Root canal is a commonly performed procedure in most adults. But is it a wise one? Dr. Robert Kulacz, a dentist, has spent a significant portion of his professional career trying to answer this question.
What he discovered profoundly changed his life, and led him to write a book about his findings called, The Toxic Tooth: How a Root Canal Could Be Making You Sick, which I think is among the best available on this subject.
Dr. Kulacz began practicing dentistry in Brewster, New York. After six years as an associate, he opened his own practice in Somers, New York in 1992, where he performed all the conventional procedures of dentistry, from restorations to extractions and root canals.
“I did a lot of root canals for many years,” he says. “Everything was going smoothly until one day, a patient of mine said to me, ‘You know, I heard from my physician that root canals may be bad; that root canals may cause or contribute to other diseases in the body.’
And I said, ‘You’re crazy. Who is telling you this? That’s impossible.’ He said, ‘You got to look at this information.’ He gave me websites of organizations like the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT) to look at.
I went on to explore this topic so I could come back to him and say, ‘Here is where you’re wrong, here’s where your physician is wrong, and here is where the American Dental Association (ADA) is right.’
Lo and behold, I found out they’re right; I was wrong.
I looked at Weston Price’s work, the work of Rosenow, and others. I decided to go to an IAOMT meeting… Dr. Boyd Haley’s lecture on root canals and how toxic they are changed my life. I realized I was wrong… From that day on, I changed my practice.”
The Importance of Informed Consent
Dr. Kulacz stopped performing root canals in 1995. He doesn’t promote a ban on root canals across the board, but stresses the importance of informed consent.
The American Dental Association states that root canals are a safe procedure that cannot cause any systemic diseases, and according to Dr. Kulacz and others who have spent time investigating the matter, that’s simply not true.
“If a patient is informed that these root canal teeth remain infected; that bacteria can indeed travel to other sites in the body, and that bacteria in root canal teeth and the surrounding bone release potent toxins, then the patient can decide to have a root canal or not,” he says.
Many dentists believe they can sterilize a root canal tooth and that the act of instrumenting and irrigating the canal will eliminate all the bacteria, but that’s not the case.
“I’ve done biopsies on every root canal tooth that I have extracted. Almost all of them have remnants of necrotic debris still in that canal meaning that they were not thoroughly cleaned. Microbiological cultures of the surrounding bone showed infection almost 100% of the time.” Dr. Kulacz says.
According to the ADA, any remaining bacteria will be “entombed” within that tooth, but that’s not true either. The gutta-percha, the filling material used to seal the canal, is not getting into the tiny lateral canals that branch off the main canal, so leakage is almost always possible, especially since the tooth is porous.
And even a perfectly sealed root canal cannot prevent the small molecule exotoxins produced by the bacteria inside the root canal tooth from easily migrating out of the tooth and into the body.
The bulk of the tooth structure is composed of dentinal tubules, hollow structures that run from the main canal outward. If you were to put these tubules end to end from just a single rooted tooth, they would stretch for about three miles.
But they’re big enough to harbor bacteria three across, which you can never remove or sterilize. A tooth is more like a sponge than a solid structure.
“If you had a solid tooth structure that was like steel or a metal, you were able to clear out the main canal of that tooth, there were no tributaries, and you can perfectly seal it, and eliminate the residual infection in the surrounding jaw bone a root canal would be great. But we can’t do that,” he says.
“Now, it doesn’t mean that all root canal teeth are going to cause disease. It depends upon the type of bacteria that are in there, what kind of toxins they produce, and the immune system health of the individual.
p>But with 25 to 30 million root canals done per year, multiply that by how many years a person is alive, there’s a lot of root canals out there. And a lot of them are not good.”
