In the beginning of my dental career, I was taught that the importance of saving teeth was to provide a healthy, stable dentition that would support the chewing and mastication of our food. If there was decay we know how to restore it. If there was an infected tooth, we could save it by doing a root canal. And if both these attempts failed, only then would we consider extraction as our last choice.
I can remember years ago when a patient came to my office in pain with an abscessed tooth. I instructed him that a root canal needed to be done in order to relieve his discomfort as well as save the tooth. To my surprise, he insisted that he wanted the tooth removed rather than having a root canal performed. He assured me that it wasn’t the cost that he was concerned about but rather the effect that a root canal might have on his overall health.
At that time, I could not understand this patient’s logic. Extract a tooth rather than save it? Why wasn’t he listening to me? The root canal was obviously his only option. However, it soon became apparent to me that he was no longer interested in my advice and simply shook his head in disgust and left my office.
Twenty years have passed since that incident occurred. My perspective on dental care has changed quite a bit. First of all, biological dentistry (also called holistic dentistry) has taught me to provide our patients with choices. My way is not necessarily the right way or the only way. In the end, the patient is the decision maker and as dentists we can provide the information but ultimately we must learn how to respect our patients’ choices.
Biological dentistry has also taught me that there is a definite holistic connection between the mouth and body. I believe there is a cause and effect that occurs in every dental procedure that we perform on our patients. That is why I began to take a second look at the effectiveness of root canals. Of course we’re mechanically saving the tooth but is there a biological imbalance that may interfere with one’s overall health to which we’re not paying attention?
In the last 10 years, I’ve listened to my patients and have collected their testimonials as they explain how their general health has improved after an infected tooth was extracted instead of proceeding with a root canal, or a failed root canal that was removed rather than retreating it, or simply extracting a root canal that was totally asymptomatic. Here are just a few examples of what patients are sharing with me:
Infected tooth: Janet, 62 yrs, female. After trying for five months to heal an abscessed tooth with essential oils and a Chinese herb, I finally made the decision to have the tooth removed when the abscess was not getting better. My health care practitioner told me that my general health was being compromised and his recommendation was for removal. I had also been experiencing lower back pain on the right side for many months. After the tooth (18) was removed, I began to feel a lessening of the back pain and it has now completely gone away.
Infected tooth: Cathy, 55 yrs, female. I had my #3 tooth removed that had made a fistula in the roof of my mouth. I understand it was actually an abscessed tooth. It had been there for several months, but bothering me a lot longer, before the fistula appeared. I was overall felling crappy all the time. I had the tooth removed because I did not want a root canal. Since then I have only improved in the way I feel, especially my sinus on the right side and sense of smell and my stomach.
Root canal tooth: Jim, 41yrs, male. Before I had tooth #3 taken out I was having trouble with my stomach (primarily the left side). After I had the tooth removed the pain is slowly going away and I am definitely feeling much better.
Root canal tooth: Linda, 47 yrs, female. I feel like I am doing so much better both emotionally and physically. In particular, I think my moods have been in general more upbeat. Also my energy level has seemed a little higher. Finally, before the root canal was removed I had a lot of infections in my throat. After the root canal was removed I never had any more infections.
Root canal tooth: Keith, 36 yrs, male. For several years, my symptoms of pain ranged from lower back pain, headaches, shoulder and neck pain. These aches and pains affect my performance on the job as well as socially. Since having my tooth removed (a prior root canal), I have noticed a dramatic change in my whole body. My pain in my lower back is completely gone. I have no more headaches or shoulder and neck pain.
Anecdotal or factual? I’ve heard these stories told over and over again. I just keep wondering if root canals should always be the “only” choice, or even the first choice, when considering saving a tooth or not? Before having a root canal, investigate the pro and con choices of this procedure. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. And remember, from a biological perspective, avoiding a root canal may be one of the healthiest decisions you will ever make in your life.