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This article accompanies the two-part video below of the same name (total 23 mins).
The rise of root canal treatments
Could dental disease and commonly accepted dental procedures be at least partially responsible for the increasing incidence of serious, chronic and degenerative illnesses that we are witnessing in the developed world?
Some informed physicians, dentists and naturopaths think so and maintain that up to 90% of all illnesses may start in the mouth.
Amongst the suspect dental procedures are the use of metals in general and the use of mercury amalgam in particular and also the currently accepted method of tooth extraction which leaves behind the periodontal membrane which may act as a barrier to effective healing causing holes known as cavitations to form in the bone. These topics are addressed in the videos entitled The Trouble With Amalgam Fillings and Part 1 and Part 2 of Dental Cavitations.
This video examines the potential role of root canal treatments in causing seemingly unrelated health problems.
Root fillings are done to try and retain a tooth that has died either because of deep decay or a crack or fracture. Most patients now demand - and most dentists are taught - to try and retain as many teeth as possible for as long as possible.
This means that root fillings have now become a routine procedure with - by some estimates - over 50 million root canal treatments being performed every year in the USA alone. This figure has risen from just 3 million in 1960 which represents a 15 fold increase in just 50 years. Other countries in the developed world are now following suit with the explosive increase in the use of this technique.
Dentists who undertake postgraduate training in root canal treatments are known as endodontists where ‘endo’ means within and ‘dont’ means tooth and this specialist field has developed massively during the last few decades too.
The benefit of root treatments is that people have been able to avoid extractions and the necessity of wearing dentures like many of their parents or grandparents. But what are the potential risks of endodontic treatment?
In order to understand why root treatments might be a fundamentally flawed procedure you need first to understand a little about the structure of the tooth and what a root canal treatment is.
The structure of the tooth
The bulk of the tooth is composed of dentine with enamel covering the visible part of the tooth above the gum line and cementum covering the roots of the tooth below the gum line. The enamel is the hardest material in the body and provides protection of the dentine within which is a living substance. Whereas the cementum which covers the roots is relatively soft and acts to anchor the ligamentous fibres that suspend the teeth in the jawbone. In the centre of the tooth lies the pulp which is a collection of nerves, blood and lymph vessels.
The dentine is not solid as was once supposed, but is in fact made up of millions of tiny tubules which radiate out from this inner pulp to the root surface and enamel junction. In health each of these tubules has a cell known as an odontoblast dwelling within it that has a process which extends most of the thickness of the dentine. These cells remain from the developmental process that created the tooth and they maintain the dentine and regulate the fluids within the tubules.
The nerves, lymph and blood vessels of the pulp enter and leave the tooth via the root tips and many accessory and lateral canals to serve the living pulp within the tooth.
How teeth die
The reason why teeth present a unique problem within the body is because the pulp is contained within the rigid structure of the tooth.
If the pulp of the tooth becomes irritated in response to decay or a crack then just like tissue anywhere it becomes inflamed. However, one of the consequences of inflammation within the rigid tooth is that here uniquely it can cause compromise or strangulation of the blood supply to the tooth.
This combines with the fact that the bacteria that caused the decay or that have penetrated down the crack can spread within the pulp. These processes may happen seemingly suddenly or slowly over a period of years and may or may not be painful.
The next outcome is that bacteria that have flourished within the dead or dying pulp will produce pus which accumulates in the bone surrounding the tooth root causing an abscess. This may be painful and may produce swelling for which antibiotics are usually prescribed. If the affected individual wants to keep the tooth at any of these stages, a root canal treatment will be suggested.
What is a root treatment?
When a tooth is root filled the dentist hopefully places a rubber dam to isolate the tooth and then cuts an access cavity through the top of the tooth. The dentist then removes any decay and starts to instrument the canals using long fine files so that all the dead or dying pulp is removed.
They file the canals to create a smooth tapered shape whilst irrigating the canals with a sterilising solution. They may also seal an antiseptic paste within the canals temporarily before completing the root filling or may complete the treatment in one visit.
The canals are then filled with some kind of obturating material, most often gutta percha which is a kind of rubber along with a sealant. The tooth may then be filled – or because dead teeth become fragile – have a crown or overlay placed on top to prevent it splitting or cracking. In this way a dead tooth can be maintained in service.
Problems with root canal treatments
The problem being that this is effectively an embalmed tooth and this is the only example where such an approach of maintaining a dead body part in service would be countenanced.
