Are Root Canals Safe?

October 2, 2012
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Holistic dentists have been warning the public about them for years. But it’s a huge and extremely lucrative industry—so most dental surgeons are turning a blind eye to the health risks.

Over 41,000 root canals are performed every day in dental offices across the country—that’s 25 million every year. The cavity in a tooth, if not caught in time, can go to the root of the tooth. A root canal is a surgery to drill out the tooth pulp and replace the root with a filler material to keep the tooth in place.

As Dr. Joseph Mercola reminds us, root-canaled teeth are essentially “dead” teeth. They can also become silent incubators for highly toxic anaerobic bacteria. These bacteria can, under certain conditions, make their way into your bloodstream to cause a number of serious medical conditions—many of which may not appear until decades later.

The toxicity of root canals was jointly discovered over a century ago by Dr. Weston A. Price and the Mayo Clinic. Price’s book on root canals, published in 1922, upset the dental

associations at that time, and still does today. The American Dental Association (ADA) denies his findings, and claims that they have proven root canals to be safe—though no published data from the ADA supports that statement. Dr. Hal Huggins, however, has confirmed Dr. Price’s findings and has shown dramatic links between root canals and immune diseases like ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) and multiple sclerosis.

Dr. Mercola explains that teeth have roots with main canals and thousands of side canals, and contained in those side canals are miles of nerves. When dentists perform a root canal, they remove the nerve from the main canals; however they do not have access to the microscopic side canals, which have dead nerves left behind in those spaces.

Anaerobic bacteria, which do not require oxygen to survive, may thrive in these side canals, live off necrotic tissue, and excrete toxic material that leads to chronic infection. Our blood supply and lymphatics that surround those dead teeth may drain this toxicity and allow it to spread throughout our body and invade organ systems. This can lead to a plethora of diseases such as autoimmune diseases, cancers, musculoskeletal diseases, irritable bowel diseases, and depression—just to name a few.

Epidemiological studies have found correlations between periodontal (gum) disease and heart disease, strokes, and preterm births. So conventional medicine, which used to scoff at links between mouth health and general health, has come to admit the link. But this belated acknowledgement has just led to more errors, in particular a recommendation that people with special vulnerabilities such as prosthetic joint replacement or mitral valve prolapse, a heart irregularity, should take antibiotics anytime they have their teeth cleaned at the dentist.

The trouble with this strategy is that these antibiotics do not just kill off the bad bacteria. They also kill off the good bacteria in our body, an absolutely essential part of our immune system and our best protection against bad bacteria. It is also notable that the same doctors who want you to take antibiotics every time you have your teeth cleaned because of the risk that bad bacteria will get into your bloodstream show not the slightest interest in bleeding hemorrhoids, where the same risk presumably exists.

The bacteria causing gum disease are in any case potentially less dangerous than the bacteria lurking in old root canals. Dr. Price learned after thousands of animal studies that a root-canaled tooth is always infected regardless of its appearance and lack of symptoms. When Dr. Price took a root-canaled tooth out of a patient who had a chronic disease and placed this tooth in an animal, the patient became well and the animal developed the same illness the patient had previously suffered from. If the patient had rheumatoid arthritis, the animal became afflicted with RA. When the patient had heart disease, the animal developed heart disease. The tooth from a patient w

ith kidney disease produced an animal with kidney disease.

Why is the dental profession burying its head in the sand about the dangers of root canals? Because it is an enormously profitable profession. With 25 million root canals being performed each year, and the average cost between $740 for a front tooth and $1,000 for a molar (with the vast majority of root canals being done on molars), it’s a $25 billion dollar industry.

More and more endodontists are joining the profession every year. This makes publishing research on root canal toxicity difficult—it upsets major financial interests to have this information made public. “Root canal therapy is a big money maker,” said a dentist in California. “It’s a great way to beef up the bottom line.” A Virginia dentist agrees: “Root canals are the most predictable and profitable procedure in dentistry. Dentists who do not do endo lose on the average $90,000 [per year].”

So what should we do instead of getting root canal surgery? First, choose a biological dentist who can help you find a skilled oral surgeon to remove the dying or dead tooth, including all the ligaments, in order to avoid leaving a pocket of necrotic material called a cavitation, and also on whether to follow up with a bridge or an implant.

