Root Canal Safety
The relationship of our teeth and mouth to overall good health is indisputable. Endodontics plays a critical role in maintaining good oral health by eliminating infection and pain, and preserving our natural dentition.
A key responsibility of any dentist is to reassure patients who are concerned about the safety of endodontic treatment that their overall well-being is a top priority. The American Association of Endodontists website (www.aae.org) is the best place for anxious patients to obtain comprehensive information on the safety and efficacy of endodontics and root canal treatment.
While plenty of good information is available online from the AAE and other reliable resources, patients sometimes arrive in the dental office with misinformation. Patients searching the Internet for information on root canals may find sites claiming that teeth receiving root canal treatment contribute to the occurrence of illness and disease in the body. This false claim is based on long-debunked and poorly designed research performed nearly a century ago by Dr. Weston A. Price, at a time before medicine understood the causes of many diseases. Dr. Price’s research techniques were criticized at the time they were published, and by the early 1930s, a number of well-designed studies using more modern research techniques discredited his findings.
There is no valid, scientific evidence linking root canal-treated teeth and disease elsewhere in the body. A root canal is a safe and effective procedure. When a severe infection in a tooth requires endodontic treatment, that treatment is designed to eliminate bacteria from the infected root canal, prevent reinfection of the tooth and save the natural tooth. Endodontic treatment confined to the root canal system produces much less trauma and a much lower incidence and magnitude of bacteria entering the blood stream than extraction of the tooth.
Dentists are asked to use the following guidelines to address patients who inquire about a connection between root canal treatment and illness:
- Acknowledge the patient’s concerns; stress that optimum health is the goal for every dental patient.
- Provide the patient with written information about endodontic treatment, and discuss it. The AAE has a variety of patient education brochures available.
- Provide the patient with the AAE website www.aae.org and encourage them to visit the site to learn the truth about endodontic treatment safety and effectiveness.
- Indicate that the patient is in control of his/her own decision to move forward with any dental procedure, and reiterate a commitment to the highest quality dental care.