A root canal tooth is a dead tooth. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything going on inside it.
Though the tooth is sealed at the top, what’s in the tooth is free to escape through the roots and enter the circulatory system – including any pathogens remaining within the tooth and, more importantly, their metabolic waste.
That waste includes sulfur compounds such as mercaptans and thioethers. These fat-soluble toxins can damage mitochondria, the power plants of your cells. Notably, mitochondria are especially abundant in the cells of your most important detoxifying organ, the liver.
It’s been thought that these toxins play a part in the relationship between root canal treated teeth and systemic disease. Now, new research in the journal Dentistry offers confirmation of this fact.
For the study, researchers authors gathered data from both healthy patients and patients with systemic disease, including 7 cancer patients, 32 with chronic fatigue and systemic immunological exhaustion, 19 with rheumatoid complaints, 9 with degenerative neurological disease, 18 with atypical facial pain and trigeminal neuralgia, and 12 with intestinal symptoms.
X-rays and CBCT scans were taken of each patient’s root canal teeth to look for signs of infection at the root – a condition known as apical periodontitis, which can eventually develop into an abscess or cyst.
The researchers also measured for sulfur compounds and immunological responses to bacterial toxins.
In the end, those patients with systemic health problems were up to three times as likely to have infected root canals than those in the healthy group. More than 40% “showed immunological disturbance as a result of root-filled teeth.”
Based on their findings, the authors concluded that pathogens in root canal teeth may indeed raise the risk of systemic health problems – with one important caveat: The study couldn’t show a cause/effect relationship.
“It could be,” they wrote,
that the patients demonstrated increased AP due the presence of systemic conditions; an interaction of the systemic conditions vice versa cannot be excluded. Notwithstanding the evidence, the consensus is APs are chronic inflammatory processes and triggering conditions in advance of occurring immune diseases. [emphasis added]
So if you have a root canal tooth that shows signs of AP, it may be a wise preventive move to have that tooth removed. While there’s no way to say for sure if AP will trigger a systemic disorder, there’s certainly no good reason to leave any dead organ within an otherwise healthy body.
And if there are no signs of infection or oral-systemic symptoms on the tooth’s meridian? If you have no other significant oral or systemic burdens, you might choose to leave it for now. As a precaution, nutritional and homeopathic protocols can be devised for you to help your body stay resilient and capable of clearing the toxins on its own.
Ultimately, it’s a decision we feel you, your healthcare provider, and your biological dentist should make with respect to your total health situation. Always, but perhaps especially when assessing risk, you have to look at the big picture.
Image by radiant guy, via Flickr