If you choose an implant, choose your materials carefully: only titanium, a metal that is less likely to cause an allergenic reaction in your tissue, or zirconium are recommended.

There are several organizations that may help you find the right dentist. The International Academy of Biological Dentistry educates dentists, physicians, and other practitioners. There’s also the Holistic Dental Association, which offers support to both consumers and holistic dentists. Finally, there’s the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, which has taken the lead in educating dentists in safely dealing with amalgam fillings, and in developing more biocompatible approaches in other areas of dentistry, including endodontics, periodontics, and disease prevention. You’ll be looking for a member in your area. Dr. Tom McGuire also keeps a directory of dentists who do not use mercury in their fillings.

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37 Responses to “Are Root Canals Safe?”

  1. Giselle says:

    Just curious, if part of the issue with root canals is that dentists are doing them because they “the most predictable and profitable procedure in dentistry” why wouldn’t they be doing implants as you suggest?
    I got a quote for a root canal / crown ($1000) today and the implant procedure you recommend was quoted as $2300. If dentists were looking for profit, they would recommend implants and tell ALL patients how dangerous root canals are.

       1 likes

  2. Greg says:

    I was told by my dentist over a year ago that i had a fistula on my gum above my tooth with a root canal. I went to an endodontist and he said that there was infection there and that to treat it he would drill through the tooth with the root canal and treat it. Then I would have to go back to my dentist and she would fill the hole he made. $550!!!! I told him I couldn’t afford it and have not gone back. The fistula isn’t any bigger, and may be smaller, I have no discomfort. What should I do???

       2 likes

  3. Eric V says:

    I also have been suffering from multiple auto immune diseases after multiple root canal procedures.
    As a disabled single parent 43 my resources are very limited, so I am seeking ANY possible help.
    If my past dental work is contributing(or the cause) of my health I want to document everything, so hopefully there are some researchers willing to organize a study.
    I would be an excellent test case as I have documented my deterioration over the last decade.
    With confirmed RA, Systemic Scleroderma, and Raynaude’s any positive health effects from total tooth extraction would be very obvious.
    Most of my RCT were never capped(lack of $) which probably quadrupled my risk of future problems. If I had known about holistic or biological dentists and how they differ from 95% of the dentist’s out there I would have chosen differently,including those”safe silver fillings” I still have.

    Surly there is someone out there researching a connection between health and teeth.
    Or maybe you know of someone else?
    If not… others like myself suffering should connect so we can get something started.
    If this is a”root cause” for disease we have all been suffering needlessly .
    I can be reached at explore4days AT yahoo.com
    Eric V

       2 likes

  4. Denise says:

    I have an appointment to consult with a holistic dentist to review options and discuss insurance. My dental plan does cover about 50% of the implant. It’s all how it’s billed. Call your dental carrier and discuss what you want to do and why. You may be surprised. I will never get a root canal, ever.

       1 likes

  5. Susie Kleinschmidt says:

    I have to say that for the last few of hours i have been hooked by the impressive posts on this website. Keep up the good work.

       1 likes

  6. Linda says:

    My mom lived to be 97 and had almost every tooth in her mouth root canaled until she got dentures in her late 80s. I unfortunately also have some root canals but other than that my teeth are in really good shape. In a perfect world I wouldn’t have any.

       6 likes

  7. Wildwind says:

    What is difference in a dead nerve tooth vs one after root canal treatment RCT? I have confirmed with simple ice cube a badly decayed tooth is non-responsive. Does RCT make the tooth any less vital, any less blood flow?

    See my website for full history.

    My main question on my website: Is taking no action on a dead tooth but with 4 month x-ray check-ups a good or better alternative to root canal?

       3 likes

  8. Amanda says:

    Talk about terrified. I am 29 years old and I have had 9 RCT’s, (One front tooth, and the rest molars, and one pre-molar) Are you saying that I’m going to develop a horrible cancer and die? I’m so scared now thinking about the awful things that are going on in my body due to all these RCTS! I can’t imagine extracting all of these teeth, and then what am I to do? I can’t afford implants, 9 implants, maybe just number 9, if I’m lucky…Am I to wear a partial??? AT 29!? I have had blood work done, every thing is ok right now…But geeze, you’re talking about people who have had one RCT…If it was one tooth, I’d pull it, but I feel like it’s too late….What do I do?

