Every couple of weeks, it feels like breaking news shares findings that something else causes cancer. In some cases, these updates can help you steer clear of danger and keep your body healthier. However, rumors and conspiracy theories are perpetuated on the internet, confusing the masses and spreading fear. In some cases, these rumors can prevent people from seeking treatment they need for their well-being. One such example is root canal therapy. Here’s the truth to the question: do root canals cause cancer?
What Is the Connection Between Root Canals and Cancer?
This myth began in the 1920s when a dentist named Weston Price claimed to have found evidence that the root canal procedure left toxins from the decayed tooth in the body, directly leading to the development of cancer. However, since then, no peer-reviewed research has been able to replicate or corroborate such findings. In other words, there is no causal relationship or even a connection between root canals and cancer.
What Is a Root Canal?
Perhaps the myth about root canals and cancer has stuck around this long, despite no evidence to back it up, because root canals are often misunderstood.
When a tooth becomes badly damaged or infected with decay, the pulp or center of the tooth can die. In this situation, there are basically two options: extract the tooth or remove the pulp and seal it off. This second procedure is called a root canal. During this procedure, the dentist removes portions of the tooth that are decayed or injured and cleans the inside channels of the tooth, where the blood vessels and nerves used to be located.
What Are the Benefits of Root Canals?
If you are told that you need a root canal, you can perceive that as a good thing. Most of the time, this diagnosis comes after the patient has experienced substantial tooth pain. This procedure not only allows patients to keep as much of the natural tooth structure as possible but also relieves any pain that the damaged tooth may have caused.
Why Is It Dangerous to Believe and Spread This Myth?
If people falsely believe that root canals increase the risk of cancer, they may avoid receiving the care they need to stay healthy. If left untreated, a cavity can spread to other teeth, cause excruciating pain, and even lead to death. In some cases, the patient may opt for tooth extraction, which is much more invasive, expensive, and potentially damaging to the other teeth.
You don’t have to be afraid of root canals. They are perfectly safe and will not increase your risk of getting cancer. So if you find that you’re experiencing a tooth ache or get the news from your dentist that you need a root canal, realize that you still have a chance to save your tooth!
About the Author
Dr. Deborah Bishop has been a practicing endodontist for many years. After completing an endodontic residency at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, she has served as an adjunct clinical professor at the University Of Alabama School Of Dentistry. She also belongs to the International Academy of Endodontists, Alabama Association of Endodontists, and many other organizations. If you have questions about root canals, you can contact Dr. Bishop at her practice by clicking here.