Root Canals

A few doctors here stating that the bacteria it traps and enables is a leading cause of disease in the body

Haven’t been to a dentist in 50 years other than to get a compacted wisdom tooth pulled. I’m 60 something and still have all my own teeth in good order except for that one. Dentists do great important work, but yeah I’d heard there’s issues with root canal but didn’t know exactly what.

Thing is about teeth is the enamel will grow back i.e cavities can be ‘cured’ given enough respite from the bacteria which causes decay, and so brushing after each meal/snack can tip the scales toward healing instead of decay.


It reminds me of reading some years ago about a research trial on back pain patients being given long runs of antibiotics, which was supposedly very effective (think it was in the u.k.). It sounded an awful lot as if the main cause of back pain was bacterial infection, which could cause deterioration in muscles and spine and make things worse over time.

When a root canal becomes a woo-t canal

I apologize for that long and boring preamble, but it was necessary so that I could set the table for the rest of this article; namely to outline some of the fear-mongering and outright misinformation that some alternative sources (including dentists and physicians, sadly) are posting online and elsewhere. Unfortunately, because of the plethora of bad information as well as frequent cross referencing and circle-jerking type linking, often this pseudo-dental information pops up at the top of search engines, confusing the lay public and directing them down paths where they should not go. As a science based dentist who fights “Dumb Disease and Truth Decay” (thank you Evan Bernstein for that horrible, horrible pun!), I want to try to set the record straight and give sound dental information so that people (in concert with the advice and counsel of their dental provider) can make informed choices based upon sound scientific evidence and which are consistent with their values, wishes, and budgets.

The overarching theme when it comes to the “alternative” or “holistic” criticism of root canals comes down to the claim that no matter how well the root canal procedure is performed, there are still bacteria and bacterial toxins left in and around the tooth, which then ostensibly continues to infect the patient, causing a host of maladies, from heart disease to diabetes to cancer. One of the authors (Dr. Thomas Levy) of the above referenced book Toxic Tooth — How a Root Canal Could Be Making You Sick stated in an interview that “there can be few things as catastrophic as a root canal.” Considering that an estimated 15 million root canals are performed each year, I’m surprised that people who have had root canals (including me 20 years ago) haven’t all dropped dead. That doesn’t sound catastrophic to me. Unlike the way I described the root canal procedure above, Dr. Levy (a cardiologist, not a dentist) described the procedure as one where the “life force” of the tooth is removed and then is subsequently “embalmed.” Dr. Hal Huggins, the notorious “Father of Quack Dentistry” who lost his license for “gross negligence and other professional misconduct” for promising patients that taking out their amalgam fillings would cure their MS and other diseases, compares an abscessed tooth to a ruptured appendix. “If you have a ruptured appendix, are you going to fill it with wax and crown it?” asks Dr. Huggins incredulously. Even Mercola says that after a root canal, “(u)nder the stresses of oxygen and nutrient deprivation, these formerly friendly organisms morph into stronger, more virulent anaerobes that produce a variety of potent toxins. What were once ordinary, friendly oral bacteria mutate into highly toxic pathogens lurking in the tubules of the dead tooth, just awaiting an opportunity to spread.” The only thing this statement informs us of is Sloppy Joe’s total lack of even a basic understanding of microbiology or physiology.

Let’s talk about some of the main anti-root canal memes circulating around.

First, we’ll start off with a doozy that has been circulating around the World Wide Woo for some time. Several alternative medicine peddlers have this headline plastered across their pages:

97% of Terminal Cancer Patients Previously Had This Procedure

Of course, they are talking about root canals, and I don’t even know where to begin in trying to debunk this claim. NOTHING about it is even remotely accurate or true. (If you have a strong stomach and want to read the entire article, do so at your own peril by clicking here.) Suffice it to say that there is no scientific literature that even hints to this conclusion. In fact, one study showed that people who had a history of tooth decay and endodontic treatment actually had a reduced risk of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, for what that’s worth. Allegedly, a “Dr. Robert Jones” studied this phenomenon, and his research is what is passed around and cross linked. The problem is, no one really seems to know who this mysterious Dr. Jones is or what his primary research says, if it was ever published. Searches on PubMed and Google Scholar yielded nothing. If any of our astute readers could let me know where to find him or his work, I’d greatly appreciate it! Even Snopes weighed in on it and seems as baffled as I am about it. I think we can all agree to dismiss this ludicrous claim out of hand; it’s not worth the virtual paper it’s written on.