    Scared to death,

    Amanda

       5 likes

    • Adrienne says:

      I recently had a root canal (yesterday) and before my dentist suggested a root canal I let him know that I have M.S. which I have currently been treating for a year now. I am 30 years old and haven’t had any other issues with my teeth up until now. My teeth are pretty good. After reading the above article I to am really worried about my root canal. Should I have it removed? I just spent a lot of $ getting this procedure even with health insurance. But if this root canal is going to cause me more health issues in the future than I already have now then I rather not have it at all.

         0 likes

      • Craig David says:

        When, not if, you pull it make sure they remove the periodontal ligament connect to the jaw for the tooth. Usually it isn’t removed in the US even by biological dentists. It is standard to remove it in TJ Mexico. Go figure. Plus it is cheaper in TJ. I had a root canal gone bad within two years. I had soreness in the tooth and constant headaches along with dizziness. The day I removed the root canal tooth it all went away. The inside of the tooth was charcoal black and the dentist gave it to me to keep for a souvenir. Oh yeah, the endo who put in the root canal told me I had gum disease prior to me going to TJ to remove it. Haven’t had a problem since going on about 10 years.

           2 likes

    • Dr Steve says:

      Make sure to believe EVERYTHING you read on the internet. It’s all true.
      Yes. You will die. Eventually. But not because you had some root canals.
      Every single person who has eaten a ham sandwich will die. Every person who ever exercised. Every person who wore a Motley Crue tee shirt. All dead eventually. But not because they had endodontic therapy (root canals).

         2 likes

  9. Lauren says:

    My husband and I are are in generally good dental health. We have regular cleanings, floss, etc. I had my first crown on a lower tooth and I noticed there is a “pocket” on the outside part of the tooh inside my mouth that shows. It look dirty. I brush real well, floss, but it looks like a problem waiting to happen!

    Our dentist is recommending a third crown for my husband. What can one do in place of a crown or a root canal?!? I would love to find a holistic dentist in my area, but unfortunately, most holistic doctors, and I’m assuming dentists DON’T TAKE TRADITIONAL INSURANCE!

    I’m vehemently opposed to Obamacare and any government forced mandate for health care as it’s unconstitutional! However, I think this issue should be more widely publicized and we as patients and ADVOCATES should do more lobbying of our elected officials to change this! If more holistic doctors/dentists could be reimbursed under traditional insurance, it would turn the tables. Once people see how great holistic practices work vs. traditional, people would flock to the holistic practitioners and it would put pressure on the traditional practitioner! Get involved! Make your voice heard!

       8 likes

  10. Cindy M. Black says:

    I’m a person who’s always hated anything about teeth, always hated dentists, has a huge fear of dentists, and has been poor(ish) all my life, with never any dental insurance. The only time I’ve ever had dental work done was the occasional time I rec’d some kind of $$ windfall (and then had years’ worth of work done all at once) or when in horrible pain with no alternatives.

    SO, as you can imagine, now I’ve got a mess of a mouth. I’ve had at least 5 root canals, and 3 of them continued with pain and swelling in the gum at the site of the root canal. In all those cases, there was a small fissure from the site of infection which tapped off the bacteria. I could often taste it in my mouth, that awful rotten taste. BUT, no pain, and so this situation went on for years and years. I also had a mouthful of amalgam fillings, and in later years the teeth around the fillings began to crack and break off in places, exposing more of the amalgam.

    The rest of me has always been fine, as I eat exquisitely well, exercise, live 100% “naturally,” take all the right supplements, etc. So it shocked and horrified me when, about 2 years ago, I suddenly began to lose all my short-term memory. GUESS WHY?! Now I’m on a mission to undo the horrible damage, which I was not aware of at the time. I’m on a stringent mercury detox program and about 1/3 of my memory has returned…. but I still many problems and have a long road ahead. Thank you.