This procedure has many implications only some of which are recognised by dentists and endodontists. The following issues that are acknowledged:
First, that teeth rarely conform to the idealised version with one canal per root. Instead they may have accessory canals or a complex interconnected multicanal system. These accessory canals may or may not be identified during treatment, and even if they are they may prove impossible to instrument.
Second, that there are an estimated 75 lateral canals per root where blood and lymph vessels and nerves communicate with the pulp of the main canal or canals through the sides of the root. It is impossible to thoroughly clean these out, but attempts are made using ultrasonic equipment and irrigation.
Canals are often irregular shapes and both canals and roots can curve and bend and this can present an obstacle to effectively cleaning out and filling these canals.
Another issue is that only a tiny minority of root canal treatments are technically perfect, that is instrumented and filled to exactly the right length for a variety of reasons. Not least of which being that this is very demanding work performed on a moving target. Like watch making whilst someone spits on your fingers as one dentist put it! So sometimes the entire length of the root canal is not instrumented and filled.
Finally, as the teeth become irritated by the advance of decay or by deep fillings, the tooth can lay down secondary dentine within the pulp chamber and this can occlude the access to the canals as the nerve retreats down the root and these canals can prove difficult or impossible to access.
So these issues are all recognised, and what most dentists believe is that if a sincere effort is made to clean out the majority of the infected pulp and the root system sealed that the immune system can then take care of any remaining bacteria.
However, the biggest and most insurmountable problem comes from the nature of the structure of the dentine itself. For if the tubules were laid end to end they are said to extend for up to 3 miles in a front tooth and about 10 miles in a back molar tooth.
Part of the problem in understanding the risks posed is that we tend to think of things on a human scale. So that a cell seems tiny to us, but it contains a universe of sorts where over 100,000 chemical reactions take place every second take place mediated by over 1,000 different enzymes.
So although the dentinal tubules are just 3 micrometres in diameter, this may still be fifteen times larger than the smaller bacteria at just 0.2 micrometres. In human terms this is the equivalent of standing in an 80 foot wide tunnel.
The problem being that once the circulation to the tooth dies or is severed the fluids in the dentinal tubules become stagnant and as there is no oxygen supply or immune system the conditions within the tooth are radically changed and the body’s normal natural defences have been removed.
As the inner environment of the tooth becomes deprived of oxygen, the bacteria which may have caused the decay and surface bacteria from the mouth mutate into their anaerobic forms.
The problem being that these anaerobic forms are many times more dangerous than the aerobic forms producing toxins known as thioethers which are 1,000 times more potent than botulinum toxin which is considered the most toxic organic substance.
According to research done by the German oncologist Dr. Josef Issels these toxins are closely related to the chemicals used in World War I to make mustard gas.
The bacteria also become smaller in size, and multiply more prolifically. When bacteria are cultured in a laboratory they are incubated at body temperature on a nutrient medium. This is exactly the environment a root filled tooth offers – a nutrient rich medium incubated at body temperature and with no immune system to keep the bacteria in check.
The way bacteria reproduce is that one splits into two, which split into four and so on and this happens every 20 minutes or so. Under ideal conditions this simple process can produce countless billions of bacteria within 24 hours.
The bacteria can grow unchecked within the tooth and then exit the tooth mostly it seems via the canal system and then travel in the circulation surrounding the tooth to other locations within the body setting up satellite colonies.
The immune system may be constantly trying to contain and control the source of infection and eventually this can result in exhaustion and immune disorders such as autoimmune disease and cancer.
But possibly more important than this is the fact that the toxins the bacteria produce constantly leach out of the tooth taxing the liver and kidneys and causing toxicity and disease.
In this way root filled teeth can act as what is known as a focus of infection.
Focus of infection theory
The fact is that none of this is news. The focus of infection theory was widely accepted in medicine and dentistry in the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries and led to the extraction of a great many teeth which caused problems with chewing for many people.
Other foci of infection can include the tonsils and gallbladder but the mouth is thought to be the most important source with bacteria and toxins produced by gum disease and cavitations.
Dentists already acknowledge that bacteria from the mouth can pose serious health consequences in vulnerable individuals and are required to provide antibiotic cover for any invasive dental treatment.
And research in the last couple of decades has categorically linked periodontal disease with heart disease, strokes, low birth weight babies and preeclampsia in pregnant women. So oral bacteria are acknowledged to pass to the rest of the body affecting health.
