Root Canal: Root Cause Analysis Part Two

29 Jan

Update April 16th, 2019: Netflix removed Root Cause from its library as of February 27, 2019. The American Dental Association (ADA), American Association of Endodontists (AAE) and the American Association of Dental Research (AADR) expressed immediate concern about its release due to misleading content. 

I wrote an analysis of the Netflix Documentary “Root Cause” to help my patients understand both sides of the root canal issue presented in the film. If you haven’t read it already, click here to read “Root Cause” Netflix Documentary Analysis Part 1.

If you are one of the many people that have concerns about your existing root canals or possible root canal treatment, it’s important to do your own research to decide what course of action, if any, is right for you.

While researching for part one, I found a lot of interesting things in the process. This includes the studies referenced in “Root Cause” and others that supported and disagreed with some of the claims that are made. In this blog, I’ll share some of my own research to provide additional context.

Before you extract your root canal treated teeth

My general opinion is that “Root Cause” takes a biased approach. Doctors are cited for their studies and research to create fear, rather than to inform. It seems that the intent is to make people panic and jump to extracting their root canal treated teeth.

But the answer is just not that simple.

As stated in part one, I think that the “root cause” diagnosis is rushed as are the recommendations for treatment. My concerns also extend to the type of data collected and that the other factors that contribute to illness do not seem to be taken into account.

Focal infection theory, root cause, and root canals

Root canal treatment and the spread of bacterial endotoxin from that treatment is identified as the source of Ben’s daunting health issues. The film claims that if root canal treatment is done, and bacteria remain present after the procedure, bacterial endotoxins (the toxic substance released from bacteria) spread through the bloodstream and can cause inflammation in the body.

This idea is supported by Focal Infection Theory which was prominent in medical literature in the 1900s and states that microorganisms, and their toxins, come from one focus of infection and spread systemically, through the body resulting in the initiation or exacerbation of a systemic illness or damage to an organ or tissue that is distant from the original focus. Further studies went on to suggest the potential risk of systemic complications due to the spread of bacterial endotoxins after root canal treatment.

Other studies during the early 1900s referenced focal infections of dental origin and resulted in the medical profession’s broad acceptance that a localized, low-grade chronic infection could produce disease elsewhere in the body.

Advancements in research and technique

Recent studies claim that most of the research conducted before the 1950s was flawed and poorly carried out. This is because of unreliable bacteriological culture techniques and a lack of controls.

Studies like Mitchell & Helman 1953, showed that people can have all kinds of afflictions where there is NO focus of infection, including fatigue, emotional issues, infectious disease, and cancer.

It was not until 1976 that a study was done that measured bacteremia after root canal treatment. This study clearly showed that if the proper aseptic technique was used, including rubber dam, instrumentation that remained within the root canal space (a method used currently), bacteremia was not produced. 

Governing bodies also strongly dispute the possible link between general health and root canal treatment.

Systemic illness due to root canal treatment

Since the early1900s there has been significant research pointing to the fact that the presence of bacteria in your mouth can cause systemic effects on the body. 

There is continued interest in attempting to determine if root canals and other oral disease are factors in systemic diseases.

Current research shows evidence that antigen injected into the gums of mice is capable of inducing inflammation in the knee joint. Another study showed that antigen administered through the root canal of primates and rabbits caused both local and systemic immunological response.

We know mouth health is connected to overall health

Studies conducted in the 1990s have shown a link between mouth bacteria and specific things like heart disease, inflammation, and autoimmune disease.

There is strong evidence supporting the association between periodontal disease and heart disease as well as a relationship between the health of your mouth and heart attacks. 

Research supports a relationship between periodontal disease and spontaneous abortions and premature births as well as low preterm birthweight. 

Scientific studies also support the link between rheumatoid arthritis and decay (cavities). 

Eliminate bacteria in your mouth to reduce bacteria present in your body

What does all of this mean to you?

All of these studies suggest that the health of your mouth is related to the health of your body.  Bacteria in your mouth can travel through your bloodstream into the rest of your body.  Narrowing it down to root canals only does not take into account many other factors, like gum disease and decay, which play a huge role in overall health and well-being. While there is more research to be done, we do know that reducing bacteria in the mouth is vital to reducing bacteria present in your body. 

Here’s how to reduce oral bacteria:

  • Proper home care
  • Regular dental cleanings
  • Restoring all broken down or decayed teeth
  • Procedures that work to eliminate bacteria in your mouth

If you have any questions about the “Root Cause” documentary, root canal treatment, or are interested to find out more about your particular situation, call 905-338-6684 to get in touch with holistic dentist Dr.Agatha Bis. To book an appointment at our Oakville dental clinic, click here, or fill out the form below.


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