onslaught
from periodontal disease is a much greater danger to a person's health than a
tooth with a root canal in it. The modern root canal treatment with the
use of antibiotics, antiseptic rinses, electronic apex locators, magnification,
digital x-rays, ultrasonics, rotary nickel titanium instrumentation, high tech
heated Gutta Percha have made it easier, faster and better. The judicious
use of antibiotics, better anesthetics, conscious sedation, nitrous oxide
(laughing gas), and modern pain relievers have made every procedure in
dentistry extremely predictable and more comfortable.
The Truth is Obvious, We Just Need to Face It!
Root canal treatment is
one of the most successful procedures a dentist can provide. The cost of
replacing a tooth is greater than the cost of the root canal and crown.
Patients can avoid unnecessary pain and enjoy the benefits of teeth saved by
root canals by seeking professional care as soon as possible rather than
waiting till the problem is so serious. Many root canal treatments can be
avoided altogether by getting regular dental care and checkups to catch a
problem early and treat it with a minor procedure.
Born in the Midwest.
Married with 6 children and 3 grandchildren. Attended Maine West High School, Harper Jr College, Northern Illinois University, the University of Illinois College of Dentistry. Practice in Crystal Lake, Illinois.