What's the Difference Between Gum Disease and a Root Canal?
When It Comes to Your Health, Not Much.
When It Comes to Your Health, Not Much.
Most Americans know that gum disease can be dangerous, but they assume that root canal procedures are safe. Turns out, that's far from accurate. Here, Thomas E. Levy, MD, JD, and Robert Kulacz, DDS, explain why both gum
disease and root canals can have a devastating effect on your systemic health.
What most people don't know—and what the dental community doesn't acknowledge—is that another dental condition has virtually the same effects on systemic health.
"Believe it or not, root canal-treated teeth are accompanied by the same risk factors as gum disease," says Thomas E. Levy, MD, JD, coauthor along with Robert Kulacz, DDS, of The Toxic Tooth: How a root canal could be making you sick (MedFox Publishing, 2014, ISBN: 978-0-983-77282-8, $29.95, www.toxictooth.com). "Both gum disease and root canal procedures introduce infection, bacterial toxins, and inflammation into the body, which increases the patient's risk for systemic disease."
If this piece of information comes as a surprise, you're not alone. After all, while most patients don't look forward to root canals, they also don't worry about whether or not this procedure is dangerous! Moreover, if the dental community is open about the dangers of gum disease, why would it continue to encourage and perform a procedure with the same risks?
Here, Dr. Kulacz and Dr. Levy explain what you need to know about the little-known relationship between gum disease, root canal procedures, the dental profession, and your health:
First, let's review what gum disease is and why it's dangerous. We've all heard of gum disease, or periodontitis, but most people don't know how or why a disease that originates in the mouth can impact whole-body health. In a nutshell, periodontitis develops when bacteria invade and proliferate in the space between the tooth and the gum. Over time, this bacteria can infect and inflame both the jawbone and teeth. (In fact, advanced periodontitis often "necessitates" root canal procedures.)
"From the gums, jawbone, and teeth, bacteria and infection can enter the bloodstream," Dr. Kulacz explains. "And once in the bloodstream, toxins and pathogens spread throughout the body where they cause tissue damage, disrupt cellular function, and drain the body's antioxidant stores. The inflammation caused by gum disease can also initiate or worsen systemic diseases."
Next, understand that root canal procedures are scientifically flawed. As you might know, root canal procedures are performed to remove infection from affected teeth. But according to Dr. Levy, it's impossible to remove every trace of infection from a tooth during a root canal procedure. Nor is it possible to perfectly seal a root canal-treated tooth.
"Soon, additional pathogenic bacteria begin to enter the root canal-treated tooth," he says. "These bacteria and the toxins that they produce begin to proliferate in the oxygen-free environment within the tooth and (as is the case with bacteria associated with periodontitis) are continually delivered into the bloodstream, where they can negatively impact health." So, what's the link between gum disease and root canal-treated teeth? Simply this: The same infectious bacteria that cause periodontitis are nearly always present in root canal-treated teeth. (There's one distinction, though: The bacteria and toxins in a root canal-treated tooth tend to be much more virulent and dangerous.) And both gum disease and root canal-treated teeth are focal infections; in other words, an infection in one part of the body that can and does produce disease in other parts of the body.
"If you acknowledge that a certain bacteria associated with periodontitis is linked to health risks (which the dental profession does), it stands to reason that when associated with a root canal-treated tooth, the same bacteria would be just as dangerous," Dr. Kulacz comments. "Infection is infection, and inflammation is inflammation, regardless of the source. Think of it this way: Getting hit by a pickup truck will kill you just as easily as getting hit by an SUV."
Diseases linked to periodontitis can also be linked to root canals. Since periodontitis and infected root canal-treated teeth cause the same pathogens to proliferate and spread throughout the body, diseases linked to gum disease can also logically be ascribed to infected root canal-treated teeth.
"Solid research has substantiated links between periodontitis and coronary heart disease, stroke, lung disease, diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, neurological problems, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and more," reports Dr. Levy. "Therefore, we can logically conclude that there's a link between all of these diseases and root canal-treated teeth, too.
"It's worth noting that science is already starting to draw these connections," he adds. "For instance, a study published by the Journal of the American Dental Association indicated that individuals with root canal-treated teeth were significantly more likely to have coronary heart disease than those with no history of root canals. And for the skeptical, the study was corrected for other major risk factors like smoking, obesity, and high blood pressure."
So, why is gum disease taken seriously as a risk factor, but not root canals? Wouldn't the dental profession have stopped promoting and performing this procedure if it was anywhere near as dangerous as Dr. Kulacz and Dr. Levy claim? The short answer is "no." While scientific evidence has clearly shown a link between root canal-treated teeth and degenerative medical conditions, mainstream dentistry and medicine have yet to acknowledge the connection. If you're skeptical that the truth could so easily be swept under the rug by the medical community, consider how long the tobacco industry insisted that there was no legitimate link between smoking and disease despite evidence to the contrary.
"Root canals are a common and lucrative procedure," Dr. Kulacz explains. "Acknowledging that root canal-treated teeth may affect systemic health in the same way as gum disease would drive people away from this treatment and have potentially devastating financial consequences to endodontists. It would open dentists up to lawsuits, and extractions of root canal-treated teeth, along with expensive restorations, would have to be covered by health insurance. And in their defense, most dentists have been taught that the 'root canals cause disease' theory is a myth."
"None of this is new information," concludes Dr. Levy. "Evidence that a link exists between root canal-treated teeth and systemic disease has been in place for decades. In fact, 13 years ago, Dr. Kulacz and I published a book called The Roots of Disease: Connecting Dentistry & Medicine that made many of the assertions you've just read. And as time goes by, more and more evidence against root canals is being confirmed and published. "
"Until the dental and medical communities do acknowledge that root canal procedures are as unsafe as allowing gum disease to progress unchecked, it is your responsibility as a patient to stay informed and be an active guardian of your own health," adds Dr. Kulacz. "If you found the information you've just read concerning, learn more so that you can make informed decisions."
For more information, please visit www.toxictooth.com.