A root canal is a dental procedure designed to repair a damaged or infected tooth. More than 60 million are performed in the U.S. each year.
The term refers to cleaning out an infection from the interior canals within the root of a tooth. When a tooth is infected, the miles of minute tubules within the tooth are also infected. A patient will typically present to a dentist (or an endodontist) with complaints of tooth pain. The dentist will order a dental X-ray to ascertain the extent of the damage. An abnormality in the tooth indicates an infection.
A root canal is performed by opening the crown of the tooth to remove the infected pulp. When all visible signs of infection are gone, the dentist closes the tooth with a sealant.
But as noted, each tooth contains miles of tubules. It’s simply impossible to seal them all. Therefore, every root-canalled tooth continues to contain infection in the unsealed tubules. If the dentist tells you the tooth is sterile after a root canal they are wrong.
Dentistry is the only healthcare specialty that actively works to keep an infected body part in the body. Imagine a diabetic patient with a gangrenous toe. The infected toe should and needs to be removed to improve the health of the patient. Yet a dentist will argue that every infected tooth needs to be saved with a root canal.
Obviously, having an infected tooth is no fun. The pain can be excruciating, and a root canal can relieve that pain. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get rid of the infection.
The reason that I ask every patient about his or her history of root canals is that I have also found a direct correlation between the presence of root-canalled teeth and other health problems.
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