What to Expect, Step-By-Step & Cost

  1. How do you know if you need a root canal?
  2. Do you need a root canal if there’s no pain?
  3. What to Ask Before Agreeing to Treatment
  4. Studies Mentioned in the Root Cause Movie
  5. Are root canals safe?
  6. Complications of Root Canal Therapy
  7. Do root canals cause cancer?
  8. Root Canal Cost
  9. What to Expect During a Root Canal Procedure
  10. Before the Procedure
  11. During the Procedure
  12. Getting a Crown or Filling
  13. How long can I go before getting a root canal?
  14. Antibiotics & Root Canal Therapy
  15. Can You Eat After A Root Canal? And Other Questions
  16. Can you eat before a root canal?
  17. What to eat after a root canal
  18. Can you drink out of a straw after a root canal?
  19. How long after a root canal can you eat solid food?
  20. Can you drink alcohol after a root canal?
  21. Can I smoke after a root canal?
  22. Can I drink coffee after root canal?
  23. Other root canal aftercare basics
  24. Is there less risk of infection if I have a tooth pulled rather than root canaled?
  25. How do I know if it’s safe for me to get a root canal?
  26. Root Canal Alternatives
  27. Root Canal vs. Fillings
  28. Root Canal vs. Regenerative Endodontics
  29. Can a Lecher antenna determine what’s causing an illness in my body?
  30. What are my options for root canal sedation?
  31. Was Weston Price’s research as revolutionary as the experts in the film made it out to be? Why isn’t more modern dentistry based on what he discovered?
  32. Root Canal Prevention
  33. Why would my dentist not use a rubber dam for my root canal?
  34. Prognosis & Long-Term Outlook
  35. Does ozone gas travel throughout the mouth when injected into one tooth?
  36. What is the Root Cause movie about?
  37. Get Dr. B’s Dental Health Tips
  38. Pain After a Root Canal
  39. Is the Root Canal documentary accurate?
  40. Will a root canal give me a blood infection (bacteremia)?
  41. Key Takeaways About the Root Cause Movie
  42. What root canal irrigants are used to clear the pulp chambers and kill bacteria before the tooth is filled?
  43. Can I get a root canal while I’m pregnant?
  44. Are a lot of lesions or abscesses left by a root canal asymptomatic within the mouth for long periods of time?

How do you know if you need a root canal?

What causes the need for root canal treatment? Irreversible pulpitis (infection and inflammation of dental pulp) is what caused the need for a root canal or similar treatment option. This is usually caused by a deep cavity or injury/trauma to the tooth.

Irreversible pulpitis cannot be healed or reversed by any natural or conventional means.

In the case of tooth decay, you may be able to catch pulpitis before it becomes irreversible. To increase your chances of catching it early, practice good dental care, don’t skip dental checkups, and talk to your dentist anytime you develop a toothache.

Signs you need a root canal may include:

Diagnosing a root canal is a complex process that differs between dentists. There is no cut-and-dry way to diagnose a root canal. This process is part science, part art form, to discover the degree of infection within a tooth.

Do you need a root canal if there’s no pain?

If your dentist identifies irreversible pulpitis, you will need a root canal regardless of whether or not pain is present.

Your tooth nerve may die, temporarily relieving pain. Your dentist may put you on antibiotics that shrink the infection, which would also cause pain to subside.

However, irreversible pulpitis must be treated by root canal or extraction. Otherwise, it can cause serious systemic health issues.

What to Ask Before Agreeing to Treatment

In my practice, I’ve met many patients who were prescribed root canal therapy because a practitioner was in a hurry or looking for the “simplest” option, rather than the best option.

For instance, a dentist may suggest a root canal for a large cavity even if the pulp is not irreversibly inflamed and a filling would suffice.

Dental insurance covers it, the general dentist doesn’t have to place a filling that requires more-than-average finesse, and — I hate to say it, but it’s true — the price tag is higher.

In general, many root canal symptoms can often be attributed to causes other than irreversible pulpitis. Until your dentist or endodontist is fairly certain that irreversible pulpitis is to blame, root canal treatment should not be prescribed.

