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RISKS OF ROOT CANAL (& APICOECTOMY)
by Theresa Dunford
ROOT CANAL and APICOECTOMY dental treatment adversely affect our health?
These treatment procedures allow us to keep our teeth, but we need to be aware of
the side effects in order to make an informed choice, in conjunction with our dentist.
QUOTING from Dr. David Williams' October 2003 monthly newsletter.
Should You Accept Root Canals at Face Value?
There are five painfully expensive words no one likes to hear from their dentist or endodontist: "You need a root canal." It's bad enough to hear this once, but some people have had three, four, or even ten root canals. In fact, for most people, this procedure is just another routine and accepted solution to tooth problems, just like a filling, but it shouldn't be.
One fellow I met went to his dentist with an achy tooth he'd had for several months. The dentist took an x-ray, made an immediate diagnosis, and told him he needed a root canal. The patient had decided years beforeafter reading about potential negative consequencesthat a root canal would be a last ditch option, so he sought a second opinion. The second dentist told him, "You're getting older, you have some minor cracks in your teeth, but you don't need a root canal. It's not unusual to have some minor tooth pain; it's normal, and will probably pass soon." The pain did pass, and after many years the problem hasn't recurred. (I might add that this fellow added green tea to his supplement regimen after that experience.)
The story isn't always going have a happy ending. Here are three things to keep in mind about tooth problems:
Don't put off getting a diagnosis.
Maintain a healthy skepticism when you get a diagnosis that will have a serious (and expensive) health consequence, such as a root canal.
Get a second, and possibly even a third, opinion.
What's at the Root of Root Canals?
Three parts of the tooth are of particular importance: the pulp chamber, the dentin, and the enamel. The inner pulp chamber contains blood vessels, nerves, and lymph fluid.
Nutrients and blood, which keep the tooth alive, enter the pulp through lateral accessory canals and the main canal at the root of the tooth. From there, these circulating fluids pass through the microscopic network of tubules called the dentin and eventually reach the enamel. We tend to think of the enamel as a hard, impenetrable substance, but it is actually living tissue much like the skin. It presents a more formidable barrier than the skin, but fluids, minerals, and nutrients from both the saliva and the dentin can still pass back and forth through enamel.
The dentin makes up the majority of the tooth's structure. To the naked eye it appears to be solid; however, when viewed through a microscope, millions of small hollow tubules are visible. If all of the tubules in an average-size front tooth were placed end to end they would form a hollow tube over three miles long!
Problems can begin when the tooth is damaged from trauma, poor bite, or from caries (Caries is Latin for rot or rotten. In this case, it means tooth decay, or cavities.) Caries begin with the formation of plaque, a sticky film created from saliva and food compounds. Plaque harbors large numbers of bacteria, which rely on carbohydrates (sugars) to grow and multiply. These bacteria release various acids and enzymes, which digest the protective protein and calcium layers of the enamel, creating a cavity, or caries. Bacteria in deep, inflamed pockets in the gum tissue of adjoining teeth can also enter the pulp through one of the lateral canals and infect the tooth.
You Say "Root Canal," I Say Risky
When dental caries or infection has damaged the dentin and pulp, a simple filling will not always arrest the decay. In an effort to save the tooth, dentists perform a root canal; a process where the pulp material is mechanically stripped from the tooth and the remaining cavity is temporarily packed with medication in an attempt to sterilize the area. The pulp chamber and root canals are then filled with a pliable, hopefully inert, material which later dries and hardens. The problem, a curious doctor named Dr. Weston Price found, was that the materials used to fill the pulp chamber and root canals exhibited a significant degree of shrinkage as they cooled and hardened. The shrinkage provided enough space for bacteria to flourish until an escape route into the body's general circulation could be found. Unsatisfied with the results of root canals Dr. Price spent 25 years in the early 1900s researching the relationship between root canals and many of the degenerative diseases (heart disease, arthritis, kidney and bladder problems, etc.) He found a direct link.
Learning the dangers associated with root canals will change your thoughts forever about this simple procedure, and quite possibly change the quality and length of your life. To order the Alternatives back issue this Dispatch is based on, and learn what you need to know in order to make an informed decision about root canals, click here.