However, at present, the dangers posed by root canal treated teeth remain either unacknowledged or actively rejected by the majority of the dental profession.
Dr Weston Price's research into root fillings
A great deal of research into root fillings was done into this topic by the dentist Dr Weston Price about a hundred years ago.
Dr Price was a highly respected American dentist and researcher who conducted a lot of research into both root canals and the impact of the Western diet on jaw development and dental disease. He founded what was later to become the Research Section of the American Dental Association (ADA), and served as its chair for 14 years from 1914.
He conducted thousands of experiments over a period of 25 years on over 5,000 animals and published 220 scientific papers and 4 mighty books some of which were used as dental reference texts.
One set of experiments involved taking a small section of a root filled tooth that had been extracted from a patient with a known disease and implanting it under the skin of a rabbit. Invariably the rabbits contracted the same disease as the original owner of the tooth.
Not only that, he then implanted the same fragment in another rabbit and another up to a total of 33 times and all the rabbits contracted the same disease. So that if the patient had heart disease, the rabbit developed heart disease and if they had had kidney trouble, the rabbit contracted kidney disease. He also repeated these experiments with healthy teeth and no adverse health effects resulted.
We also know that microorganisms can be very specific to particular tissues as in the case of the herpes simplex virus which takes up residence in the nerve root which supplies the lips and mouth and occasionally reactivates producing cold sores. And so it may be with these bacteria which gravitate towards particular organs.
Most of the bacteria Dr Price identified were streptococci, but he also found staphylococci, spirochetes and fungi. He found that 90% of the patient’s acute diseases were caused by mutated streptococci and that two-thirds of the time they belonged to the faecalis family. Which certainly could account for why so many necrotic or root filled teeth smell so bad when opened up or extracted – and for why they tend to go brown over the decades.
He also found that if an individual had more than one root-canal treated tooth, that they could have different microorganisms infecting each one of the treated teeth. And that these could be causing a variety of ailments at the same time.
Dr Price also cultured the microorganisms he isolated from the root canal filled teeth and injected this broth and also centrifuged the mixture to separate out the bacteria and injected just the fluid produced. What he found was that while the mixture of bacteria and their toxins induced weight loss, disease and death in the experimental animals, when the toxins were injected without the bacteria that these produced even more profoundly fatal results. From this he concluded that it was the toxins rather than the bacteria that were producing disease.
He clearly photographed a variety of microorganisms dwelling within the dentinal tubules and showed that the bacteria that were growing inside the tooth could also be found in the periodontal membrane and bone surrounding the tooth.
Dr Price tested over 100 different disinfecting agents and found that none of them penetrated the dentinal tubules. Even when he heat sterilised teeth under laboratory conditions they still became infected within 24 to 48 hours.
He also found that if pus or infection was present that this was an indication that the immune system was successfully controlling the infected tooth and that such patients were healthy. However, the presence of condensing osteitis or a dense layer of bone surrounding the tooth was often an indication that the immune system was losing or had lost the battle and was attempting to wall off the offending tooth and these individuals suffered more serious consequences from their infections.
He also noted that about a third of patients who had strong immune systems appeared to tolerate root canal filled teeth fairly well. And that typically these people had no family history of degenerative disease. However, even these robust people could succumb to serious illness if exposed to other health challenges such as an accident, infection, pregnancy or other stressors.
Finally, he documented many improvements in the health of both humans and animals after extraction of root filled teeth.
Perhaps unsurprisingly the implications of Dr Price’s research were not popular within the dental profession and his painstaking research was disregarded – and some maintain that it was actively covered up by a small number of dentists and physicians and the professional bodies they belonged to.
His research has subsequently been confirmed by the dentists Dr Harold Hawkins DDS, and Dr Melvin Page DDS, and the physician and dentist Dr Emanuel Cheraskin MD DMD. But it was only to resurface some 70 years later after inquiry by the retired endodontist, Dr George Meinig DDS.
Dr George Meinig was an endodontist for 50 years and was a founder member of the American Association of Endodontics in 1943. After he retired he discovered Weston Price’s research and full of remorse, wrote the book Root Canal Cover-Up which was published in 1993. In it, he estimates that 75 percent of patients suffer chronic and degenerative illnesses due to their root canal filled teeth.