Studies Mentioned in the Root Cause Movie

Upon some further investigation, I found that several of the clinicians featured in the Root Cause movie have undergone civil and/or criminal proceedings based on their poor healthcare.

Not to give away the ending here, but I was unable to find most of the studies “cited” throughout the movie.

If you find any studies I wasn’t able to find below, please let me know! I’d love to add them to this article.

Here’s a quick list of the research mentioned and what I found (or, mostly, didn’t find).

Citation: 98% of breast cancer patients have a root canal on the same side as their cancer.

Supporting research found: None.

Citation: Bale-Doneen method of cancer treatment doesn’t recommend root canals

Citation: “The vast majority of chronic degenerative diseases begin with problems in the mouth.”

Citation: Bacteria still resides in the tooth after root canal has been performed.

Supporting research found: “Effect of photodynamic therapy (PDT) on Enterococcus faecalis biofilm in experimental primary and secondary endodontic infections” (15)

Citation: 70-90% of all medical problems actually originate in the mouth.

Supporting research found: None. What happens in the mouth does happen in the body—but there’s no evidence that this many instances of every single disease are somehow directly caused by failed root canals or other oral health issues. That’s an oversimplification at best, and at worst, a misleading and fear-inducing statement.

Citation: 95% of the time, women with breast cancer with thermographic studies have hot spots on the jaw on the same side as their cancer.

Citation: 97% of sick patients of Dr. Thomas Rau between the ages of 30-70 had a root canal or toxic situation in the teeth.

Citation: A 19-year-old patient had a root canal on her front tooth related to the kidney and bladder meridians. Then, she started getting bladder and kidney infections. The root canal was tested. Her clinician saw a direct relationship and told the mother the tooth needed removed. After refusing, three months later, she took the tooth out and her symptoms disappeared.

Supporting research found: None. No case study resembling this was available in any publication I could find.

Citation: Dr. Tennant mentions a study of 60 cancer patients. 96% had an infected tooth in the same “primary supply circuit” of their cancer.

Citation: In a study of 87 well done root canal treated teeth, regardless of how well the procedure was performed, most had a high degree of toxicity. Not one of the 87 were non-toxic.

Citation: All root canals are infected, with no exception. This was a study by an American holistic dentist society. They tested 30,000+ extracted root canals and all were infected.

Supporting research found: None. No root canal is 100% clean, but a very small number of bacteria is to be expected. The mouth is supposed to have bacteria in it, and your immune system is typically very good at fighting off any infection stemming from a root canal.

Citation: A research study found 53 different bacteria in root canaled teeth. 28 are directly involved in the health of the heart. This study proves that root canals create certain heart conditions, like endocarditis.

Supporting research found: “Detection of bacterial virulence genes associated
with infective endocarditis in infected root canals.” (16) This study does show that a few types of bacteria from a failed root canal can enter the bloodstream and lead to infective endocarditis. However, there is no mention or connection to any other type of heart condition other than this one specific type of infection.

Citation: The more root canals you have, the higher your chance of heart attack.

Supporting research found: None. There is some connection between those with coronary artery disease and more endodontic lesions, but many of those aren’t even caused by a root canal. (4)

Citation: Scientists found after examining 5,000 cavitations left after wisdom teeth removal, only one had healed.

Citation: Cavitations can cause diseases such as MS (multiple sclerosis).

Are root canals safe?

Root canals are safe for most people but may cause problems over time. To watch for root canal failure, get a cone-beam CT (CBCT) every 3-5 years after endodontic treatment to check for failure.

Major organizations, like the American Dental Association (ADA) and American Association of Endodontists (AAE), speak highly of the benefits of root canals. According to both the ADA and AAE, root canals pose no major danger whatsoever.

Other groups, including the International Association of Biological Dental Medicine (IABDM), do not recommend root canal therapy.

The Root Cause documentary and some alternative dental practitioners present root canals as extremely dangerous. Their theories often cite root canal treatment as a hidden cause of any number of systemic, chronic diseases.

However, if you are at a high risk of root canal failure due to compromised immunity or other factors, you may want to opt for an alternative treatment.