If You're Still Not Convinced
Much of the research was performed 80 to 100 years ago [a dentist who doesn't use mercury amalgam and whom we respect for his dental work, said that Dr. Meinig's work is 'old research'. He adds that if it is done well there shouldn't be any problems. See my article below - TD], so if you are a little skeptical about avoiding root canals I wouldn't be surprised. You would think that changes in root canal procedures, along with the introduction of better materials and more effective antibiotics, would have made the research obsolete. But, strange as it may seem, that's not the case. Very little about root canal procedures has changed. Today's antibiotics are still unable to permeate and sterilize the three miles of dentin tubules, and the most popular root canal filling material in Dr. Price's time, guttapercha, is still the most widely used today. One possible bright spot concerning root canals is that newer laser technology may help improve the ability to disinfect these areas of the tooth. Initial research looks promising. Hopefully this will happen in the near future.
Should you get a root canal? Knowing what I know right now, I would say no. I won't have one done, and I wouldn't recommend the procedure until better techniques have been developed and tested.
Millions of root canals are performed each year in the United States. It's long past time to re-evaluate what's being done and develop procedures to guarantee that the health of the patient isn't being placed in jeopardy. Until this happens, I'd avoid root canals like the plague.
Till Next Time,
Dr. David Williams
In 1993 Dr. George Meinig, DDS, FACD, wrote Root Canal Cover-Up.* He studied the 25 years of meticulous research work carried out by Dr. Western Price early last century. Dr. Price had a team of 60 of the nation's leading scientists working with him and the research was carried out under the auspices of the American Dental Association and its Research Institute. According to Dr. Meinig many American physicians, such as Charles Mayo, Milton Rosenau, Frank Billings, Ludwig Hektoen, Thomas Forsyth and Truman Brophy supported Dr. Price's research; which gives evidence that once a tooth has been root-canalled it becomes open to infection which can spread to our vital organs (medically known as focal infection). A tooth will normally require a root filling if the nerve in the middle of the tooth dies and becomes infected. However, it is important to note that once this treatment is carried out the tooth is 'de-vitalised'. Dr. Ron Carlson, D.D.S., a dentist, (also a trained chemist and biologist) from Honolulu, Hawaii, had an interesting experience while a student at the University of Michigan. Dr. Darly F. Ostrander, Professor of Dentistry in the Endodontic Section, advised his students to use a euphemistic approach with patients while presenting a case to retain the dental organ. He said "When you are explaining the need for a root canal always use the term 'de-vital' rather than 'dead' in reference to the tooth to be treated. You will have much better acceptance in treatment choice, since people do not want something dead in their mouths."! I am advised by Dr. Ron Carlson, that root canal treatment is carried out to: "a) maintain 'no surgery' (although root canal therapy, known as Endodontics, is a form of surgery also); b) maintain good chewing; c) maintain the integrity of the dental arch; d) maintain good speech; e) maintain a good appearance."
According to Dr. Meinig, most dentists claim there is no problem with root canal treatment and that the focal infection theory has no basis in fact. However, individuals who have heart conditions and undergo knee and hip replacements are advised by their doctor or dentist that they must have, throughout their lives, an antibiotic prescription to take before and after dental treatment. He also says that those individuals who have had root canal dental treatment and are well, with a strong constitution and immune system, may not be aware of any symptoms, but if they are subjected to flu, stress, accidents, overwork, or trauma of any kind they can become vulnerable. It is well known nowadays that sugar and white flour products affect the health of our teeth and gums. As Dr. Meinig points out we can be on a good diet today, but the health of our teeth may have been subjected to a poor diet as a child. However, a healthy diet can certainly help our bodies to deal with the infections of root-canalled teeth.
