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Root Canals

Root canals and autoimmune disorders

11/08/2006

Question:

I recently read about root canals and a possible connection to various ailments (arthritis,etc). This was suppose to be b/c of the filler that is used and the cleasing solution for the canals. The same articles also said that antibx won`t work there b/c no blood supply to the area when the canal is done. I have had several root canals in the past. They are gone now (did not have removed b/c of this) and just wondered if the NIH has done any formal research in this area. Thank you for your time.

Answer:

There have been numerous articles trying to link root canals with other systemic ailments. This is based on an old idea called the "focal infection theory." This first came out in 1888 and continued into the early 1900's, and it stated that root canal treated teeth leaked bacteria and/or toxins and caused arthritis or disease of the kidneys and heart, etc. Modern research disproved this theory, but it pops up now and again. 
 
A correlation may exist between periodontal disease and some systemic diseases, but the cause and effect nature of these correlations has not been defined. That is, does the periodontal disease cause the systemic problem or is it the result of the systemic problem.
 
Current root canal techniques have come quite a way from how things were done in the early 1900's. We better understand the importance of bacteria and now have better techniques, equipment and technology to deal with them. I cannot tell you if NIGH is studying this problem, but I would guess no since the theory was disproved long ago.

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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