Complications of Root Canal Therapy

Potential complications of a root canal (not including those related to anesthesia) include:

The main concern of root canal therapy is that they are never 100% clean, meaning there is always bacteria left behind in the auxiliary canals off the main root canals.

This is true for every single root canal procedure, but the quality of treatment has a major impact on this. As a study in the Journal of the American Dental Association puts it:

“Endodontic procedural errors are not the direct cause of treatment failure; rather, the presence of pathogens in the incompletely treated or untreated root canal system is the primary cause of periradicular pathosis.”

In other words, a badly done root canal is far more likely to fail and cause problems in the future.

I recommend all patients get a cone-beam CT (CBCT) every 3-5 years after root canal therapy to properly check for lesions or other signs of root canal failure. CBCT is a far more reliable method to recognize failure than a traditional x-ray.

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Lesions and reinfection can occur with or without pain, so don’t rely on symptoms to determine whether or not your root canal was successful.

Do root canals cause cancer?

No, root canals do not cause cancer.

Here are a few things we do know about root canals and cancer.

First, it is fairly routine for cancer patients to undergo assessment and correction of any failed dental work before chemotherapy. Doing so helps ensure chemotherapy will be most effective, since an infection in the mouth is taxing the immune system already. (9)

Second, there’s an inverse relationship between number of teeth and cancer. The less teeth you have, the higher your cancer risk. (6)

Note here: Having your teeth pulled is actually an indication of higher cancer risk. In the study, root canaled teeth don’t count as missing.

Root Canal Cost

Before dental insurance, a root canal procedure in the United States costs anywhere from $500-$2,250. A crown after root canal ranges from $600-$2,500, depending on the material.

When performed by a general dentist, a root canal for a front tooth will cost between $500-$1,000. Molars (back teeth) cost between $1,000-$1,500 with a general dentist. Endodontists (root canal specialists) usually charge about 50% more for a root canal procedure.

A high-quality cubic zirconia (new porcelain) crown costs around $1,300, while a gold crown — which lasts longer than any other material — runs about $2,500.

Your total cost may be as little as $1,100 and as much as $4,750 for a single root canal and crown.

The cost of your treatment will also differ depending on where you live. In general, a higher cost of living will mean a higher cost for dental treatment.

How much are root canals with insurance? Root canals are almost always covered by dental insurance but the rate of coverage differs by plan. In addition, your coverage probably applies only after you’ve met your yearly deductible.

Many traditional plans cover root canals at 80% and crowns at 50% of the billed cost. However, check your insurance plan and talk to your insurance company before treatment to be sure.

And remember: Most dental plans cap yearly coverage amounts at $1,500 or less. You may be responsible for a higher percentage of the cost than you initially expect if your dental plan reaches its cap.

Are root canals worth the cost? Root canals are often worth the cost because they have a high success rate and cost less than high-quality alternatives. The price tag for extraction with a dental implant, for instance, is significantly higher than a root canal and crown (potentially 2-3 times more).

What to Expect During a Root Canal Procedure

A root canal procedure can be done in 1 or 2 visits. For retreatments (in which a tooth has already received endodontic treatment), 3 visits may be requested. Each visit should take 90 minutes or less.

How long does a root canal take? A root canal procedure takes 30-90 minutes per visit. For simple cases of teeth with one root, each visit will probably 60 minutes or less. Complex cases take closer to 90 minutes per visit.

Should your root canal be done by your dentist or a specialist? Specialists in root canal therapy are called endodontists. An endodontist should perform your root canal procedure if you have complex canals or if your general dentist refers out root canal cases. However, all dentists are trained to perform root canals during dental school.

Before the Procedure

Before your root canal procedure, your dentist will probably take x-rays or a cone-beam CT (CBCT) and perform a physical exam to identify irreversible pulpitis.

Your dentist may prescribe antibiotics before the procedure if:

During the Procedure

This is how a root canal procedure is performed, step-by-step:

Do root canals hurt? Root canals do not hurt at all during the procedure. If the dentist is skilled at delivering the local anesthesia, you won’t feel a thing. There may be minor pain and soreness as you recover.

Root Canal Procedure: Before and After

Sometimes, a dentist will begin the root canal and things go wrong — this can be a good thing!

