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Root Canal Appreciation Day: Are Root Canals Harmful?

May 11th is Root Canal Appreciation Day. While it is hard to imagine most people appreciating a root canal, believe me, when your tooth is hurting and the root canal makes it feel better, you sure do appreciate that root canal!

Within the past week, I’ve had two different people show me an online article whose headline claims that 97% of terminal cancer patients have had a root canal.  This begs the question, are root canals safe?


The answer is root canals are safe (even snopes.com says so!), but let’s look more deeply into the matter. This issue is one that has come up periodically throughout history. The most recent incarnation appears to be tied to a 2012 article attributed to a Dr. Mercola who cites the century-old work of Dr. Weston Price. By 1948, Price’s focal infection theory was already falling out of favor among professionals and by 1950 it was considered an outdated fringe belief.  All research since has failed to turn up any link between root canals and cancer. In fact, research published in 2013 by the American Association of Endodontists showed a 45% reduced risk of cancer for those people who had had multiple root canal treatments!! (For more information see: http://www.surgicalrestorative.com/articles/2014/04/aae-calls-on-dental-partners-to-champion-root-canal-safety.html)


Root canal treatment removes bacteria and infected soft tissue from the pulp chamber located at the center of your tooth. Once the infected material is removed, the space is sealed up with various materials to prevent reinfection of the tooth. Do root canals fail? Yes, they sometimes do, but it is a very small percentage (around 5% according to most reliable sources). In most cases, those failures are detected. Sometimes the tooth needs retreatment, but there are some reasons for failure, such as a fracture, that might result in loss of the tooth. There is no valid, scientific evidence linking a root canal to disease elsewhere in your body.


As for that 97% figure cited in the headline, no case studies or research exist to support it. We might just as easily say that 97% of terminal cancer patients have dyed their hair at some point during their life. Does that mean the two things are related? Maybe, maybe not. Just because two things are linked together does not mean that one causes the other.


Carefully consider the options presented to you by your dentist, but please don’t rule out a root canal solely on the basis of one headline. You can learn more about root canals here: Root Canal Treatment FAQs and Root Canal Treatment


Dr. Jennifer Robb is a general dentist and recipient of multiple root canals. She practices at 1612 Cooper Foster Park Rd., Lorain, OH 44053. 440-960-1940 or www.drjrobb.com You can also find her on facebook at www.facebook.com/DrJenniferRobb