       6 likes

  11. As a former practicing Biological dentist for 25 years and previous to that an Intensive Care Nurse, I have always been dismayed how dental conditions and procedures were never included in a medical patient’s health history. Physicians are not taught about oral health and dentists are not permitted to practice medicine. This leaves a huge void. Toxic dental materials implanted in teeth which are at the entrance to the respiratory and digestive tracks and centimeters from the brain are never given a thought of contributing to any disruptions. Imbalances in the jaw relationships are poorly understood by either the dental and medical professions and is the only joint in the body not covered for treatment by either medical or dental insurance. While gum infections are a known risk for heart attacks, strokes, preterm births, and linked to diabetes, rare is the hospital or physician who asks about your periodontal condition.

    Poor people who end up in the emergency rooms of hospitals from dental pain and infections, can only be treated palliatively with antibiotics and pain killers. Unless a dentist is on staff, the source of the problem can never be addressed.

    It was difficult for me to accept that root canals could be a problem. We were taught in school to save every tooth. But I saw when I was a nurse I saw that doctors always performed surgery to remove a gangrenous toe or appendix to prevent the toxins and microbes from going throughout the rest of the body. When the nerve and blood supply to a tooth is removed, microbes trapped inside dentinal tubules (the miles of tubes connecting the inside chamber that houses the nerve and blood vessels to the outside of the root), can release toxic waste material into the surrounding bone. This can be picked up by the lymphatic system and taken to distant parts of the body where a weakened immune system may not be able to overcome possible affects. This can show up years later and seemingly totally unrelated to a tooth infection.

    One of the comments stated that with all the millions of root canals performed, we should see a pandemic. Who knows if a root canal is one of the contributors to all these chronic illnesses, allergies, cancers, and neurological conditions so prevalent today. Studies to prove this would not be in the best interests of the organized professions, pharmaceutical and device manufacturers, academia, or insurance industry. It saddens me that public health is so influenced by these powers…

       18 likes

    • Al says:

      To say that dentists are causing Harm to patients by ignoring strong evidenced scientific research is an incredible statement to make. If you believe this than why do you trust another doctor who is saying something else and also profitting off your decision? Maybe they are ignoring all credible research in order to make a profit off of you. Why would doctors purposely ignore strong double blind randomized clinical trials to just profit? How does the general public even know what level of scientific research to believe without going through years of formal undergraduate science education and or medical education?

         1 likes

  12. Vicki Christina says:

    Like any medical situation, the overall health of the patient may have some effect on the root canal success. Likewise the practitioners are not all as skilled as the best providers of the dental services. This is true with all surgery dental or otherwise.

       5 likes

  13. Pace D. Fering says:

    When money is a priority, you can be sure that your health is in second place!

       6 likes

  14. Roger Fuller says:

    10-3-2012
    Dear ANH-USA:
    I like most of your articles, but I believe this one has very bad advice. I just got over a bad infection on a root canal root that lost its cap years ago. In my case, overeating, diabetes, and diabetes induced gum disease and lack of dental clinic cleaning caused my infection. I think diabetes causes it in a lot of other people too, since as Dr. Mercola says, we have 72 million USA citizens who are either diabetic or pre-diabetic. Then to make matters worse we have the massive problem of antibiotic failure due to antibiotic resistant bacteria that this website and Dr. Mercola’s has frequently mentioned. Antibiotics failed on my infection as well.
    Dental implants are 3 times more expensive than root canals and dangerous as well. They drill into the jawbone to set the post, where a patient could have an even worse infection any time in the future. You fail to mention that root canals are to save the tooth from extraction ( removal of tooth ) and I believe are still the best way to go.

       9 likes

  15. Pace D. Fering says:

    Just as in medicine, the first rule for dentists must also be: “first, do no harm!”

       3 likes

  16. Rainy Lomberg says:

    What should one do about existing root canals ? Have all those teeth pulled? The average person cannot afford such surgery, not to mention the huge expense for implants or bridges. I have been unemployed for 16 months. It is hard enough to cover cleanings and check-ups. I am a senior, so over the years I have had root canals and amalgam fillings. I have heard that removing amalgam fillings can release more mercury than leaving them alone. Thank you for your comments.