If your dentist gets inside the tooth and is presented with new information that changes the chances of success of a root canal, he will stop to tell you. This gives you the choice to abort the procedure before proceeding with a root canal with lower chances of success than you both originally thought.

Reasons to stop a root canal include:

Your dentist should only do the root canal if conditions are ideal.

You can still drive home if you’ve been given only local anesthesia.

Getting a Crown or Filling

After your root canal treatment is complete, you’ll need to go back to your dentist for a crown or a filling. Crowns or fillings should be placed within 1-4 weeks after a root canal.

Do you need a crown after a root canal? If you have a root canal done on a molar or pre-molar (your back chewing teeth), you need a crown after root canal treatment. Most incisors and canines (front teeth) do not require a crown.

Some people wait to get a crown so that they don’t max out their insurance, but this can be a dangerous risk. If the tooth fractures before a crown is placed, you lose the investment of the root canal entirely.

In some cases, your dentist will recommend only a filling to protect the tooth.

The procedure for placing a crown is done in these steps:

How long can I go before getting a root canal?

Once your dentist has diagnosed irreversible pulpitis, you need to get a root canal (or alternative treatment) right away. Your provider may prescribe antibiotics before treatment, in which case you may need to wait to finish your round of antibiotics.

When you find out you need a root canal for irreversible pulpitis, it’s like a ticking time bomb because the infection will eventually get out of control.

Pressure, swelling, and pain are likely to get worse. You might develop a bad taste in your mouth or experience numbness. The infection could spread to more vulnerable tissues, like your heart.

Yes, a tooth infection can kill you.

In the 1600s, tooth infections made the list of the top 6 causes of death in England. As recently as 1908, tooth infections had a mortality rate of up to 40%. That’s worse than smallpox!

Complications of infections like these, such as those from a tooth abscess, are extremely dangerous. Don’t wait for treatment!

Antibiotics & Root Canal Therapy

Antibiotics have been part of the standard of care for root canals for many decades. However, more recent research shows they are frequently unneeded and may contribute to antibiotic resistance.

Dentists frequently prescribe antibiotics before and after endodontic treatment for reduced chance of systemic infection, reduced pain, increased success rates, and a variety of other reasons.

The problem is that antibiotics actually have no significant impact on root canal outcomes in almost any case.

One review of antibiotic use for root canals found that dentists are most likely to prescribe antibiotics for root canals due to the placebo effect and a lack of education, not a clinical need.

A 2016 review by the American Dental Association (ADA) found that the only legitimate reasons for antibiotics before or after a root canal were a present systemic infection, fever, or both.

Can You Eat After A Root Canal? And Other Questions

“Can you eat after a root canal?” is one of the most common questions we hear in our dental clinic. Eating properly is an important part of root canal aftercare. We break it down for you below, including what to eat and when, along with other frequently asked questions.

Generally speaking, yes, you can eat after root canal, sometimes even after surgery. But, it is important to know a few things. A root canal removes infected and inflamed dental pulp, essentially hollowing out your tooth (and sometimes removing much of the natural tooth material). The tooth is sealed with a temporary restoration like a crown or filled if there is enough tooth material left.

When you choose your first meal after your root canal, keep these basic guidelines in mind:

If possible, wait until most of the numbness wears off before eating. This protects you from accidentally biting your lips and tongue without knowing it (and makes eating easier in general!).

Can you eat before a root canal?

Most people only receive numbing injections or topical applications, so eating before a root canal is safe. If you require any kind of sedative anesthesia, it is best to hold off eating until after your procedure.

What to eat after a root canal

Let’s be honest: many people use any type of dental work as a good excuse for eating comfort foods like ice cream and pudding. These sugary foods, although delicious, do not provide good nutritional bang for your caloric buck. Choosing similarly soft foods that promote healing are best.

While food may be the last thing on your mind after a root canal, here are nine of the best foods for nutrition, healing, and easy eating when you’re ready.

Can you drink out of a straw after a root canal?

In general, drinking out of a straw after root canal prevents the formation of a clot. As with wisdom teeth extraction aftercare, it is best to avoid any kind of sucking motions (this includes using a straw or smoking!).

