Since the 1920s, a myth has existed that root canals are a major cause of cancer and other harmful diseases. Today, this myth circulates on the internet. It originated from the research of Weston Price, a dentist in the early 20th century who ran a series of flawed and poorly designed tests.
Price believed, based on his personal research, that dead teeth that have undergone root canal therapy still harbor incredibly harmful toxins. According to him, these toxins act as breeding ground for cancer, arthritis, heart disease, and other conditions.
A root canal is a dental procedure that repairs damaged or infected teeth.
Instead of removing the infected tooth entirely, endodontists drill into the center of the tooth’s root to clean and fill the canals.
The center of a tooth is filled with blood vessels, connective tissue, and nerve endings that keep it alive. This is called the root pulp. The root pulp can become infected because of a crack or cavity. If left untreated, these bacteria can cause problems. These include:
When the root pulp is infected, it needs to be treated as soon as possible. Endodontics is the field of dentistry that studies and treats diseases of the tooth root pulp.
When people have infections of the root pulp, the two main treatments are root canal therapy or extraction.
The idea that root canals cause cancer is scientifically incorrect. This myth is also a public health hazard because it could prevent people from getting root canals they need.
The myth is based on Price’s research, which is extremely unreliable. Here are some of the issues with Price’s methods:
- Conditions for Price’s experiments were poorly controlled.
- The tests were performed in nonsterile environments.
- Other researchers haven’t been able to duplicate his results.
Prominent critics of root canal therapy sometimes argue the modern dental community is conspiring to suppress Price’s research on purpose. However, no peer-reviewed controlled studies show a link between cancer and root canals.
Regardless, there are large groups of dentists and patients alike who believe Price. For example, Joseph Mercola, a doctor who follows Price’s research, claims “97 percent of terminal cancer patients previously had root canal.” There’s no evidence to support his statistic and this misinformation leads to confusion and anxiety.
People who undergo root canal therapy are no more or less likely to become ill than any other person. There’s virtually no evidence connecting root canal treatment and other diseases.
Rumors to the contrary can cause a great deal of undue stress for many people, including former and upcoming root canal patients.
Some people who have had root canals even go so far as to get their dead teeth extracted. They view this as a safety precaution because they believe the dead tooth increases their risk of cancer. However, pulling dead teeth is unnecessary. It’s always an available option, but dentists say saving your natural teeth is the best option.
Extracting and replacing a tooth takes time, money, and additional treatment, and it can negatively affect your neighboring teeth. Many live teeth that undergo root canal therapy are healthy, strong, and last a lifetime.
The advancements in modern dentistry that make endodontic treatment and root canal therapy safe, predictable, and effective should be trusted instead of feared.
The idea that root canals can cause cancer isn’t supported by valid research and is perpetuated by incorrect research from more than a century ago. Since that time, dentistry has advanced to include safer medical equipment, hygiene, anesthesia, and techniques.
These advancements have made treatments that would have been painful and dangerous 100 years ago extremely safe and reliable. You have no reason to fear that an upcoming root canal will cause you to develop cancer.