The other two phenomena associated with root canals are not as far out as the above cancer scare association, and deserve mentioning. The first centers around the term NICO. No, I’m not referring to the German actress/model/singer who sang on the Velvet Underground’s amazing debut album; rather, I mean Neuralgia-Inducing Cavitational Osteonecrosis, which is decidedly less cool than the Velvet Underground. NICO is a small area of necrotic (dead) bone, which creates small spaces in the jaw. They are difficult to diagnose, can create atypical pain patterns, and tend to recur. While the cause of NICOs is still unknown, they are sometimes associated with old extraction sites, trauma, and have been linked with autoimmune and clotting disorders. That being said, the American Association of Endodontists (AAE) have stated in their position paper that “(d)ue to its indefinite disease characteristics with unclear etiology and pathogenesis, there have been growing doubts regarding whether NICO is a distinct disease entity.”

The reason I bring up NICOs is that, even if it turns out to be a real “thing,” the alt-medders have co-opted the term in much the same way as chiropractors have co-opted the term “subluxation”, which is a real thing in medicine, but is meaningless in the context of chiropractic philosophy. The anti-root canal faction uses NICOs as a reason to eschew and condemn endodontic therapies; they claim that most if not all root canals create NICOs, which then can “seed” the body with infection and toxins. They claim that they can detect NICOs by seeing them on x-rays or by use of some E-Meter-like device which purportedly can detect them. When found, a “biologic” dentist will want to remove the NICO by curetting out the lesion, then treating with some wonder poultice like ozone or colloidal silver, in addition to chelation therapy and IV vitamin C therapy. This is, of course, invasive, risky and expensive theatre with no proven benefit. Unproven treatments for non-existent pathologies. Any reader of the SBM blog will recognize that pattern, as it applies to so much to what alternative practitioners of all stripes do on a daily basis. Even Aetna weighed in on the matter and penned a rather thorough review of NICOs and basically said there was little evidence of their legitimacy, the methods of diagnosis were unproven and suspect, and treatments would not be covered due to their “experimental and investigational” status.

There are so many areas of this topic I could talk about and would like to talk about, but to do so would require a blog post of Gorski-esque dimensions, and I just don’t have that sort of attention span. So I’ll wrap this up with a discussion of the claim that bacteria from the mouth are a cause of many systemic diseases. Jumpin’ Joe Mercola claims that root canals can cause a veritable smorgasbord of problems, including, but not limited to: heart disease, kidney disease, arthritis, joint, and rheumatic diseases, neurologic diseases (including ALS and MS) and autoimmune diseases (including lupus). That’s quite a grocery list, and he even left out cancer! Despite the typical fear-mongering found on websites like this, the link between oral pathogens and systemic disease is a valid and science based observation, and warrants further discussion. Research is ongoing, but it does appear that there is a correlation between periodontal (gum) disease and such diseases as heart disease and diabetes. Whether this is a causative link remains to be seen, but we can’t dismiss this connection summarily as pure woo propaganda. The problem is that once again, the “woolistic” dentists have extrapolated research in one area (endodontics) into another area (periodontics), then have claimed that the bacteria from root canals travel to the coronary arteries to cause the formation of atherosclerotic plaque. This tortures the existing data and takes it to places it has no business being, and that brings me to my final point.

All of the claims made in the persecution of root canal therapy state or imply that a tooth which has undergone endodontic therapy is a cesspool of residual infection, but that’s not the case. If the procedure is carried out properly, however, the infection is for all intents and purposes eliminated; any bacteria or bacterial products which may remain fall well below the threshold for causing any sort of local inflammation or infection. And if that is the case, the likelihood of it causing any systemic diseases is very low indeed. To this end, the AAE has a web page outlining the literature on root canal safety which is thorough and informative. It addresses the issues we’ve discussed here as well as many more. Please give it a good looking over if you want good information.

