woman discussing root canals and cancer with dentist

Explaining The Root Canal Causes Cancer Myth

Cancer is one of those words that people dread hearing. Be it your own diagnosis or of a loved one, it's a life-altering disease. There are certain lifestyles and habits that make people more or less susceptible to getting it. One method not to believe is that a root canal causes cancer. It's simply not true. Here's why.

What Is a Root Canal?

There are a few fairly common dental procedures that most people have either undergone or know someone who has. A root canal is one of those procedures. Root canals are necessary when a tooth's pulp or nerve becomes infected. That happens due to dental decay or some type of tooth injury, such as a crack or a break. A dentist or an endodontist removes the infected tooth's pulp and nerve with a drill, cleans out the pulp chamber and then fills it before sealing it. Consult your dentist if you suffer from tooth pain or are sensitive to hot and cold foods and beverages.

Common Root Canal Myths

The American Association of Endodontists (AAE) notes that there are three common myths associated with root canals. The first being that root canal treatments are painful. While that might've been true in the past, modern medicine and technology have made having a root canal as standard as having a cavity filled.

Another myth is that tooth extraction is a viable alternative to a root canal. The best option is to save your original teeth as opposed to removing them. The third myth is that root canal treatments can cause illnesses, such as cancer, heart and kidney conditions, arthritis, and gastrointestinal issues to name a few.

According to the AAE, this myth originated from Dr. Weston A. Price. In the 1920s, Dr. Price presented research suggesting that bacteria trapped in dental tubules during a root canal could leak (also known as a focal infection) and cause numerous diseases throughout the body. Price's solution to potential bacteria leakage was tooth extraction. Since then, decades of research by other entities have refuted Price's erroneous findings. In fact, patients who have had multiple endodontic procedures have a 45 percent reduced cancer risk, according to a study published by JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery.

Root Canal Complications

Don't forget that a root canal is a surgical procedure, so there are some potential complications that may arise upon completion. The most common one is pain, but that's fairly typical in the days immediately following the procedure. There's also the chance the source of your original discomfort was from more than one root so the dentist may need to repeat the procedure.

It's also possible that a cracked root can go undetected. Bacteria can grow in that crack, necessitating additional treatment. Seal erosion over time is another possibility. Similar to a cracked root, an eroded seal allows bacteria to penetrate the tooth again, requiring additional dental work.

As a whole, root canals are safe. The AAE highlights a number of safety aspects about the procedure. Each year, 25 million endodontic procedures are performed successfully. The research behind the root canals cause cancer and other diseases myth is almost 100 years old and has been soundly debunked by the medical community. And not only is the process safe, but medical advances have made it fairly routine.

Thankfully, the theory that a root canal causes cancer is nothing more than a myth. Still, keeping your teeth healthy is a good start to avoid needing one in the first place. The foundation of good oral care starts with brushing at least twice each day. Use a toothpaste, like Colgate Total Fresh Mint Stripe Gel, which has a minty blend of gel and paste that leaves your mouth clean and fresh. Complement brushing with flossing to reach those spots a toothbrush can't. Lastly, don't forget to schedule regular checkups with your dentist and professional cleanings at least twice a year.

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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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