Do Root Canals Cause Cancer or Make Us Sick?
Recently there has been a lot of talk about the dangers of root canals and whether they cause health issues like cancer. As a holistic dentist I thought I'd share my views to help you discern what does and doesn't hold true when it comes to the facts about root canal.
The Root Cause Movie
I recently watched the Netflix show Root Cause. It’s an anti-root canal documentary and I’m a dentist, who even though I am holistic has done my fair share of root canal therapy (RCT) in my career. Whilst I no longer do RCT in my practice I do routinely refer my patients to a root canal specialist should they require this treatment to save a diseased tooth.
I understand traditional medicine, I’ve studied nutrition and done a lot of reading, research and had many discussions with integrative GPs and holistic dentists worldwide and talks with practitioners of naturopathy, homeopathy and Chinese Medicine about root fillings. This show refers to all these alternative treatments.
What I Liked About Root Cause The Movie
What I liked about this show was the emphasis it made of the links between mouth health and total body health, the oral-systemic or mouth-body connections. If this show has any positive impact I hope it encourages people to take better care of the their teeth and mouths because it can affect general health. Contrary to the shows commentary dentists DO attempt to educate patients about this important concept.
What I Disagree With About Root Cause and Root Canals
1. The show tells us that teeth are made “dead” by the RCT process and that any other dead tissue is amputated from the body. Actually hair and nails are also non-vital (dead) tissues of the body as is tooth enamel (the outer part of the tooth). RCT in fact amputates the gangrenous neurovascular (nerve and blood vessel) connective tissue from the inside of the tooth, as the shows says would happen for gangrenous tissue on an arm or foot for example.
2. While it’s true that there are lateral (side) canals that RCT does not completely mechanically clean out, chemical irrigation has been shown to permeate these areas to clean them and destroy bacteria. Once sealed, any remaining bacteria no longer have a nutrient source to feed on, thrive or cause further damage, so become entombed like a mummy in an Egyptian pyramid.
3. The number of people globally walking around with root filled teeth is huge - in both sexes - and there isn’t any correlation between men with breast cancer (a relatively rare condition) and root filled teeth, so this claim that 90% of women who have breast cancer also have root filled teeth is an interesting observation but other correlations such as diet and lifestyle factors, including oral contraceptives are far more likely to cause both, as we understand in dentistry.
4. The meridians that are referred to in this show don’t relate to any traditional meridian system I have studied. In Chinese Medicine for example, the small intestine, large intestine and stomach channels relate to the jaws and mouth - including the teeth.
5. The main character in the show broke his upper front tooth that according to the meridian system referenced in the show relates to the heart organ. Yet his described symptoms were largely metabolic in nature and not closely related to heart or cardiovascular dysfunction at all.
6. Teeth disease in Chinese medicine is described as either originating from conditions causing heat or inflammation. Breast cancer is most commonly described as an end stage energy deficiency imbalance for organs such as kidney and liver or spleen, a different presentation to tooth decay. For gum disease and tooth loosening and loss, kidney organ deficiency is described which also applies to osteoporosis and some presentations of diabetes.
Dental Disease Is An Indicator of Systemic Issues
From a Chinese Medicine meridian perspective it would be more correct to say that the presence of these signs and symptoms of energy imbalance at any place in the body puts the person at risk of further deeper presentations occurring in the future unless treatment and lifestyle changes are applied. So dental disease is therefore an early warning indicator, or as I like to say, a “barometer” for systemic disease, rather than a cause-and-effect relationship that western medicine likes to oversimplify situations to.
7. While it is claimed that homeopathy can speed up healing times for things such as burns, spider bites and even severe cold sores, homeopathy can only impact the body’s immune response on a vibrational level (if at all), most often down-regulating an over-active or hypersensitive inflammatory response by the person. And even this is a highly variable and individual response that is rarely completely standardised across multiple people. It does not act as an antiviral or antibacterial or surgical solution to a presenting condition. The way homeopathy is presented in this show is misleading, outside the scope of therapeutic effects and may I say it in my opinion dangerous.
8. The main character is an actor; presumably this is a hypothetical not real situation. Although what I can tell you is that his original presenting symptoms of burnout are considered to be an energy deficiency i.e. premature ageing and this is very hard or impossible to restore. It takes years to get any marked improvement. I know - I’ve been there myself and I don’t have any dental disease or restorative treatments. This is an all to common situation in people who live on processed foods, sugar and stimulants such as caffeine and energy drinks.
Holistic Dentist Stance On Root Canals
So my professional take on this issue about RCT based on my professional knowledge of both dentistry and complementary systems of medicine referred to in this show is you can rest easy about any root fillings you have, they’re unlikely a source of disease, but if they occurred due to reasons other than trauma, then use it as an expensive warning sign that your diet and lifestyle habits are setting you up for chronic systemic disease in your life - as the same conditions that predispose you to tooth decay and dental disease are the same conditions that put you more at risk for things like cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and yes even cancer.
The good news is you can take steps to change your life for the healthier today!
The views expressed in this blog are my personal thoughts based on my training, education, study and numerous discussions with health care providers from many modalities and backgrounds. At the end of the day it is your personal choice to decide on what si the best treatment option for you and your tooth but I do hope this blog has provided you with some insight and the basis to make an informed decision.