Bacteria from Root Canals May Worsen Other Diseases
Since root canal teeth are chronically infected, they may contribute to a number of different health problems, including heart disease. While the ADA insists bacteria from root canal teeth can never travel to distant sites in your body, Dr. Kulacz disagrees, explaining:
“Heart disease is caused by the damage to the inside lining of the blood vessel (the cholesterol is a secondary byproduct). The primary cause of heart disease is the damage of the intima lining of the blood vessel and migration of macrophages and cholesterol inside that artery.
Inflammation causes plaque to rupture into the lumen, into the space of the blood vessel, causing a blood clot and a heart attack. [A] study done in 2013… compared the bacterial DNA in blood clots and arterial plaque in heart attack patients to the DNA of the bacteria in the mouth.
The same bacteria found in the root canal teeth and in gum disease are found in the plaques in coronary arteries and in the blood clots that caused the heart attack.
These bacteria move from the mouth into other sites of the body like the arterial plaques. They’ve also found the same bacteria in the pericardial fluid or the fluid that surrounds the heart… In heart disease you don’t want infection and inflammation in an arterial plaque.
The presence of oral bacteria from root canal teeth and gum disease in the arterial plaque and blood clots of heart attack patients points to direct causation, rather than correlation between oral infection and cardiovascular disease.”
All Root Canal Teeth Will Become More Infected Over Time
Because root canal teeth no longer have a blood supply, the bacteria remaining inside all root canal teeth are effectively “hidden” from the immune system. To make matters worse, the root canal tooth becomes more infected over time due to the influx of bacteria from the gum tissue surrounding the tooth.
Other research has shown pathogenic bacteria from infected root canals destroy or kill the white blood cells designed to eliminate them, which is why the surrounding jaw bone can harbor such chronic infection. The bacteria can also evade your immune system by:
- Bacterial mimicry; mimicking your body’s own bacteria, which your white blood cells will not attack
- Disabling your antibodies and white blood cells
- Forming sticky biofilms
The video above was recorded about four years ago. In it, I discuss some of the health effects I suffered from an infected tooth, which were resolved after having the tooth extracted. It’s important to recognize that the reason you get cavities and/or infected teeth in the first place is related to your diet—primarily eating too much sugar.
If your diet is inadequate, your immune function will be compromised, and if your immune system is weakened, the bacteria’s ability to wreak havoc is magnified. So does this mean you have to extract all of your root canal teeth? No, Dr. Kulacz says.
“We can’t become so closed-minded that we ignore mainstream dentistry or mainstream medicine just because we don’t believe one part of it. Just saying that we’re going to extract all root canal teeth and we’re going to cure all disease is not valid. That’s as bad as saying that root canal teeth can’t cause any problems. We have to find the balance… we have to evaluate objectively and then come to a reasonable conclusion and protocol on what to do with these root canal teeth.”
If you’re considering having a root canal done, evaluate the data and your personal situation, such as your health risks, before making your decision. I would also suggest considering ozone therapy prior to root canal or tooth extraction. Ozone therapy is typically administered through a syringe, right into or around to the base of the tooth. Multiple visits are usually needed to address the infection. Ozone is directly toxic to infectious material, and it also stimulates your immune system.
I was able to prevent a root canal by using ozone therapy not too long ago. However if the pulp tissue has completely died due to infection, nothing, including ozone, will bring the tooth back to life. It took about five treatments. It’s safe, non-toxic, and relatively inexpensive, so it may be worth considering before taking more drastic measures.
If you decide to have the tooth extracted rather than doing a root canal, there are several options on how to restore that missing tooth. The first and least expensive option is with a removable appliance or partial denture. You need to take it out at night, put it back in in the morning, and keep it clean. It’s the least invasive way to restore missing teeth.
The second and considerably more expensive alternative is to do a bridge. The teeth on either side of the missing tooth are prepared for caps or crowns, and the missing tooth is attached to those two abutment teeth. The bridge is permanently put in as one unit. The problem is you have to cut down a lot of the enamel on the adjacent teeth, which causes trauma to those teeth, potentially risking the need for another root canal over time.