Root Canals not associated with cancer risk

It seems like every time you look, someone is posting misinformation on the web about some medical or dental procedure. Not surprisingly, root canal is often the target of these unscientific scare tactics. Root canal therapy is a process where the dentist removes the infected nerves and blood vessels from a tooth, and then fills the root with an inert material called gutta-percha. Root canal is a safe and effective procedure that is successful about 90% of the time.

Most of the misinformation concerning root canal comes from the “research” of a dentist named Dr. Weston A. Price and the debunked focal infection theory. Price believed that root canal treated teeth caused many ailments, from heart disease to arthritis, because some bacteria remain inside a tooth’s dentinal tubules after the procedure is completed. Many of Dr. Price’s followers cite his 25 years of meticulous research to support their dubious claims that were conducted about a hundred years ago, from 1900-1925, in the same era as silent movies.

Perhaps the only true thing that I have come across from Dr.Price is that some bacteria might remain inside a tooth after a root canal is performed. Fortunately, the potential for bacteria remaining in most root canals is exceedingly low due to better techniques and modern technology. Of course, there is a tremendous amount more bacteria inside the rest of the mouth and other parts of the gastrointestinal tract, so some bacteria that might be left inside a root canal treated tooth (even mine!) doesn’t make me lose sleep at night. The presence of bacteria is not the same as having an infection, and many bacteria have vital functions, like the production of vitamin K, essential for clotting our blood. Numerous studies have failed to support Dr. Price’s research, which was done with the lack of sterility, equipment, technology,methods and many other scientific standards that are commonly used today. Fringe practitioners like Dr. Joseph Mercola give new life to these outdated and erroneous theories by reviving them on the web.
Let’s look at the claim that 97% of terminal cancer patients have had a root canal. Even if that’s true, what is the percentage of people with terminal cancer that ever drank tap water, ate at a fast food establishment, breathed pollution, or had a microwave oven? That’s the problem with these claims; it uses the oldest trick in the book. It assumes if two things are associated with one another, then it should be obvious that one thing causes the other. Correlation is not causation, and root canal or having a history of having a root canal does not increase cancer risk.

Dr. Jerry Gordon can be reached at (215) 639-0571. Comments, questions, and second opinions are available at The Dental Comfort Zone, 2734 Street Rd. Bensalem, PA 19020 (across from the Giant supermarket). To learn more: E-mail: