removing infected pulpEven endodontists will tell you, if they’re being honest, that root canal disinfection isn’t always effective. They’ll tell you that about 25% of all root canals fail due to infection by pathogens left in the canal before it’s filled and sealed off.

Actually, latent infection is far more common than that, but let’s give them that “25%” for the moment – a number they seem to have high hopes of lowering with a new technology that was the subject of a paper published earlier this year in the Journal of Dental Research.

The device seems somewhat similar to early caries and oral cancer detection tools in that it uses fluorescence to “detect minute amounts of residual live bacteria in the root canal space. Indeed, during trials the team were able to successfully detect bacterial cells after just three minutes of testing.”

So saith the press release.

“The resilient nature of bacteria, combined with often complex root canal structures, make disinfection challenging, leading to a considerable number of persistent infections. This is one of the main causes of root canal treatment failures”, explained Professor Francesco Mannocci, Professor of Endodontics from the Dental Institute at King’s College London.

“SafeRoot will reduce the time for root canal completion and will increase the success rate of treatments by letting the dentist know when it’s safe to proceed with filling the tooth. This should produce fewer acute ‘flair-ups’ [sic] and failed root treatments, as any residual infection in the root canal will be identified,” said Professor Tim Watson from the Dental Institute.

There’s just one problem. Bacteria and other pathogens don’t confine themselves – or their toxic waste products – to the root canals themselves, the physical structures that house the living pulp of a tooth. They’re free to venture into the microscopic tubules that make up the dentin, the layer of tissue between the pulp and enamel. It’s been estimated that there are up to three miles of these tubules in every tooth.

dentinal tubulesThose dentinal tubules are the perfect hiding place for pathogens. There’s no way to thoroughly and permanently disinfect them. Ozone can provide a temporary fix, but in general, the bacteria will become active again within a year or so. Protocols to keep the biological terrain healthy and robust become more important than ever.

Those pathogens that remain in the tubules are what make root canal teeth ultimately so problematic. Their highly toxic waste products wreak havoc with the mitochondria in your cells and, ultimately, the terrain. Research has shown systemic illness developing out of these conditions, including cancer.

To learn more about the reality of root canals, why we don’t recommend them, and what you can do if you suspect root canal teeth may be affecting your overall health, start here.

Root canal image by BruceBlaus, via Wikimedia Commons

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