Root Canal Risks & Alternative Options

Maybe you heard about the Alzheimer’s study published last month. It suggested that the disease “may be transmissible through blood transfusions and medical accidents in the same way as Creuzfeldt Jakob Disease (CJD)” – sometimes referred to as the human form of mad cow disease.

“Worryingly,” reported the Telegraph,

the proteins that cause dementia are like a type called prions which can stick to metal surfaces, like surgical instruments, and are resistant to conventional sterilisation.

It means that it would be theoretically possible to become infected with Alzheimer’s seeds through a blood transfusion, brain surgery, or invasive dental work, like a root canal operation. And because the incubation period can be up to 40 years, people could be unaware that they have been contaminated.

Before the month was out, the American Association of Endodontists – dentists who specialize in root canals – issued a statement that there is “no evidence that root canal treatment poses a risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.” In fact, according to the Dental Tribune, the study’s lead author clarified that the “current data has no bearing on dental surgery and certainly does not argue that dentistry poses a risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”

But here, the issue is merely transmissibility.

As we’ve noted before,

Teeth that are candidates for RCT [root canal therapy] are deeply diseased. Endodontic treatment involves removing the pulp – the living part of the tooth – cleaning out the canals, then filling them and sealing off the tooth. The tooth is no longer living; still, it is considered “saved.”

Disinfection is one of the big challenges of RCT. The pulp chamber is surrounded by the approximately 3 miles of microscopic tubules that make up the dentin. These tubules make great harbors for oral pathogens (disease-causing microbes), which typically thrive in dark, low-oxygen environments. Complete disinfection with conventional methods is pretty well impossible.

Yet the tooth remains connected to the blood supply, and it is through this route that both pathogens and their highly toxic metabolic waste have access to the rest of the body. They are thus able to contribute to disease or dysfunction anywhere.

root canal process

Now consider how close the teeth are to the brain. Several decades ago, Patrick Stortebecker of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute mapped out the pathways, showing just how oral pathogens can affect the brain and central nervous system.

Interestingly, it’s not just a matter of a single bacterium or other pathogen doing the damage. As the late Dr. Hal Huggins noted,

Our observations over the past 40 years suggest that the old theory of one microbe — like Strep pneumonia — gives one disease, like pneumonia, that is cured by one drug – penicillin, is being replaced by group warfare. Toxic dental metals are known to alter the integrity of the cell membrane, called cell membrane permeability. Reduction of quality allows weaker bacteria to invade the cells, but once inside the membrane, even a weak bacterium and cause lethal results to the cell.

“Bacterial invasion is not consistent. If we identify the bacteria of several root canals in a person with Multiple sclerosis (MS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) with DNA technology, we do not find the identical bacteria in each dead tooth.

“For instance, in root canals or cavitations in people with MS, a bacterium, Enterobacter was found. It was also found in ALS and Alzheimer patients (AD). Is there a similarity, since they are all neurological diseases? Enterobacter is noted for involvement in endocarditis (inflammation around the heart), bone infections — “can cause disease in virtually any body compartment;” and “cause considerable mortality and morbidity rates. Exposure to one type of Enterobacter can result in neurological disorders. They do not usually cause immediate death.”

Learn more about root canals in this excellent lecture by Dr. Huggins:

Also be sure to see “Dangers of Root Canals,” a brief and informative article dispelling some of the most common myths about RCT.

That said, it’s important to keep in mind that not every root canal will necessarily be a problem for every person. Many may be able to tolerate them for decades, especially if they’re diligent about making healthy choices to counter any chronic infection that may be at work. (You’ll find some good tips here.)

Ultimately, it always depends on the health of the whole person, including all burdens that may be taxing the biological terrain (the body’s internal environment). This is why thorough evaluation from a qualified biological dentist is so essential before embarking on any particular course of treatment.

While there are some very special instances in which RCT may present itself as the least worst option, in most cases, the best alternative for a tooth that is clearly beyond saving is extraction. It should be done by a dental surgeon well aware of the risks of cavitations , who will clean and disinfect the extraction site thoroughly and properly so as to prevent them. The same holds in the case of root canal teeth that prove, through testing, to be compromising overall health.

After that, of course, comes the question of what you replace the tooth with. There are some types of bridges that only minimally affect the abutment teeth. Single-tooth partials are also available now. Ceramic implants may be an option for some, although there is some debate as to whether they’re completely appropriate from a biological dental standpoint.

Ultimately, though, it’s up to the patient to decide what’s best for them – which option best fits with their needs, values, goals and resources, offering the greatest benefit with the fewest risks.

Image by Zyzx11

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