How long after a root canal can you eat solid food?

The answer to this question depends on the individual patient.

The main dangers of solid food after a root canal are pain from chewing, biting your lips or tongue, and dislodging the temporary restoration.

When the numbness wears off from anesthesia, you can generally begin to consume solid food. Chew small bites slowly on the side opposite the root canal and you should have no trouble.

Can you drink alcohol after a root canal?

Alcohol is a blood thinner that can reduce clotting and increase bleeding. It is best to avoid all alcoholic beverages until your mouth heals.

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Can I smoke after a root canal?

The simple answer? Nope.

Smoking after a root canal introduces chemicals that can slow healing. Plus, the suction of smoking is bad for clot formation and can complicate and extend healing times.

(Why not take this opportunity to quit?)

Can I drink coffee after root canal?

The primary concern about coffee after a root canal is the temperature. A numb mouth cannot tell the difference between pleasantly tepid and scaldingly hot.

Iced coffee may be a good bet if you need some caffeine. If you want hot coffee, a good way to test the temperature is the same way you would test a baby’s bottle – on your wrist.

Other root canal aftercare basics

As you feel better, you can gradually add in your regular foods.

Once your permanent restoration is in, your tooth should function as it always has, allowing to you to expand your diet. No two root canals are the same, though. Proceed carefully with your root canal aftercare.

Eating after a root canal in the Phoenix area? AZ Dentist can answer all of your questions. Get in touch today!

Is there less risk of infection if I have a tooth pulled rather than root canaled?

When you pull a tooth, you’re removing all the infected tissue and connected tubules, unlike with a root canal. There may be a slightly lowered risk of infection, but then you have to deal with the ramifications of losing a tooth.

For example, if your tooth is pulled and you get an implant, you’ve now got to put a foreign substance in your mouth, rather than leaving a calcified tooth that your body recognizes as part of itself.

Implants are susceptible to infection of their own. They’re also rigidly connected to the bone and don’t have the give that a root canaled tooth does.

If you choose not to have a pulled tooth replaced with an implant, your teeth will shift over time. This may lead to the need for orthodontic treatment like braces or aligners.

How do I know if it’s safe for me to get a root canal?

The vast majority of people who get well-done root canals each year live healthy and vibrant lives. According to available research, there’s no reason to believe a well-done root canal will cause major issues.

If you have diabetes, there is a somewhat higher chance that you’ll get endodontic lesions (cysts or abscesses under a root canal tooth). (11, 12) That’s because many diabetics don’t heal from any surgical procedures as well as a non-diabetic. In these cases, it’s a good idea to talk to your physician and dentist about this so that you’re aware of your options.

If you have a dilacerated root system of the teeth, meaning your roots are curved, root canals may not be the best choice for you. It’s very difficult to clean the roots in these cases.

High blood pressure can also increase the chance of a root canal failing. (13)

Finally, patients undergoing treatments for cancer or who have immune-compromised systems may not be the best candidates for root canals. Similar to diabetes, these conditions can limit the body’s ability to heal after any type of surgery or invasive procedure.

Ultimately, the most important thing you should know when you get a root canal is that your dentist and/or endodontist will do a good job. Root canals will fail almost every time if they aren’t performed properly, using the right kind of sterilization and clinical protocol. (14)

Root Canal Alternatives

There are risks to root canal therapy, which is one reason why many functional dentists may not frequently prescribe this dental treatment.

Depending on what kind of specialist you talk to, their recommendation for treatment may be different. Oral surgeons often prescribe an extraction with an implant, while an endodontist is more likely to recommend a root canal.

Depending on your case, there are 3 possible alternatives to root canal treatment:

Root Canal vs. Fillings

For cavities that have not caused irreversible pulpitis, a large filling may be a better option than a root canal. A filling allows you to retain a living tooth, which will be more resistant to new cavities and fracture than an endodontically treated tooth.

Fillings are not an option once the tooth pulp has become irreversibly inflamed or died.

