After the birth of my first child, I got my first cavity in my back left molar. Having escaped over 30 years of dental decay, I got it filled and didn't think much about it. After my second baby though, that same tooth developed another cavity – and my dentist threatened a root canal.
Suddenly, I was listening.
Hadn't I heard somewhere that root canals could cause larger, systemic health problems?
My mission: to learn how to avoid a root canal.
What are the dangers of having a root canal?
Root canals, or the removal of the main, central nerve inside a tooth, are said to stop further damage when a cavity is infecting this area with bacteria. The problem is that the central nerve isn’t the only nerve in a tooth. Many smaller nerve branches stem off from the central root and these can become infected with bacteria as well.
As Dentist Weston Price discovered in the early 1900’s, the tooth itself has millions of tubules, or tunnels, that lead back to all of those root branches. The tubules provide a place for bacteria to weasel its way in and hide.
On the plus side, people with stronger immune systems have the ability to fight against most, if not all, of the bacteria. In an interview with Dr. George Meinig DDS, Author of the book Root Canal Cover Up, he points out that,
Some healthy people are able to control the germs that escape from their teeth into other areas of the body….Over time, most people with root filled teeth do seem to develop some kind of systemic symptoms they didn't have before.
While many dentists now offer resin/porcelain based fillings, standard metal amalgam fillings are still preferred, because they are stronger, more durable and less expensive. These amalgam fillings themselves can also impact health, including a predisposition to autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis. (source)
Is pulling your tooth a smart alternative to a root canal?
Extracting a tooth will eliminate the potential for bacteria to infiltrate the tooth but it can raise different health concerns. The area around the infected tooth will be weakened (gums, bone) due to the bacteria, so sometimes pulling it isn’t enough. Dr. Meinig suggests slow drilling with a burr to remove infected bone and tissue as well. (source)
Ramiel Nagel, author of Cure Tooth Decay, isn’t in favor of extractions either. He says that even though it’s faster and less expensive than a root canal, pulling a tooth has a long-term impact. The weaker tissues can cause your mouth to be “clumsy” and all patients will need a bridge or implant to support chewing. The loss of integrity in the bone structure of your teeth can also lead to respiratory issues, headaches, TMJ syndrome, and sleeping issues. (source)
Alternatives to traditional root canal procedures
After I ditched my conventional dentist, I went in search of alternatives so I could avoid a root canal. That's when I met Glenn Sperbeck, a traditional, yet holistically-minded dentist here in Los Angeles.
Dr. Sperbeck uses ozone gas instead of a liquid chlorine which typically irrigates a drilled cavity to kill any potential infection. Ozone is a superior method because it actually penetrates further into the tubules of the tooth than chlorine, beyond the drilled area to kill bacteria – thereby allowing the dentist to preserve more of the actual tooth and potentially avoid a root canal. My cavity filling with Dr. Sperbeck is going on three years without a relapse or need for a root canal.
A tooth is living tissue; once the root canal is performed all tissue dies, however, it can still harbor bacteria in the tubules. In the cases where a root canal is necessary, ozone will penetrate further into those spaces than traditional methods. The open cavity is then filled and bacteria is thought to be a non-issue.
Calcium hydroxide is another alternative treatment that may help prevent complications of root canals. In a study done by the Department of Operative Dentistry and Periodontology at the University School of Dental Medicine in Berlin, they found using either ozone or calcium hydroxide significantly decreased bacteria in tooth canals. (source)
How to avoid root canal with the right diet
Aside from finding an alternative way to fill my cavity, I soon discovered that diet could play an essential role in both preventing and healing tooth decay.
Price conducted a study on various tribes in Africa in 1935 to determine if their diets had anything to do with the health of their teeth. His findings on the Bantu tribe uncovered that, “dental occlusions were rare, as were degenerative diseases.” He also found that only 5% – 6% of all the teeth he saw had any evidence of decay. (source) You can read more about why crooked teeth and dental decay are not just a normal a way of life here.
Dr. Meinig agrees that, “The only scientific way to prevent tooth decay is through diet and nutrition.” (source)
Dr. Nagel says, “Our body can protect itself from infection when we carefully eat foods that keep our body in balance,” however if a tooth is already damaged or contains a mercury based filling it will be more difficult to heal. (source)
You can read more about superfoods for strong, healthy teeth here.
Can diet REVERSE the need for a root canal?
In Cure Tooth Decay, Nagel agrees with standard recommendations to avoid processed sugar and white flour products. Additionally, he suggests raw butters and other dairy plus meat from pasture-raised animals including organ meats and bone marrow.
- 1 pound raw ground pastured bison, beef, or lamb
- 4oz of yellow butter (from grass fed cows)
- 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon of raw honey
Place butter, cayenne, and raw honey in a glass jar or bowl. Then immerse that bowl in a bowl of hot water that is not too hot. Basically a low temperature double boiler. The point is not to raise the temperature above 93 degrees Fahrenheit to preserve the integrity. Once the butter/honey/cayenne mixture is melted add the ground bison and stir. This is a raw food dish. This dish with cooked bison, beef, or lamb, will hardly be effective in stopping a tooth infection. (source)
If you are interested in how to avoid a root canal and prevent one in the first place, I highly recommend that you read Cure Tooth Decay right away. This book completely changed my understanding and approach to dental health.
While there are benefits to root canals, such as the elimination of infected tissue, there are also drawbacks if bacteria gets trapped and can’t be removed by the body’s natural immune system.
Bottom line: the best way to avoid dental issues is by adhering to a healthier diet and lifestyle, because prevention is always the best medicine.
Have you used diet and/or alternative dentistry to avoid a root canal? Please share in the comments below!