Recently an article titled: "Shocking Connection: 97% of all terminal cancer patients previously had this dental procedure" went viral on Facebook. This article, which has been resurfacing on the internet since 2010, makes claims that root canals may be a causative factor of terminal cancer. The title of this article alone is very alarming and many of our patients, family members and friends have become very concerned about the "dangers" of root canal procedures. Unfortunately, the majority of this article was very misleading and based on connections, correlations, opinions and assumptions rather than facts.
Although it is entirely possible that 97% of the patients they evaluated did in fact have root canalled teeth, I would imagine that at least 97% of the patients also received haircuts, talked on cell phones, or used body soap. This does not mean that these actions are responsible for or play any part in causing the cancer. There is no science or research that shows any cause and effect with a root canal and cancer, but when the average person reads such a shocking title, this can be extremely misleading. However, if a person does not want root canal treatment, the big question is what is the alternative procedure if a root canal procedure is not performed?
What are your choices if you have an Abscess or infected tooth?
1. Root Canal Therapy: During root canal treatment, the inflamed or infected pulp is removed and the inside of the tooth is carefully cleaned and disinfected, then filled and sealed with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha. Afterwards, the tooth is restored with a crown or filling for protection. After restoration, the tooth continues to function like any other tooth.
2. Extraction of the Tooth: The only other option to rid the body of an abscess is to remove the tooth from the mouth leaving a space. At that point, the person has some further, more in depth choices, to make.
The authors recommend extracting teeth and surgically removing much of the surrounding jaw bone. This is a very aggressive and far more invasive procedure then having a root canal. This goes against everything I know as a conservative health provider who bases my patients care off of what is best for them and supported by scientific knowledge. If you cut your finger while chopping vegetables would you want to get stitches and let the finger heal or would you prefer to just remove the finger? If it's me…I’m getting stitches.
This article also states the reason dentists deny root canals being dangerous is because it is "the most profitable procedure in dentistry." Besides being totally unethical and offensive, this statistic is simply not true. In fact, if we followed the recommendations of these authors and surgically extracted these teeth, necessitating bone grafting, bridges, or dental implants, dentists would actually increase their revenue 3-5 times the cost of a root canal procedure.
The perception of root canals being a painful or “horrific” procedure began many decades ago and has changed drastically. With modern technologies and anesthetics, root canal treatment today is no more uncomfortable than having a filling placed. In fact, a recent survey showed that patients who have experienced root canal treatment are six times more likely to describe it as “painless” than patients who have not had root canal treatment. The fact is that many people are not even familiar with what an actual root canal procedure is, how simple it can be, or how root canal therapy can save your tooth.
Inside the tooth, under the white enamel and a hard layer called the dentin, is a soft tissue called the pulp. The pulp contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue, and helps to grow the root of your tooth during development. Root canal (Endodontic) treatment is necessary when the pulp becomes inflamed or infected. The inflammation or infection can have a variety of causes: deep decay, repeated dental procedures on the tooth, faulty crowns, or a crack or chip in the tooth. In addition, trauma to a tooth may cause pulp damage even if the tooth has no visible chips or cracks. If pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause extreme pain or lead to an abscess (infection).
I am very passionate about my profession, but I am also very open-minded. I believe in research, data, and controlled studies to help us learn and grow in all areas of medicine, dentistry, and technology. Unfortunately, when the strong opinions of some are perceived as facts, many people can be mislead or even pressured to make decisions about their health based on fear. If new research shows that certain procedures or materials are not benefiting my patients, I will discontinue them in my practice. I have 4 root canalled teeth in my own mouth! I have performed hundreds of root canal procedures on my family members and friends because I strongly believe in their value. As a dental professional, it is my job and duty to rid the mouth of infection and disease and to save people's teeth to maintain an overall healthy mouth. Without the root canal procedure, people would not be able to keep their teeth for as long as they have, resulting in a decrease in their oral health and affecting their general health as well.