Dr.Meinig's book is also supported by Edwin C. Van Valey, D.D.S., F.A.C.D., F.I.C.D., Past President, American Association of Endodontists, where he says: "My awareness of the Price endodontic research about the possible harmful effects of root canal goes back several years. Since the saving of teeth has been a strong belief all my life, it has been difficult to accept Dr. Weston Price's research, but now I seriously wonder whether it was wise to treat all of those teeth. We all must keep open minds, however, and seek the truth." This presents the question. Should we have our teeth root-canalled or, for those of us who already have root-canalled teeth, should we have some or all of them extracted? Dr. Price recommended that in spite of 1,174 pages of data documenting the serious side effects of root canal treatment and the role that root filled teeth play in the creation of degenerative diseases, he stated "don't jump to the conclusion that all root filled teeth should be extracted" and "I do believe there is a limit of safety for all such teeth for each and every patient." Also, our local dentist is of the opinion that if a root filling is done well the patient shouldn't have any problems. It would seem to us that he does do a good job and is conscientious in his work. However, the fact remains that once a tooth is root canalled it is a dead tooth and we need to be careful about keeping our immune system functioning well to avoid possible infection, both to the tooth and the vital organs. It is also important to understand that it is very difficult to completely clean and fill all the fine dental tubules (see information in the paragraph under "Parts of the Tooth." below).
The decision of whether or not to have a root canalled tooth/teeth removed is an individual choice, but I believe people need to be informed, so as to be able to make that choice, in conjunction with their dentist. Also, if bridging or an implant becomes necessary it can become an expensive procedure. Most importantly the tooth needs to be removed correctly. Dr. Meinig and Dr. Carlson advise us that there is a careful procedure to be followed after extraction of a root-canalled tooth. In his book Dr. Meinig informs us that removal of the periodontal ligament and first millimeter of bone is necessary as they are usually infected with bacteria. In cutting the bone, toxins are removed and the bone is 'perturbed'. This perturbation of bone stimulates a change from osteocytes to osteoblast cells which generate new bone formation. Nevertheless, despite these problems, after looking at the following evidence, I believe that if one's immune system is compromised and serious or degenerative illness is present, it could be wise to give some serious consideration to having root-canalled teeth removed.
I am including the following biographical information about my husband's experience in case it may be of some help to others. In 1980 my husband was treated with an apicoectomy. A type of root filling where an incision was made in the gum of a front tooth. The root was cleaned and filled with mercury amalgam. This dental surgery immediately had an effect on my husband's health. He began to have severe allergic reactions, such as a metallic taste on the tip of his tongue which sometimes became ulcerated, excessive salivation, violent sneezing and sinusitis, severe weight loss, digestive problems and fatigue. These symptoms were increased when in the proximity of cigarette smoke and petrol fumes. In 1986/7 he came across a book entitled "Are Your Dental Fillings Poisoning You?"* by Guy Fasciana, D.M.D, which described the Apicoectomy process. He was shocked that such a treatment exists, realising that the onset of his symptoms synchronised with this dental surgery.
It wasn't until between 1987 and 1990 that he was able to have his fillings replaced and the apicoectomy treated and cleaned, so far as was possible, by a dental surgeon in London. Unfortunately for my husband the apicoectomy had apparently been badly carried out leaving a large amalgam tattoo and a 'snowstorm' of mercury fragments which were directly in contact with the bloodstream. After carrying out extensive work, this dentist also proceeded to do root-canal work on a tooth which we now learn (from a recent head x-ray) has become infected and may need to be extracted. (Also, this same x-ray has shown that mercury is still present in his mouth, particularly where the apicoectomy was done, and our local dentist has worked to clean out the area again). Whilst today (April 2002) he no longer suffers from an ulcerated tongue, rarely experiences excessive salivation, and cigarette smoke and petrol fumes do not affect him quite as much; he still has periods of the other aforementioned symptoms, including in the past few years, muscle weakness.
