“Root canals” are expensive procedures typically marketed as a way to “save” infected teeth. However, many people are confused about what a root canal really is, and the risk it brings of chronic infections in the gum and jaw that can, over time, compromise your immune system. A “root canal procedure” means that an infected tooth that is essentially dead or dying or is so infected that it cannot recover is emptied of its pulp and central nerve and filled with a replacement filler material.
This means the living root of the tooth is gone, but the skeleton of the tooth remains in your mouth so that it looks like you still have a living tooth. However, the tooth is no longer alive, but dead. It no longer has a nerve or blood supply. Drilling to remove the nerve from the tooth and cleaning out the infected pulp helps immediately, but the hard part of the tooth is made of thousands of micro-tubules that are havens for bad bacteria which can cause recurrent and chronic infection.
Chronic infections are dangerous, and can lead to a compromised immune system that can in turn lead to serious health issues later. We know that chronic infections in the mouth are associated with higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, GI tract problems, cancer and more. If you think you have an infected root canal, I urge you to seek immediate care from a systemic dentist who understand the mouth-body connection in regard to chronic root canal infections.
For these reasons, I believe in the removal of root canals and the extraction of the dead tooth in order to prevent further infections in the mouth and all over the body. If the tooth cannot be saved, I recommend a bridge. However, patients who have been in my care for years often do not need root canals, because the materials and procedures I use are less invasive or damaging to the integrity of the tooth. For example, mercury amalgam fillings require drilling out so much of the tooth that the structure of the tooth is compromised, and later you get recurrent decay or cracking. Often this eventually leads to a cap. After so many years the cap gets recurrent decay, and you are told you need a root canal. Often times this sequence ends after many years in dentures.
In my practice I want to get away from this ‘drill it, fill it, bill it’ mentality completely where your dental problems just get worse over time. My preference is to use the new technology of ozone to treat cavities (bacteria on the surface of the tooth) without drilling the tooth or with minimal drilling. Ozone is naturally occurring O3, and kills bacteria on contact. It’s inexpensive and easy to apply. I also use bio-identical dental materials instead of mercury amalgam which require less drilling of the tooth. And for caps if they are needed, I can use Kevlar to cushion impact in order to reduce stress on the tooth structure, often sparing the tooth from further decline over time.
For more information on the connection between chronic infections in the mouth and chronic diseases throughout the body, please read this article posted on perio.org.