Is Root Canal Therapy Safe?


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I am dr. Wong from Hidden Valley Smile in Bellevue and in this article I want to address a couple of main claims that the opponents of root canal treatments make and see if I can adequately address them. There are basically two main claims made against this procedure. One claim is that a root canal-treated tooth is a dead tooth and there is no other place in the body where a dead tissue or an organ is retained. Then there is also the second claim that root canal therapy is the main cause of heart disease or heart attacks here in America. I’ve even thrown in this gem of all time, the 2012 internet claim by Mercola that 97% of terminally ill cancer patients have had root canal therapy.

The first claim about retaining a dead tooth is on the shady ground as teeth after root canal therapy still contain life cells from the cementum portion of it, as well as periodontal ligament cells. Furthermore, normal mature teeth even before they’ve had root canal therapy are also composed of dead mineral deposits throughout our life and that’s an interesting and important distinction. Every tooth in our mouth has dead and living portions under normal circumstances and the claim of retaining a dead organ in the body is simply incorrect of course. Part of this understanding is really the dentist’s own fault as we sometimes use incorrect terms like dead versus alive to refer to a tooth painful sensation or response to a thermal stimulus. This is partially the source of this confusion as many dentists wrongly use this colloquial term to explain an otherwise abstract procedure. A healthy vital tooth contains nonliving parts and a root canal treated tooth contains living parts. So, when we say it’s dead we’re really talking about a lack of pain sensation from it.

So how about the second claim that root canal therapy is the cause of heart disease. Well, this, of course, is the belief of only one doctor (Dr. Weston, lived in the 1920s) otherwise almost every medical practitioner knows that smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, stress, diet, and lifestyles are scientifically proven factors and the American Heart Association does not list root canal therapy as a potential cause. We’ve had thousands of studies published since dr. Weston and the root canal procedure today is nothing resembling what he saw during his time.

Expertise and training matter as much if not more than technological advances. There is plenty of botched dental or medical procedures and root canals are clearly no exception. The good news is that for the most part single routed front teeth and some back teeth are relatively simple to perform and can be performed effectively by well-trained restorative dentists. However, more complicated molar teeth with multiple canals and complex anatomy do require additional tools such as an operating microscope and other microsurgical techniques and those should really ideally be done by a specialist or an expert which is called endodontists you can find a list of routine specialists in your area by looking at the American Association of Endodontists members list.

What is a partial root canal procedure? Find more here!
What is a Root Canal and How is it Done? – Read here!

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