I believe it is not sensationalism to say that we believe my husband is suffering from metal poisoning due to leakage of mercury amalgam through the bloodstream into his vital organs and intestines, particularly the small intestine, affecting nutritional absorption. We believe that if he had not been living on a careful diet and working with naturopathic methods he may well be in a wheelchair today. Obviously simply having his amalgams replaced and the surgical work carried out was not enough and we needed to look at the options available to detoxify. He tried herbalism (British and Chinese) and homoeopathy (merc sol) but the affects of the detoxification was so intense for his already weakened system that he had to look elsewhere. Acupuncture was investigated but he was advised that his energy level was so low that he would need a very long period of treatment before he could hope to see some improvement. Radionic treatment was given over some period of time for detoxification and alleviation of symptoms. This helped him to keep going but still the symptoms persisted. We found CH7 (a combination of homoeopathic remedies for metal detoxification) and Dentasafe mouthwash (binds the metal ions) were helpful. Our most recent endeavour is working with some excellent nutritional products from a company in the USA. My husband has also had treatment with a qualified classical homoeopath, but this caused him to be so fatigued that he couldn't hardly move about. More recently (April 2002) he has found that he can take certain products in small doses. I list them below in case this information may be of help to others (please see sources for products page for more information).
Products which we have found helpful:
Echinacea Immune Blend; Olive leaf extract (to enhance the immune system);
Liver drops (to support the liver);
Infectoclear; Grapefruit seed extract; Oregacyn; Essential oil of Oregano;
Colloidal silver, silica and gold; MSM & wild rosehip; Klamath Lake Blue Green Algae.
Certain foods can act as chelating agents, i.e. brown rice. Also, Bentonite Clay (Calcium Montmorillonite Clay) has the ability to bind and absorb toxins. This excellent product has also helped my back, IBS and generally increased my energy level. However, I was recommended to take this only twice or four times a year as a cleanse, but that the Bentonite Terramin could be taken daily, if required.
During the process of extraction the tooth can break up, making it more difficult to remove. This happened each time my husband had a root-canalled tooth extracted. Last time a root couldn't be removed in the dental surgery of a previous dentist, he was referred to a dental hospital to have it surgically extracted, along with two other teeth. As my husband's vital energy was so low at this point, we decided not to go along this route. Also, at this point we changed our dentist.
My husband feels that there is a tendency among doctors to assume that teeth problems should be referred to dentists, and among dentists that ill health problems should be referred to doctors; when in fact neither appear to appreciate the correlative and interconnectiveness between teeth and our overall health, as indicated in this article. So where does that leave the patient? Further, this may explain why, in some cases, people with various health problems who have been subjected to tests by the medical profession are advised that no apparent cause can be found for the symptoms of their ill-health.
PARTS OF THE TOOTH
Dr. Meinig and Dr. Carlson inform us (see above diagram) that the pulp chamber, which is located in the crown portion of the tooth, contains nerve tissue, vascular tissue (blood vessels), lymphatic tissue and 'odontoblasts', the connective tissue of the living cells of the dentine. The root canal chamber holds pulp tissue etc. The root canals are situated within the root canal chambers. Dentin, containing dental tubules, surround this area. According to Dr. Price dentists carry out root canal treatment which generally is successful in cleaning out the root canal, but there are still untreated dental tubules surrounding the root canals from which these germs can pour toxins into your body which affect your heart, kidneys, lungs, eyes, stomach, brain, and countless other body tissues. Dentists may say this is old research, that antibiotics are able to control all focal infections; but experiments carried out by Dr. Price showed that the infection cannot be killed by antibiotics because the dentin tubules lose their blood supply connection when nerves are removed from teeth, and antibiotics are unable to reach the bacteria. Also, quoting Dr. Meinig: "The perfect filling of a root canal should completely fill and seal the canal to the very tip of the root. With all the research done by untold numbers of investigators, this idea has yet to be accomplished". This means that: "Bacteria could escape from the tooth through tiny spaces or porosity of the root canal filling materials and packing methods for leakage. None proved successful in preventing the escape of organisms. All leaked into the bloodstream surrounding the tooth". The tooth is a living organ, supplied with nutrients, blood and lymphatic tissue.
In 1996 Dr. Ron Carlson wrote a thesis entitled "Bio-logical Dentistry and our Electromagnetic Body", in which he informs us that in the hope of retaining a de-vital (dead) organ, the tissue, for various reasons, is replaced with Sargenti's paste, Z.O.E. paste, or another substance in the hope of retaining the tooth. However, it should be noted that pulp that is being replaced is gangrenous, because tissue death due to loss of blood supply is termed 'gangrene'. The words 'de-vital', 'dead', 'necrotic' and 'gangrene' ultimately mean the same.
