Root Canals and Cancer

Toothaches can be miserable. What causes them is an infection deep inside a tooth that has decayed. They can keep you up all night and you would do anything to get rid of the pain. This often prompts people to go to a dentist for treatment. If the tooth has decayed beyond the need for a simple filling, a root canal is recommended to remove the decayed part of the tooth and fill it. There is some information out there regarding root canals and cancer that natural health researchers are looking at. This article will inform you about this information and also give you helpful information about root canals.

Are Root Canals and Cancer Related?

The Story

Back in the 1920’s a physician named, Dr. Price thought that root canals may cause you to become sick. He was a big advocate of pulling teeth that could no longer be filled or used, instead of doing root canals. He believed that a root canal or deep filling of a decayed tooth actually trapped the bacteria inside the tooth causing disease and/or possible cancer in the body. He did a research study that actually prompted dentists to stop using root canals altogether for quite some time because they began to believe his theory.

The Research

Dr. Price did a study on patients with decayed teeth and stated that he found them to be sicker and in poor health after root canal treatments. The American Dental Association reviewed the study about 10 years later and decided that his research was not done according to usual scientific procedures. What they found is he actually placed enormous amounts of bacteria into people’s teeth, did not use “control groups,” and used very outdated scientific methods.

The Truth

In a later study, it was actually found that people who did root canals over having teeth pulled actually had a 45% less chance of cancer and less trauma. Scientists did not find any link to root canals and cancer and found the procedure to be very safe.

Root Canals Facts You Should Know

When Is It Done?

Root canals are done when a cavity grows larger than just the hard part of your tooth and extends into the pulp, which is the soft part of your tooth that supplies it with blood. This pulp lies just under the crown of your tooth and goes all the way down to the roots. When it becomes infected, you develop inflammation in the pulp and this irritates the nerve causing pain. Root canals can:

  • Help you continue to chew foods normally
  • Keep your other teeth healthy
  • Keep your bite aligned
  • You can keep your original tooth and look natural

How Is It Done?

Your dentist will send you to a specialized dentist known as an endodontist. They do these “deep fillings” and restore your natural tooth surface. Here is how it is done:

  1. You will be given a local anesthetic to numb your gums and teeth.
  2. The dentist will clean out all the pulp from the tooth.
  3. Your tooth will be completely cleaned out and a disinfectant will be used to kill off any residual infection and bacteria.
  4. A rubber post will be placed to fill in the empty space in the tooth.
  5. A temporary crown is placed to cover the tooth.

The second visit you will go in and have a permanent crown placed on the tooth and the procedure is done!

Will There Be Any Side Effects?

Though root canals and cancer are not directly related, a root canal is still an "invasive procedure" and there are some side-effects that you need to know about. Remember, the dentist is still clearing out a fair amount of bacteria and toxins from the tooth. They also have to drill very deep to remove all the inflamed pulp, so these are the things to watch for:

  • Face or Jaw Pain – Drilling deep into the tooth, plus keeping your mouth open wide during the procedure can lead to pain in your jaw and face after the anesthetic wears off. The first day you may feel some sharp pain and then leading to a dull pain for a few days.
  • Re-Infection – It is possible that another root in the tooth has infection that was not seen on the first x-rays. If you develop pain in a tooth after a root canal, you may need another root canal on the same tooth, but different root. The crown will be removed, the tooth completely cleaned out again, and re-filled.
  • Eroded Filling Material – The rubber material and filling material can breakdown overtime. This can lead to a whole new cavity and pain in the root of the tooth. The dentist will have to go in and remove the filling materials and do a new root canal.
  • Cracked Roots – If a crack is not seen in the tooth roots, bacteria can get back in after a root canal. This may lead to the need for another root canal in the future.

Care after Root Canals

The dentist will have you use caution in a few areas after a root canal to protect your work. Follow these tips:

  • Do not eat until the numbness wears off.
  • It takes one-hour for the temporary filling to set. Try not to disturb it.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever as advised by your dentist.
  • If you are given antibiotics, take the whole prescription.
  • Eat easy soft foods the first few days.
  • Brush your teeth as you normally do.

What about Tooth Extraction?

Some people believe that root canals and cancer are somehow related and choose to have a bad tooth pulled instead of having a root canal. While this is largely a personal choice, it is important to remember that extractions can actually release more infection into the bloodstream than during a root canal. Extractions also cause trauma to the jaw and gum. Lastly, the tooth will need to be replaced with an implant or bridge for proper chewing of foods.

 
 
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