Why would a dentist recommend a root canal instead of a filling for a tooth with reversible pulpitis? Each practitioner has preferences for treatment protocols. Many dentists turn to root canal when a filling could work for a few basic reasons:

If you’re not confident in the prescription of a root canal and believe a filling would be better, consider getting a second opinion to be sure.

Restorations that can be done after an extraction include:

A dental implant is the preferred option if you decide against a root canal, as it is less likely to lead to bone loss or gum problems than dentures. It’s a highly effective procedure and the implant allows for natural chewing and aesthetics.

Both a root canal and extraction with a dental implant have the same probability of long-term success. Dentists make treatment decisions in these cases based on factors like cost-benefit ratio, patient preference, systemic health issues, and the probability of root canal success.

After extraction of multiple side-by-side teeth, your dentist may suggest a bridge connected by implants on either side.

If you are missing a large number of teeth and are on a limited budget, you may opt for dentures instead of multiple dental implants and/or a bridge.

Root Canal vs. Regenerative Endodontics

Regenerative endodontics is a relatively new method of endodontic treatment to restore inflamed dental pulp.

First introduced in 2004, this practice involves irrigating and disinfecting root canals of a tooth with pulpitis but not removing the infected pulp. Then, the tooth is agitated to cause bleeding at the apex of the tooth roots.

This bleeding provides the inflamed pulp of the tooth with a large number of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) that may heal the root of the tooth. Other stem cells may be manually injected into the tooth root.

Regenerative endodontic therapy may be successful in 91% of cases at reversing pulpal inflammation. In some cases, treatment is effective even when the pulp has initially been diagnosed with irreversible pulpitis.

This may not be the best option for many people because:

However, this could be the future of what we currently know as root canal therapy.

Can a Lecher antenna determine what’s causing an illness in my body?

Marketers call the Lecher antenna “the best kept secret in science”—that’s because it’s not science.

What are my options for root canal sedation?

Root canal therapy does not require sedation. However, if you want or need to be sedated for a root canal due to dental anxiety, there are 3 options:

Was Weston Price’s research as revolutionary as the experts in the film made it out to be? Why isn’t more modern dentistry based on what he discovered?

Dr. Weston A. Price was a maverick of a dentist. He was, in many ways, ahead of his time in creative research. He discovered what he termed “Activator X” that is probably what we now refer to as vitamin K2. He was also the first person to recognize that nutrient was so vital to the development of the facial structure and health of teeth.

In addition, his work uncovered the link between aboriginal diets and strong bones and teeth versus a Western diet that led to far more cavities and poor growth, even within one generation.

However, in conventional dentistry, Weston Price isn’t a highly regarded name. This is likely due to the fact that a large portion of his research had major issues in its methodology. The rabbits experiment, for example, had very flawed logic from the beginning.

As I mentioned before, the focal infection theory was disproved almost 50 years ago. (10) That theory led many dentists to believe that all decayed teeth should be pulled, no matter what.

I respect a lot of what Weston A. Price accomplished, but with the quality of much of his research, it’s important to be cautious when using his results to make strong conclusions.

There are no idols in any field with perfect records. His marriage to the idea of focal infection clouded much of his research. However, it’s good to learn from the things he discovered that can be replicated.

Root Canal Prevention

Preventing the need for root canal therapy involves reducing your risk of untreated tooth decay and trauma to your teeth.

To reduce your risk of tooth decay:

To prevent tooth decay from progressing to the point of a root canal:

To reduce your risk of trauma to teeth:

Why would my dentist not use a rubber dam for my root canal?

Rubber dams during root canal are controversial for patients with TMJ pain.

With a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), keeping your mouth open with a dental dam for up to 90 minutes during a root canal can cause significant discomfort. Some patients have TMJ pain for 6-8 weeks after the procedure.

In these cases, dentists may forego the use of a rubber dam or divide an appointment into multiple shorter sessions. Talk to your dentist about these options if you have TMD problems.

Prognosis & Long-Term Outlook

Root canal success rate and long-term prognosis are remarkably high, particularly when a crown is placed on the treated tooth.

The overall success rate for root canal procedures is between 80.1%-86%.

The success rate decreases most significantly (below 90%) after 5 years have passed.