Dr. Carlson further states "The dental structures: the teeth, gums, bone ligaments and associated structures of the body are the only areas where noxious substances, poisonous toxins are routinely placed without careful questioning. Mercury, lead, chromium, gold, palladium, and other unknown trace elements are systematically placed with little concern for bio-compatibility". From Dr. Carlson we also learn that root canal fillings can include toxic substances, for example Dr. Sargenti's Paste, developed and advanced during the 1970's is still in practice and contains the following ingredients: The liquid has 76% eugenol, 20% peanut oil, 2% rose oil and 2% lavender oil. The powder mxed with the aforementioned liquid contains 4% titanium dioxide, 6.5% paraformaldehyde, 9% bismuth subcarbonate, .09% phenylmercuric borate, 61% zinc oxide, 3% barium sulfate, 4% bismuth submitrate, 11% lead tetraoxide, 1.2% hydrocortisone, and 0.21% prednisolone. Quoting Dr. Carlson: "Most of the elements just mentioned are bio-toxic. Yet, it is common to use such materials in teeth since they are not perceived by the medical profession to be 'in' the body or 'connected' with the other vital systems of the human organism." Dr. Carlson informs us that in the Journal of Endodontics (12:124, 1986) an experiment was carried out on Sargenti's Paste, with and without corticosteroids (anti-inflammatory substances) and Z.O.E. (zinc oxide powder and eugenol liquid) the classical filling paste now utilised in root canal work. This study was carried out at the Indiana University School of Dentistry. They found that "all three materials caused some degree of tissue necrosis (death), with the Z.O.E. causing the least". (Quote from Endodontic Newsletter, Hawaii). Dr. Carlson goes on to explain that he was informed by one of the leading endodontists (dentist) in Honolulu that "although techniques have improved, the materials have remained the same." The basic root canal material used today is gutta percha filler (a purified milky substance from a tree) and some type of sealer (a fluid, paste-like material). Furthermore, root canalled teeth may appear to be in good condition, but they can still affect our health. Dr. Price describes the following experiment. He was concerned about a patient who was confined to a wheelchair with severe arthritis. Although all her teeth appeared to be in good condition he decided to extract her one root-canalled tooth. He immediately embedded the tooth under the skin of a rabbit which in two days developed the same kind of crippling condition. (Whilst I strongly disagree with animal experimentation of any kind, I believe this nevertheless gives some weight to Dr.Price's thesis).
During the last few years a good deal of information has come out about the adverse effects of mercury amalgam from fillings, but the effect of mercury from apicoectomy and the side effects of root-canal treatment has only been available, in this country, through little known books such as Are Your Dental Fillings Poisoning You? by Guy Fasciana and Root Canal Cover Up by George Meinig, both published in the USA. Here's Health Magazine carried out a campaign on the adverse effects of mercury amalgam some years ago.
The public needs to be more informed about the possible side effects of this dental treatment. For the dental profession to simply say that 'more research is needed' in my opinion does not stand up, in the light of 25 years of meticulous research by Dr. Price which clearly showed how the diseases of ill patients were transferred to animals by way of extracted root filled teeth; and how many recovered from various illnesses (some life threatening) after root canalled teeth were removed. As individuals we need to become more informed about the health risks involved with certain aspects of dental treatment so that we have a better chance of making informed decisions.
For further reference: Graeme Munro-Hall, BDS FIAOMT, President, European International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology, Tel: 01234 840099, Fax: 01234 855844, website: munro-hallclinic.co.uk Quoting from the IAOMT's information: "They are a worldwide organisation of dental practitioners and health practitioners who are concerned about the effect of dental techniques and dental materials commonly used today." They also have a list of dentists who are members of the IAOMT who understand this subject or have attended a two day seminar on this topic, and have an understanding of the root filling issue.
*Root Canal Cover-Up by Dr. George E. Meinig, D.D.S., F.A.C.D., 4th printing 1996, by Bion Publishing (Dr. George), 323 E. Matilija Street 110-151, Ojai, California 93023, USA. Fax: 001 805 646 1506 *Are your Dental Fillings Poisoning You? by Guy S. Fasciana, D.M.D. publ. 1986 by Keats Publishing Inc., USA.
