Next week marks the tenth anniversary “celebration” of Root Canal Awareness Week. So we thought it might be a good idea to “celebrate” the biological perspective on this all too common procedure.
Since the recommendation for a root canal usually follows pain and discomfort, you want to schedule a dental visit to get it evaluated as soon as possible. For there are lots of reasons why a tooth might hurt:
- Recent dental work.
- Clenching and grinding.
- Cracked teeth.
- Infection (abscess).
Getting an accurate diagnosis matters. Not all pain is due to an infection.
You can expect your dental office will want to a periapical x-ray. This shows the root level of the tooth and is used to see if there is infection at the root tip. Infection shows up on x-ray as darkness – radiolucency – and detects where infection has eroded the bone.
But an x-ray is just one tool. Other tests and info you provide may be need for an accurate diagnosis. For instance, we might perform a vitality test to determine if the tooth is living, in a dying phase, or dead. Some may do a percussion test, tapping gently on several teeth to see if one tooth feels different than another.
You’ll be asked to describe your pain. When asked to point to what’s hurting, would you point to one tooth or a range of teeth? How does your pain feel? Is it throbbing? Sharp or zinging? Does it come and go, or is it constant? Is it worse when lying down or standing up? Is the tooth sensitive to hot or cold or sweet?
Your answers, along with the x-rays and other clinical evidence, give your doctor significant clues as to whether or not the tooth is infected. Be aware: Sometimes it can be difficult to tell with certainty if the tooth is infected, and a conservative approach may be to wait and see.
If your tooth is infected, two options may be offered: root canal or extraction. Some offices, understanding you have pain, will offer to “open the tooth up” in the meantime. This opening releases the pressure that the infection is causing as it tries to find an outlet to drain. Once your tooth is opened and the pressure is relieved, you have some time to make a decision about your options.
Now, conventional wisdom holds that a root canal is the best option. It’s referred to as “saving” the tooth – even as what you are ultimately saving is a dead tooth.
And that’s just one of the concerns a biological dentist has about the procedure as a whole, along with its potential effects on whole body health.
- Root canals embalm and preserve a dead tooth in a living body.
- Root canals destroy the tooth’s vascular system, while pathogenic bacteria and their toxic byproducts flourish in the thousands of dentin micro-tubules connected to the root.
- Local infections may form at the tip of root canaled teeth, which may become focal infections – local infections that have distant effects, harming other parts of the body.
- Root canals release microbial metabolic toxins.
- Root canals may hinder electron flow along a body’s energy meridian and may affect body organs that lie on the shared meridian. (Check out our interactive meridian tooth chart to learn more.)
A number of excellent and accessible works on the health risks of root canals are available, including Dr. Gary Strong’s Root Canals: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, which is based on Dr. Weston Price’s groundbreaking research.
Another essential resource detailing the work of Dr. Price is Root Canal Cover Up Exposed by George Meinig – a founder and past president of the American Academy of Endodontists.
If you’re faced with making the difficult decision to undergo root canal treatment or extraction, you need good information from a range of sources. Doing your homework and getting input from a dentist you trust can help you make a decision that best fits for you.
When in doubt, advocate for yourself. After all, you are the only one who will have to live with the decision.
Images by PicselPerfect & Jeremy Kemp