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Below the Surface: The Silent Impact of Root Canals on Systemic Health

There’s a very human tendency to think that if something doesn’t harm you right away, it must be safe. The trouble is, many things that we’re exposed to on an ongoing basis may only reveal their danger over long periods of time. 
This is the way with environmental toxins, for instance, and ultra-processed foods. One Big Mac won’t kill you, but if that’s the kind of thing you eat every day, it raises your risk of obesity, chronic inflammation, cardiometabolic disease, cancer, and more. 
The tendency to overlook long-term risks is perhaps one reason why so many dentists fail to recognize the potential harm of things like mercury amalgam fillings and root canal treated teeth. Any harm they contribute to develops slowly, often imperceptibly, over time. 

How Root Canal Teeth Can Become a Problem

In fact, many people can tolerate something like a root canal tooth for years, particularly if their overall health is good. So long as the shell of the tooth remains in the mouth, the procedure is considered “successful.” The tooth has been “saved” – even as the procedure involves removing all living tissue from within the tooth. What’s left behind is a dead organ. 
But that doesn’t mean nothing is happening within the tooth. 
As we’ve noted before, it’s nearly if not impossible to completely disinfect the inside of a tooth. Partly, this is because the anatomical canals of a tooth are often far more complex than a simple cutaway diagram might suggest. They can curve and intertwine. There can be small accessory canals branching off of the main ones. 
More, the dentin surrounding a tooth’s pulp chamber is made of about three miles of microscopic tubules, which contain proteins and other tissues acquired from the now-absent pulp. They’re also a perfect hideout for harmful bacteria, which generates highly toxic metabolic waste, which is free to enter the general circulation through the root tips. 
Research by toxicology expert Dr. Boyd Haley has shown that roughly 90% of root canal teeth contain dozens of different pathogens. Health problems linked to lingering infection in root canal teeth include autoimmune and musculoskeletal diseases, irritable bowel diseases, fibromyalgia and other enigmatic disorders, and some cancers. In fact, one internal study of patients at the cancer clinic of Dr. Josef Issels found that 98% of all patients had infection in supposedly sterile root canal teeth. 

What to Do about Root Canal Teeth?

Of course, whether and how root canal teeth can contribute to specific systemic health problems depends on a wide variety of factors, from the genetic to the environmental, as well as the number of root canal teeth present, pre-existing conditions, and lifestyle aspects. 
This is why we never just say, “Oh, root canal tooth? Better get rid of it!” First, proper evaluations need to be done to gauge what impact, if any, that tooth may be having on overall health. Once the dental situation has been properly assessed, our doctors can then develop a completely personalized treatment plan to address any oral health burdens that can interfere with healing. 
As a biological practice, we favor taking the most conservative approach possible, based on each patient’s unique needs. After all, any invasive treatment necessarily stresses the mouth and body. So we also make an effort to educate our patients, so they can make truly informed decisions about their dental care. 
One book we highly recommend on the matter of root canals in particular is Dr. George Meinig’s classic Root Canal Cover-Up. Dr. Meinig was a founding member of the American Association of Endodontists (root canal specialists) – until his research revealed the risks of the procedure he once touted. Other worthwhile reads on the topic include Death by Root Canal by veteran biological dentist Dr. Ron Carlson and Let the Tooth Be Known by Dr. Dawn Ewing, executive director of the International Academy of Biological Dentistry & Medicine (IABDM).
Prefer to watch rather than read? Check out the film Root Cause or the older documentary Rooted. Rather listen? Head over to the IABDM’s site for the “Hidden Health Costs of Root Canals” episode of their podcast.