Gee, if I didn’t know better it’s almost as if you’re promoting a highly paid profession that your kinfolk are overrepresented in.

Somehow I think I’ll trust the people looking at the 100 ish years of scientific research done since some of those ideas were first proposed, over someone who says the meridian lines are responsible for breast cancer happening on the same side of the body as a root canal surgery, a thing that we’re to believe actually happens based on what one german doctor said in the 1930’s, but hasn’t been replicated by anyone else.

Interestingly, when you actually look for what Dr. Josef Issels said, I can’t find any reference to the cancer being on the same side as the root canal surgery. That bit seems to have been added more recently.

But hey, you do you.

I’ve heard for quite a while now that gingivitis and other gum diseases contribute to heart disease.

I don’t know how true that is but a few years ago I went through that laser procedure where they dig out all the crap between your gums and your teeth.

What a miserable experience that was.

Says the guy who tried to convince me to get a dangerous experimental vax so I [paraphrased] ‘wouldn’t suffer nearly so much when I got covid’

“Covid” didn’t even put me off my beer and lasted for about two days.

And you’re also the guy who persistently and fervently trashed Ivermectin, and the guy who claimed Russia’s military hardware is largely WW2 era [world’s second most powerful military] and you’re also the guy who tried to convince us Trump/Russia election collusion was a thing, even after the over TWO YEARS investigation concluded, and you defended the fake dossier, and the rubber stamping of it, and yet defended Biden’s demand that Ukraine prosecutor be fired after 14 MONTHS investigation bc of ‘not prosecuting corruption’

And you claimed Ukraine wasn’t threatening to join NATO, wasn’t threatening nuclear armaments, that sometimes “nazis can be useful” [verbatim quote by you] and that men aged 18-60 weren’t forced by law to remain in Ukraine except for some exempted demographics e.g Jews

And your wilful ignorance about the reality of circumstances surrounding Assange’s plight is diabolical.

But even a broken clock is right twice a day, right?

His clock must be smashed beyond recognition then

For the record, I wasn’t implying he’s right this time.

If nothing else, I’ve always thought that lions waiting to die under a tree in the Savannah because of one fecking bad tooth is proof that there’s no Intelligent Design. It would be like designing a computer that explodes if a key on the keyboard gets too much dust under it.

Dunno what to think about the root canal thing. Fairly recently we were overly fond of chopping tonsils and appendixes out because of a belief that they didn’t do anything so maybe there’s truth to the root canal thing. Maybe not as much as presented, but baby/bathwater etc.

Years ago I hadn’t been to the dentist for a long time … and then one Friday night all hell broke lose with excruciating tooth pain. Had to find a dentist at very short notice who referred me to a specialist for a root canal right the next day. Had no medical or dental insurance, took me over a year to pay the bills. Ever since I have visited my dentist religiously, and with his help my dental health has improved dramatically.

All that stuff in the tik tok video aside, if you have a root canal issue, trust me, you’ll get it done. The procedure itself is actually painless but takes several hours, but until you have it it’s hell on earth.

Seems like everyone I have known to get a root canal had ongoing issues with it.

I had an abscess years ago and the dentist gave me this magical antibiotic powder that got rid of the pain in about an hour. Never did ask what it was. Got root canal after that.

I would have happily hammered a nail through my face to get rid of that pain.

I feel like I’ve been getting a root canal everyday since Biden took office. :grinning:

Just screwing with ya my friend. Haven’t seen you around here much lately. Hope all is well.


I’m well, just back from Tahoe last week, playing in the snow.

Very cool.

Gotta admit, living in Hawaii, I don’t miss the snow.

Speaking of which, looks like we’re not moving back to the mainland anytime soon.

Moving into the inlaws house, should be all moved in within a couple of weeks. They put the house in a trust with Fuji and her sister being the trustees. When the parents finally pass, then they’ll sell the house and we’ll move back then.

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