Dr Robert Kulacz DDS and Dr Thomas Levy MD JD have since takenup the cause with their book The Roots of Disease.
Dr Hal Huggins DDS MS has also written Root Canals: Saviour or Suicide?
Dr Josef Issels the late German oncologist, stated that in over 40 years of treating terminal cancer patients that 97% had root filled teeth. Furthermore, he found that he could not achieve a successful outcome until all the root treated teeth were extracted.
Dr Thomas Rau MD has confirmed this finding more recently. He checked the records of the last 150 breast cancer patients that had been treated at the Paracelsus clinic in Switzerland and found that 98% of them had one or more root filled teeth – and also that the root fillings were on the same meridian as the original breast cancer tumour.
Dr John Diamond MD has confirmed this connection which inthe case of the breast involves the meridian which passes through the second premolar or bicuspid tooth.
Energy meridians and the teeth
Which brings us to another issue that is not yet widely accepted by allopathic medicine and dentistry and yet is very real and that is the existence of energy meridians within the body that animate and regulate different organ systems.
Many of these pass through the teeth and the retention of a dead body part let alone one which is spewing bacteria and toxins can have health consequences for the organs associated with the meridian. This is a two-way relationship so that disease in the organ system governed by the meridian may also have created the dental disease in the tooth in the first place.
However, some forward thinking physicians and biological dentists do acknowledge the importance of meridians and they have even been photographed using various techniques. Also, a root filled tooth will always test as being an issue as assessed by electroacupuncture.
And there are many instances where extraction of a root filled tooth alone has been documented to enable resolution of some tumours.
Recent research confirms Dr Price's findings
Dr Price’s findings have been confirmed more recently using modern techniques.
Dr Boyd Haley PhD the now retired Professor of Chemistry at the University of Kentucky has confirmed that 75% of the root filled teeth he tested contained high levels of toxins.
And Dr Hal Huggins DDS MS and his team at the Toxic Element Research Foundation have used DNA analysis to identify dozens of different anaerobic bacterial species taken from root canal samples. Each tooth tested to at least 10 and some to over 40 species of bacteria including:
Staphylococcus aureus and
Dr Huggins has also documented measurable changes in blood chemistry associated with root treatments including: a 58% increase in lymphocyte in humans and animals, a 33% decrease in polymorphonuclear leukocytes, a form of white blood cell, elevations in blood sugar levels and some patients and all experimental animals lost weight.
Conversely, improvements in blood chemistry have also been associated with extraction of root filled teeth especially in people with autoimmune diseases.
New thinking on root canals
It seems that the combination of retention of a dead body part, compounded by the presence of the bacteria the root filled tooth harbours and their toxins enhanced by the presence of the toxic metals used in dentistry may be the origin of many 'mysterious' and autoimmune diseases.
Also the old concept of a particular microbe causing a specific disease may not apply and these syndromes may be caused by overwhelm of the body’s defences by multiple microorganisms and their toxins. There are certainly thousands of documented cases of improvements in health after extraction of root filled teeth and possibly many more cases which have gone undocumented.
Some holistic dentists are of the opinion that some root canal treated teeth can be tolerated if the immune system of the individual is robust, but others feel that all root filled teeth should be extracted. X-rays are known to be a poor way of assessing the toxicity of a root filled tooth and various methods involving taking saliva samples have recently been developed although their effectiveness is not known.
Before making any decision make sure that you are fully informed and that you see a biological dentist conversant with the danger of developing cavitations after extraction. See the Dental Cavitations article and associated movie for more on this topic.
Needless to say, the official position of the American Association of Endodontics (AAE) is that root canal treatments are "safe and effective".
The whole concept of holistic care demands that the individual takes responsibility for their own health. However, because most dentists don’t accept the problem posed by root canal treatments they are not informing their patients of the potential risks and so they remain in the dark when subsequently confronted by a serious or chronic ailment as to the potential cause.
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Problems with root fillings: Article summary
This article accompanies a two part video of the same name which examines the problems inherent in the philosophy and practice of root canal fillings. Issues include bacterial contamination, toxicity and the blocking of meridian flows all of which may conspire to produce a variety of physical ailments.
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The Natural Recovery Plan Newsletter December 2011 Issue 24. Copyright Alison Adams 2011. All rights reserved Dr Alison Adams Dentist, Naturopath, Author and Online Health Coach www.thenaturalrecoveryplan.com