woman researching root canals and health impacts

Do Root Canals Cause Health Problems?

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Root canal treatments save teeth that are decayed, infected or seriously injured, explains the American Dental Association (ADA). If you have a deep cavity or a cracked tooth, your dentist may recommend this procedure. While root canals aren't painful, you may be feeling a bit uneasy about the procedure. Perhaps you've read frightening claims that root canals cause cancer and other serious health issues. Is any of this true? Do root canals cause health problems? Here's everything you need to know to feel confident going into your treatment appointment.

Do Root Canals Cause Health Problems?

Despite the claims you might read on the internet, root canal treatment doesn't cause illness. The American Association of Endodontists (AAE) reassures patients that there isn't any scientific evidence linking root canal treatments to illnesses or diseases elsewhere in the body. Recent research has also shown that root canal treatment doesn't change a person's risk of developing cancer, the AAE notes.

If your dentist recommends root canal treatment, you don't need to worry. The safety and effectiveness of this procedure are well-established.

The Origins of Root Canal Misinformation

The myth that root canals cause illness is based on long-debunked research, reports the AAE. Back in the 1920s, a dentist named Dr. Weston Price theorized that many chronic diseases were caused by local infections. At the time, the causes of many diseases hadn't been identified yet.

Due to Price's theory, dentists extracted broken or infected teeth with the goal of preventing many diseases. However, this methodology wasn't accepted for long. In the 1930s, newer, better-designed studies disproved Price's theory. Today, root canal treatment is an accepted and routine dental practice.

Risks of Avoiding Treatment

You can feel confident that your root canal procedure won't cause any health problems. In fact, it's more likely that health complications could arise from not treating your damaged tooth.

Deep cavities, cracks or fractures in the teeth can let bacteria get into the pulp, resulting in a tooth infection, warns the ADA. The pulp is the tissue in the center of your tooth that contains blood vessels and nerves. If these infections aren't treated, more serious complications can result. The infection can spread from the pulp to the root of the tooth. An abscess (a pocket of pus) can form in the area. This infection, if allowed to spread, can damage the bone that holds your tooth in place, and you could end up losing your tooth.

Unfortunately, tooth loss isn't the worst thing that can happen if a tooth infection is left untreated. The infection can even spread to other nearby tissues in your head and neck and possibly lead to a life-threatening infection called sepsis, cautions the Mayo Clinic.

Safety of Root Canal Procedures

Dentists recommend root canal treatments because they're a safe and effective way to treat infected teeth. In many cases, this treatment is the best way to get your oral health back on the right track. It's simply not true that root canals can cause cancer or other serious health problems.

If you have any questions or concerns about your upcoming root canal procedure, talk to your dentist or endodontic specialist. They will do everything they can to help ensure your treatment is comfortable and leaves you with a healthier mouth.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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