It is staggering how many root canals are performed in US dental offices – apparently close to 60 million per year! There is a renewed interest in what exactly this treatment is, and whether it’s a good option, or perhaps has the potential to negatively impact health. Although it may be hard to imagine that cardiovascular disease or arthritis could be related to the mouth, testing confirms that mouth bacteria play a role in a number of serious, chronic, health conditions. New tests prove oral bacteria can travel through the body, and bacteria identified in periodontal (gum) disease and in the canals of dead or infected teeth have been found at distant locations elsewhere in the body. Since the 1900s there have been many dental advances, but the connection between mouth and general health has been virtually ignored – until now.
Why teeth die
People mistakenly believe that a filling “treats” a cavity. Few people understand that bacteria cause cavities and a filling does nothing to get rid of them. Not only do cavity-forming germs live on teeth and in saliva, but they travel from person to person as we kiss our children, share food with family or friends, or improperly store toothbrushes. Filling a cavity, without eliminating cavity-forming germs, is like putting a band-aid on an infected finger. Don’t believe that fillings wear out naturally. Fillings most often fail because cavity-bacteria continue to attack the tooth, eroding the edges of the filling. Once a gap is created, bacteria flow down the sides of the filling and underneath it. Here the corrosive bacteria work their way into the center of your tooth and into the pulp cavity, where they feed, multiply, and produce poisons that kill cells, the nerve, and the blood supply to the tooth. A dead tooth is filled with germs and dead pulp tissue.
Two reasons for a root canal – know the difference!
A dead tooth should never be ignored. The option for a dead tooth is either to extract it or clean away the infection and fill the residual space (a treatment known as a “root canal”). The majority of root canals are on dead teeth to prevent extraction, but sometimes a root canal is done on a live tooth. This usually happens following a serious injury that is expected to kill the tooth eventually. A blow to the mouth or a fall can cause sufficient damage for a root canal to be done on a live, non-infected tooth. It is important to differentiate between these two kinds of root canals (non-vital and vital) since their health implications are totally different.
Vital root canals (on live teeth)
If a tooth is harmed in an accident, the tooth is usually alive at the time of treatment. Vital (or live) root canals pose almost no health risk, since bacteria do not play a part and there should be none inside the tooth. The nerve is removed (often in a single visit) and a filling blocks the empty space in the canal. The most important step after a root canal is to cover the outside of the tooth with an impervious crown. A dead or root-treated tooth is porous, like a sponge, and can absorb liquids and bacteria from the mouth. If you have had a vital root canal but failed to get a protective crown made, there is potential for this tooth to eventually cause problems similar to those of a dead tooth.
Non-vital root canal (on dead teeth)
Once a tooth has died, the infected and dead tissues must be cleaned out of the tooth, and the empty space filled, to prevent any future germs from using this space to grow and multiply. For a good outcome, a sterile filling must seal the clean, empty root canals, blocking them completely and perfectly. If an abscess caused pain inside the dead tooth, prior to treatment, it is likely that germs have been forced by pressure to go deep inside the tooth’s porous structure. This makes it more difficult to clean the tooth completely, because bacteria may have entered minute spaces inside and around the tooth, even into the jawbone. Good root canal treatments are not easy, but I believe it is inaccurate to say all root canals are toxic.
Here are Dr. Ellie’s tips to increase the chance of a successful root canal
- Find an expert (an Endodontist) if possible. Their office will be equipped, their sterilization methods efficient, and their techniques modern (and very different from those of the 19th century).
- Don’t skimp on a crown. Protect a root canal by sealing it, soon after completion.
- Avoid re-treatment. This may be suggested after a root canal has failed. Most often there is deeply percolated infection, and an extraction is usually preferable.
- Don’t ignore a dead tooth – treat it – or extract it!
- You should be concerned about bacteria being trapped in a root canal. Discuss your concern with the expert you select – and feel comfortable before you agree to treatment. Your general health may be at risk.
- Prevent tooth and gum problems before they begin. Eliminate plaque and try to avoid decay, fillings and repairs by using xylitol and the Complete Mouth Care System. The Complete Mouth Care System & xylitol cannot revive a dead tooth, but it can help prevent a cavity or help stop recurrent caries. Eliminate these hazards that threaten the life of teeth.
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Hi Dr Ellie,
I have had one root canal in approximately 1999, seemingly without negative consequences. After 7 years of not being able to afford dental treatment (due to five+ years of unemployment during recession), I am at long last able to begin dental treatment again and repair the damage. I have been using your system for only about two weeks — unfortunately, if I had know about it earlier, it might have made a significant difference.