A patented same-day root canal treatment known as the GentleWave System boasts a success rate of 97.3% after 12 months. This is similar to the treatment outcomes of traditional root canal therapy. However, the GentleWave system does result in significantly fewer reports of postoperative pain than traditional root canals.

Factors that reduce the chance of root canal success include:

How long does a root canal last? On average, root canals last 10 years or more. Some root canals last a lifetime.

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Does ozone gas travel throughout the mouth when injected into one tooth?

No, it doesn’t travel as far as the Root Cause movie claims. There’s no credible evidence-based data on this topic that suggests ozone moves throughout the entire mouth.

What is the Root Cause movie about?

Bailey describes his time as a nearly invalid man as one filled with searching. He looked to every medical, emotional, and spiritual avenue for an answer to his pain and had nearly given up by the time he found it.

According to Bailey, it took an entire decade for someone to point out that he had a failed root canal. Through a series of alternative medicine “diagnostics,” they determined the root canal was making him tired, depressed, and generally ill.

Then, Bailey interviews many experts with lots of letters behind their names. The titles of each subsequent expert seemingly gives a lot of credence to the progressively startling and extreme claims made throughout the movie.

For example, Dr. Dawn Ewing connects root canals and breast cancer in a shockingly certain manner. 98% of breast cancer patients have root canals on the same side as their cancer?!

Dr. Minkoff, the first expert to speak, essentially insists that his patients constantly have chronic, systemic diseases arising from root canals.

This new Netflix documentary raises many questions for patients who have had or may need root canals. Below, I’ll take you through what the Root Cause movie says and the facts we’ve proven. Then, let’s go through some Q&A about the movie.

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No, there is no reliable evidence that root canals cause cancer.

Scientific methodologies from the 1950s drove this theory. The science on this is correlative, not causative. Root canal methods and materials have evolved many times over since those times and have been completely different since the 1970s.

That said, a poorly done root canal can and will have effects on the health of the rest of the body. Get a cone-beam CT (CBCT) every 3-5 years to check for root canal failure.

Pain After a Root Canal

It’s common to have a little soreness after your procedure, but extreme pain after a root canal is abnormal. One study estimates that long-term pain happens after only 12% of root canal treatments.

If you do have pain, it usually peaks 17-24 hours after the procedure. To avoid this, keep your head elevated with a wedge pillow while sleeping for the first 1-2 nights.

Soreness from keeping your mouth open for a long period of time should go away after 1-2 days. However, if you have persistent TMJ pain, this soreness and stiffness may remain for 6-8 weeks, particularly if a dental dam was used.

You may have pain in the gum or other soft tissue around the root-canaled tooth from inflammation or damage during your root canal treatment. This should clear up within a week or two.

You can use over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen (Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to relieve any pain for the day or two after a procedure.

Persistent pain (3 months or more) after root canal usually happens when you bite down or palpate the treated tooth. It’s frequently associated with:

More women than men tend to develop long-term root canal pain.

If you experience severe or sudden pain in the tooth weeks, months, or years after your root canal, it may be a sign of root canal failure. Contact your dentist immediately.

Is the Root Canal documentary accurate?

Below, I’ll get into the specifics on what this movie claimed versus what we know to be true.

But let me say this: Root canals are helpful for the vast majority of patients who get them.

I’m not saying that because I’m a profiteering jerk—I say it because, if you need a root canal, I’d hate for a fear-inducing movie to prevent you from losing the use of one or more of your teeth.

There are a few things they’re correct on, though.

For one, there is a major link between what happens in the mouth and what happens in the body. (1)

I’ve been saying it at Ask the Dentist for years—more needs to be understood by doctors and dentists everywhere about the overall health of the mouth and body. They aren’t two separate parts that never intersect. I call it the mouth-body connection.

One of the clearest ways this plays out is the link between gum disease and diseases like diabetes. There’s definitely a correlation there!

Another true point in the Root Cause movie is that no root canal is 100% clean.

This is something else I’ve been saying for a long time that dentists and endodontists know. When you root canal a tooth, there are lots of tiny tubules that can potentially play host to bacteria. On occasion, these bacteria do overgrow and can escape into the bloodstream to cause infection.