Since writing this document I came across the following in "The British Medical Association's Complete Health Encyclopedia", published by Dorling Kindersley, reprint 1998, p.881, in which I learned that apicectomies are still carried out today (see penultimate paragraph):
A dental procedure performed to save a tooth in which the pulp (the living tissue within a tooth) has died or become untreatably diseased, usually as the result of extensive dental caries.
How it is done
X-rays are taken to establish the length of the pulp cavity. Root-canal treatment may be performed after administration of a local anaesthetic. To prevent infection, a rubber dam (a small sheet of rubber) is used to isolate the tooth from the saliva.
1) A hole is drilled into the crown to remove all material from the pulp chamber. The root canals are then slightly enlarged and shaped with fine-tipped instruments. The procedure is usually monitored by x-rays.
2) The cavity is washed out, and antibiotic paste and a temporary filling are packed into it. Some days later, the filling is removed and the canals are checked for sterility.
3) When no infection can be detected, the cavity is filled with a sealing paste and/or tapering solid 'points' made of gutta-percha resin mixed with zinc and bismuth oxides. The roots are then sealed with cement.
The main steps in root-canal treatment are shown in the illustrations, including removal of the pulp, sealing with a temporary filling, checking for infection, and the final filling and sealing of the tooth.
If the pulp cavity has not been filled completely, bacteria may enter, leading to apical periodontitis (inflammation of the tissues around the root tips). It may then be necessary to make an opening in the gum and bone overlying the affected root to allow pus to drain. In some cases, an apicectomy (removal of a small portion of the root tip) and filling of the area with amalgam may be necessary.
Teeth whose pulp cavities have been filled may function well for as long as normal teeth. Treated teeth may, however, turn slightly grey; if a tooth is unsightly, its appearance can be restored by bonding by the fitting of an artificial crown, or by bleaching." (My emphasis - TD)
For further information:
Graeme Munro-Hall, BDS FIAOMT, Munro Hall Clinic, UK: munro-hallclinic.co.uk Worth checking out, provides excellent, up-to-date, information.
Dr. John Roberts, B.Ch.D., Cote Royd Dental Practice, Huddersfield, UK, and the Harmonology Centre, UK
In the USA: www.integratedhealthpractice.com (also check their links page). Dr. Hal Huggins, Colorado Springs http://www.hugnet.com and Dr. Hulda Clark's dental clean-up and Metal Free Dentistry: crowns, root canals and extractions by Frank Jerome, DDS. Consumers for Dental Choice (USA based website but includes good information for the public worldwide.
Dr. Mercola (video & transcript): http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/02/18/dangers-of-root-canaled-teeth.aspx
Finally, after discerning the above information, you decide to have root canal treatment it is advisable to find a dentist who is utilising the best possible equipment and materials available. The following information from Care Dental practice, Aberfeldy, Perthshire, UK, on perhaps the latest technology and materials available today (early 2004) may be of interest:
"R.C.T. [Root Canal Treatment] is one of the hardest specialities in dentistry, and the standard of root fillings in Britain is often very poor. Although under the NHS dentists are obliged to provide satisfactory root filling, satisfactory simply means adequate. Quality dentistry is important...and therefore we offer independent alternatives where we believe more costly materials give superior performance. These cannot be used due to the financial cost when we provide root fillings using the NHS financial constraints. It is our opinion (and this is echoed by almost all of our profession) that the NHS fee scale, and therefore the time available within practice, is grossly inadequate. Root fillings provided using the appropriate amount of time and patience, have yielded excellent results for us over the past decade. Further to this though, over the last few years new techniques and materials have been developed that have totally changed the way we choose to provide root fillings. This includes the use of rotating Nicol-Titanium files and heating filing systems....With these instruments, and the use of all the time required we are trying to achieve consistent and predictable results. Root fillings done to this standard are fully guaranteed by the practice." (Quoted from Care Dental leaflet entitled "Root Canal Treatments").
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