As a systemic dentist, I do not offer root canals to my patients because I am quite well aware that the systemic risks outweigh any benefit. For oral-systemic health, I believe infected teeth need to come out rather than be root canaled and kept in the jaw as a dead tooth. A root canal tooth is a dead tooth that will attract infection over time, because the tooth is made of thousands of microtubules that attract anaerobic bacteria.
To demonstrate the risks, I want to share experiences that I have had in my practice treating patients with breast cancer who had infected root canals. Over time, the physicians I team up with were sending me breast-cancer patients for dental assessment. In these cases, blood panels showed signs of infection but the doctors could not locate a source. When you have a situation like this, the next logical step is to check for possible infection in the mouth. I began the practice of sending these patients in for thermography, which is a noninvasive way to map the body by temperature. In thermography, cold areas reveal not enough blood flow, whereas hot spots reveal areas of possible infection. In the breast-cancer cases that had been referred to me, I saw hot spots in the jaw suggesting focal infections from root canals that were draining via the lymphatic system straight into the breast area.
Thermography allowed me to locate infection in the jaw of these breast-cancer patients that their doctors could not find, even though blood tests clearly indicated an infection somewhere in the body. I could then use digital x-rays of the area to confirm my suspicion. Could these chronic, focal bacterial infections in the jaw have caused the patients’ breast cancers? Not directly, because bacterial infections do not cause cancer. But indirectly, a chronic infection can contribute to the development of cancer because, over time, chronic infections wreak havoc on a person’s immune system.
A weakened immune system sets the stage for dysfunction in cytochemistry (cell biochemistry) that can lead to cancerous tumor growth and the inability of the immune system to trigger cell death in cancer cells. Cancer (and a host of other diseases) is more likely to appear in a person who is struggling immunologically. Obviously, people can become overwhelmed dealing year after year, even decade after decade, with chronic infections in the jaw from infected root canals. Often the immune system is so relieved when the infection is finally removed that the patient rebounds quickly into a greater state of health.
I like to work closely with the patient to arrange to see the attending physician the day after oral surgery because patients often experience a huge shift on that day. I find it absolutely crucial that patients are prepared properly to enter each new stage of healing. When surgery is done in a non-traumatic way after the patient has been prepared properly on all levels – neural, lymphatic, structural, and psychological – the body is so relieved to have the infected tissue out of the jaw that it just shines. Let me give you an example in a case I treated.