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Root Canals

Toxicity of root canal



I have had a root canal, but read recently, in a natural health book that root canals are not a good option because they raise levels of toxicity in the body. The book said that the problem lies in the fact that you are sealing off a tooth and that it is impossible to eradicate all bacteria from within that tooth. This then enters the blood stream, etc. The book recommended implants over root canals and suggested essential oil of oregano as a detoxifier for those who do have root canals. I looked into purchasing that and found that it is very expensive. Any thoughts on this? Also, how long can you expect a tooth with a root canal to last? Thanks very much.


Thanks for your question. The concern you have about root canals leaving bacteria in roots and therefore providing a source of toxic products for the body relates to an old theory called the "Focal Infection" theory. This theory originated in the early 1900`s and was popularized by Dr. William Hunter in 1910. The theory led to numerous unneeded tooth extractions up to the 1940`s. Fortunately, the theory was disproved with modern scientific research.

The goal of endodontics (root canals) is to eliminate bacteria and the tissue or substrate that they grow on from the root canal. The use of a rubber dam, sterile instruments and bacteria-killing irrigating solution during the root canal procedure along with proper instrumentation and sealing techniques help eliminate the bacteria from the root canal. The use of gutta percha and sealers help prevent reinfection of the root canals along with the placement of a proper filling or crown soon after the root canal has been finished. Using these advances in technology and science, root canals can achieve well over a 90% success rate in treating pulp disease.

Implants are a treatment choice to replace a missing tooth or tooth that cannot be saved by other means. However, they often require a number of surgical procedures (each with inherent risks), are quite expensive, and do not offer better success rates than a root canal and crown procedure which may save your natural tooth. A properly done root canal and crown should last the patient a lifetime.

The essential oil of oregano has been shown to be antimicrobial (kill or prevent bacterial growth) in lab tests. There has been no published research on its bacterial killing affects in human studies.

I hope this answers your questions about the safety of root canal treatment.

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Response by:

John M Nusstein, DDS John M Nusstein, DDS
Associate Professor of Endodontics
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University