But the extent to which they silently remain undetected, causing all forms of chronic disease was grossly overstated in this movie.

What are the dangers of root canals? Most often, the danger of getting a root canal involves the potential for a lesion (an abscess or cyst) within the root canaled tooth. This happens when bacteria left in the horizontal tubules throughout the tooth grows and damages tissue.

This bacteria can indeed cause symptoms and even get into your bloodstream. However, not only is this rare, it’s going to cause an infection and probably cause you pain. It’s incredibly unlikely that you’ll have no oral pain that would point your dentist to investigating any root canals you’ve had done.

*Important note: From the brief glance I got at Bailey’s x-rays showed in the film, he clearly had a badly performed root canal. These are always more likely to result in infection later on.

What are some specific facts Root Cause stated that aren’t totally fact?

Will a root canal give me a blood infection (bacteremia)?

Bacteremia after a root canal happens in 15-20% of cases. This occurs when dental pathogens spread to the bloodstream. In a healthy individual, this lasts around 20 minutes and your body can easily fight off the bacteria.

For context, bacteremia is very common after dental cleanings — it’s generally not something to cause great concern.

In rare cases, patients can develop infective endocarditis, inflammation of the heart lining, as a result of bacteremia. Dentists used to — and still may — prescribe antibiotics as a prophylactic measure, but it’s unclear whether or not these are effective.

Key Takeaways About the Root Cause Movie

The root causes of your diseases are usually a lot more complex than a failed root canal. But it is true that bacteria from a root canal can sometimes make its way into the bloodstream and cause infection. (17)

The root canal/cancer connection made in the Root Cause movie is not only weak—it’s non-existent. Other claims about heart disease, back pain, depression, and many other conditions have no legitimate science behind them, either.

While I was somewhat glad to hear someone finally released a movie about functional dentistry, I was supremely disappointed in what I saw.

If your dentist tells you to get a root canal, you should be able to have an informed conversation with him or her about your options and the risks involved. You shouldn’t have an ominous voice in the back of your head warning you that root canals cause breast cancer—because they don’t.

As with every topic in health, it’s true that prevention is the best medicine overall. Eating a diet and living a lifestyle to reduce your risk for cavities may prevent this from ever being an issue in your own life.

However, don’t fear. If you do need a root canal, a skilled dentist or endodontist can help you preserve some tooth structure without looking to expensive orthodontics down the road.

Overall, the Root Cause movie talked about a lot of junk science, a lot of anecdotal stories without details, and a great deal of shaming or fear-causing “information.” But rest assured—these claims aren’t based in scientific fact.

Got more questions about root canals or this documentary? Just ask me and I’ll respond personally.

What root canal irrigants are used to clear the pulp chambers and kill bacteria before the tooth is filled?

Root canal irrigants include:

Integrative endodontic treatment is partial to ozone treatment. More than any other bactericidal solution, ozone may effectively eliminate a significant amount of bacteria in the small canals off the main pulp chamber.

There is also no risk of antibiotic resistance with ozone, unlike other alternatives, which could lead to stronger bacterial strains. Ozone may also be used on its own or with other antimicrobial agents.

More recently, the use of antimicrobial photodynamic therapy (aPDT) has been studied as an adjunct (add-on) to these agents. aPDT can result in a significant reduction of bacteria within the pulp chamber.

Can I get a root canal while I’m pregnant?

Available evidence suggests that root canal treatment is safe during pregnancy, particularly between weeks 13-21 of gestation. This treatment is associated with no significant increase in serious medical issues or adverse pregnancy outcomes.

The American Pregnancy Association emphasizes that, while root canals are considered safe while pregnant, it’s important to consider the risks of sedation, antibiotics, and x-rays that may be involved.

A single x-ray should not pose a risk to you or your baby. If possible, request a lower level of local anesthesia and skip other sedation. You should only take antibiotics if your dentist feels this is the only safe option, as antibiotics can affect fetal health.

Are a lot of lesions or abscesses left by a root canal asymptomatic within the mouth for long periods of time?

No, most of these will cause pain within a few months at most. If they’re asymptomatic, it’s unlikely they’re a true abscess.

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