My current holistic / preventative dentist has recommended a root canal on a dead upper molar, capped by a crown, OR extraction of the tooth, eventually followed by a partial or implant. Especially since I am using your system, I am inclined at this point to go with the root canal.
I am in the process of scheduling a consult with you to discuss this and other issues in more detail.
My question / comment is: are you aware of the ozone assisted root canal? I found out about it when doing research on root canals and have requested that my current dentist research it (have not yet had feedback from him).
I would value your opinion. http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs065/1101689176102/archive/1102854165695.html
Thanks for the message. There is so much to know about root canals, and there is no way to say they are good or bad – it depends on a number of circumstances and other factors ( especially the health of your immune system). I suggest you read and learn as much as you can about root canals – and I have given you a link to an article I wrote last year. On the subject of ozone – yes, ozone is a great way to deal with anaerobic bacteria in teeth and in the mouth – but again, there are more factors that I think you should consider. Here is a link to my blog article about root canals: LINK
Thank you for your system. My teeth feel great!
I had a root canal two days ago, done by an endodontist, refered by my regular dentist. The root canal was successful, and he installed a temporary filling. The next morning I made an appointment with my regular dentist to repair the crown and install a permanent filling. This appointment is in two weeks. I very much wanted an earlier appointment. I am on a wait list in case of cancelled appointments.
What should I be doing to care for this tooth in the next two weeks? I am continuing with your regular system, and I am sipping xylitol in warm water most of the day. I got myself ice cream as a treat after the procedure; should I avoid all sweets? Are coffee and tea alright, as long as there is xylitol in them? Thank you!
It’s great that you are having a crown made as soon as possible after your root canal. Stay on the rinse system and keep using xylitol – you are doing everything right!
Closys is very useful here, so ensure you rinse with this for a full minute before brushing – then, with your clean toothbrush – brush around this tooth particularly thoroughly. You want the gum tissues in this area to be as healthy as possible – so the margins of the crown will touch healthy gums. This requires some way to get the circulation moving in the gum area around the tooth – massage with your toothbrush – working the inside as well as the outside of the areas around the tooth. Ensure you have a good antioxidant diet and consider nutritional supplements and maybe a course of digestive probiotics – to ensure your immune system is in peak condition!
Hi Dr. Ellie,
Does this information mean that following your complete mouth care system in conjunction with regularly consuming xylitol will not do anything in the way of slowing down or reversing the damage in a tooth that has been deemed in need of a root canal? I am 24 years old and was recently told I need 5 root canals. I can’t afford one, let alone five, so I’m opting to just leave the teeth there untreated for now. This is unfortunate, of course, for a number of reasons including that I have a “snaggle tooth” that I really want to get straightened, and no one is going to put braces on me with five decayed teeth. I also have somewhere around 12 filings in my mouth, so suffice to say, I have a pretty lengthy history of dental problems. I just recently purchased the components of your system (and bought CariFree xylitol mouth rinse and gum before coming across your system), but will taking these new measures not do me much good?
Thanks for your question. Choose one system or the other – either CariFree or my system – don’t mix products. I suggest you use my system because I believe it will be easier and less expensive in the future, also I am not sure CariFree helps the gums.
I encourage you to use my system! Sign up for our newsletter, read our blog and learn that dental disease is completely preventable and reversible. Nothing will bring a dead tooth back to life, but you have so much to gain by getting on this system.
Avoid sipping drinks – except at mealtimes. Candies and goodies can be eaten at mealtimes. Have Zellies mints or gum after every meal, snack or drink – every time!! Last thing before bed at night use the Complete Mouth Care System ( no flossing necessary). This will only take a few minutes – then while you are sleeping, your teeth will be getting stronger and stronger – night after night!!
In the morning do the system again – you will be amazed!!
Let us know if you need help – this is easy and unbelievable – this will really help you!Stay strong and encouraged – when your teeth are healthy, “snaggle-tooth” can be easily straightened! Wishing you success – and dental happiness for the future!
Hi Dr. Ellie,
did not find any Contact Form (maybe I’m blind?) so I’ll ask here. I’m from Germany and want to buy your whole System my question is does it heal Cavity (I have two small black holes at the back molars) ?
Thanks for your question. The answer is that early cavities can heal quite quickly.
To be successful you must proceed in a specific sequence: first you must stop and eliminate the cavity infection in your mouth ( with adequate xylitol). Next you must prevent damage by paying attention to things like snacking, between meal drinks and anything sugary or acidic that could damage your teeth and take minerals out of them. Finally you must build strength back into your teeth – using the home care protocol we recommend with specific toothpastes and mouth rinses, that work in harmony with xylitol to rebuild damaged enamel.
Most early cavities will reverse in about 6 months with this STOP- PREVENT – REVERSE system of care.