       4 likes

    • Craig David says:

      There is a protocol for removing silver/mercury amalgams that neutralizes the release of mercury. I can’t remember how it is done. I had 5 removed and replaced with composite fillings all on the same day in TJ along with a root canal removed. $1100 for entire job but that was 10 years ago so might be a little more now. Removing root canals is really just a simple tooth pull. They remove the periodontal ligament in TJ.

         1 likes

  17. Dean Nau says:

    My name is Dean Nau, I’m a 63 year old male living in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. I have been suffering from an ailment commonly referred to as Morgellons Disease for over seven years without ever receiving any effective medical treatment. The reason I mention this is that I had a couple of root canals done down in Los Algodones Mexico, seven or eight months prior to the onset of my symptoms. I don’t know if this dental work may have been the cause of this nightmare of a disease, since it is almost impossible to even get a medical doctor to acknowledge the existence of this condition, let alone prescribe any treatment.
    I would really like to know if there is, in fact, a link between root canals and what’s been ruining my life since July 3rd, 2005. I would really like to know if there are others out there who have shared my experience and the dental work connection. I’m sharing this message, and my email address with the entire world, because I’ve run out of options and I’m running out of time. Thank you, Dean Nau

       5 likes

    • Kerry Fry says:

      This is for Neal, I understand your plight with Morgellons, it’s very real and extremely painful and irritating. I have studied under Dr. James Overman from Millersburg Ohio who has done research on this disease. He has an herbal protocol for this parasitic disorder that has been very successful. You can find information on this at precisionherbs.com.

         1 likes

  18. Lou says:

    “it’s a $25 billion dollar industry.”

    “97% of Terminal Cancer Patients Previously Had a Root Canal”

    “First, let me note that my book is based on Doctor Weston Price’s twenty-five years of careful, impeccable research. He led a 60-man team of researchers whose findings – suppressed until now rank right up there with the greatest medical discoveries of all time. This is not the usual medical story of a prolonged search for the difficult-to-find causative agent of some devastating disease. Rather, it’s the story of how a “cast of millions” (of bacteria) become entrenched inside the structure of teeth and end up causing the largest number of diseases ever traced to a single source.” GEORGE MEINIG, D.D.S. author “Root Canal Cover-Up EXPOSED – Many Illnesses Result”

    Yes and the cancer Industry is a 200 Billion industry. So all that matters now is what the means of death is worth. We have the wholesale deadly corruption of science, health care, medicine, government and anything or anyone who stands in the way of the dollar. AIDS cannot be solved; autism cannot be solved; cancer cannot be solved; CVD cannot be solved; all because to obviate these relatively easy to obviate killers of mankind would eliminate Trillions of dollars in Disease Industries.

    God help us, we clearly will not.

       8 likes

  19. Robert Cruder says:

    I have had two root canals and my wife has had five. If you live long enough, every one of your teeth will have some cracking on the exposed portion and many will have root cracks as well.

    A crack in the exposed tooth will provide a path for entry of bacteria even with the best of hygiene and there is usually enough flex in the cracked tooth to preclude the use of a dental sealant on the crack.

    The best option for exposed cracks is to crown the tooth. Both my wife and I have multiple crowned teeth with very good results. Crowns are not a perfect solution. I encountered bacterial entry via an indeterminate route into a crowned tooth and had the choice of root canal or extraction.

    Most root canals are successful and they are far less expensive than implants. My endodontist does both and tries to salvage every tooth even though he could profit far more from implants.

    My wife has never had a failed root canal. I did have a failed root canal in this case. In addition to the indeterminate exposed crack, there was apparently a root crack that prevented all of the infection from being removed. There are a variety of rescue procedures available to the endodontist but I chose to wait. My symptom is periodic reinfection episodes apparently seeded from that inaccessible area just as this article describes.

    Each of those episodes has, however, been less painful and of shorter duration than the previous one. I am confident that the human immune system can eventually invade and clean out sufficiently small pockets and I would recommend patience before extraction.

    Several decades ago, there was a highly-profitable fad among unscrupulous dentists to remove amalgam fillings with the promise of correcting or preventing everything from auto-immune diseases to Alzheimer’s. Between the replacement composite fillings and the premature crowns, dentists made millions without helping many patients.

    There is a real danger of root canals becoming this decade’s amalgam fillings, replacement at great expense of something that is functional due to fears that may not be relevant and in search of benefits that might be illusory for the vast majority of patients.

       10 likes

  20. Vicki Christina says:

    This is old research and has little validity on today’s root canal issues. The root canal materials were different then – mercury metals were used. Now the materials are much less toxic. There is no guarantee that a root canal will be 100 percent, but no health procedures are always a guaranteed success. I have several root canals and would not trade them for extractions any day. I have worked in the dental field and have seen the pain and misey many patients have with numerous missing teeth. Implants fail too – even titanium ones, so they are not a guarantee. There are sugical risks with the implant surgeries too. It is not just about greedy dentists. Implants are by far more profitable for surgeons.

       6 likes

  21. erika says:

    Interesting article. Unfortunately for most of us who have had dental problems, a root canal is the only way for us to somewhat economically keep a full set of chewing surfaces. Until dental insurance covers this as standard treatment, and/or the price for implants goes down, and/or we get national health care that includes dental implants, root canals will continue.

    I know there is the argument for the long term monetary and physical costs of the resultant conditions, however we play the odds and try to keep a roof over our heads. Also an implant is a more invasive surgery with a chance of rejection.

       5 likes

  22. Janet Graham says:

    Hooray to ANH-USA for drawing more attention to the root canal issue! I agree that in this country, we have bought into the idea that dental health is somehow separate from overall health.

    I suffered from poor health, chronic fatigue, and constant infections for many years, despite many holistic therapies and a healthy lifestyle. After receiving treatment from a biological dentist for long-standing cavitations that I was not even aware that I had, I can finally say that my health is turning around. I am able to exercise much more than before, the chronic infections are clearing up, and I have hope for the future. I believe that everyone should pay attention to this article and seek the opinion of a qualified biological dentist–it could be the most important step you take to vibrant health!

       4 likes

  23. Les Richmond says:

    Two things to keep in mind while reading the info from Dr. Mercola’s site.
    1. The information published by Dr. Weston Price is about 90 plus years old. Materials and
    techniques for performing root canals have changed (improved) a lot since then. Remember his
    research was based on the quality of dentistry in the 1920’s and 1930’s. More recent studies
    likely won’t give the results he observed.

    2. Dr Huggins specializes in referrals of persons who are sensitive to root canal therapy and
    many other environmental agents. The worst cases wind up at his door.

    If root canals were as dangerous as Dr Huggins and Dr Mercola say they are, and 41,000
    are performed every day in the US, adding up to about 25 million a year, we would have a
    pandemic bigger than the great Spanish Flu of 1918 occurring every year in this country.

    I suggest there may be a bit of hyperbole going on here.

    Sincerely, Les

       13 likes

  24. john rose says:

    thank you for helping put the word out.

       0 likes

  25. Given all this information on the risks associated with root canals, I am wondering about what one should do if they have many root canals, are in the mid-fifities and are in great health. What is your recommendation.? They have had most of the root canals over 20 years.

       1 likes

  26. lucia foster says:

    infomation is interesting and no doubt real. now I would like to see research on pain medication used in the chair related to tooth resorption. …which leads to recommended massive dental work. ie. implants, root canals etc.

       4 likes

  27. Diane says:

    What should you do if you have had a root canal already?

       4 likes

  28. AJ Mihalic says:

    What is the recommended action for a person who already has a root canal? Cavitation surgery by a holistic dentist?

       2 likes

  29. Bonnie Barfield says:

    Even living in a big city (Atlanta) I was not able to find a dentist who would/could provide an alternative to a root canal. Pulling the tooth is not considered a viable alternative because the remaining teeth will eventually shift. It seems like implants have the potential to be as toxic as a root canal and they are extremely expensive.

       4 likes

  30. Greg says:

    A root canal seriously weakened me and drained my energy. It took a year to recover from it. It took six months to determine the cause and to have it removed by a naturopathic dentist. I then used herbs to cleanse my liver and other organs from the toxins it flooded my body with.

       4 likes

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