Teeth are living parts of the body. The pulp chamber and canals carry blood vessels and nerves, from the apex (the tip of the root imbedded in the bone) into the crown of the tooth. Trauma, (a hard bump to the tooth) or decay, are the most common reasons for the nerve within the tooth to “die”. When the nerve dies, bacteria work their way through the entire length of the tooth and the apex. When the bacteria exit the tooth, the body’s defenses kill the bacteria, creating pus. If the pus can quickly find a route to the surface (a fistula), there is little or no pain. If it can’t, the patient feels a deep, throbby pain that is usually quite intense. When a dentist performs a root canal, he/she is trying to remove the dead nerve tissue and disinfect the interior of the tooth. Many times the procedure is successful. Many times it is not. Dentin is composed of small tubules. A bicuspid tooth has 2-3 miles of dentinal tubules. It has been shown that the bacteria can live in these tubules and continue to produce toxins that can get to other parts of the body. The root canal can appear to be successful, because there is no longer any pain, yet be the breeding ground for a countless number of bacteria.
Should root canals no longer be performed? Should you get your existing root canal teeth removed? My personal belief is this: If you are currently in good health and have no pain associated with your present root canal teeth; leave them alone. A patient that tells me, “the tooth has never felt right since the root canal,” should consider its extraction. If you need a root canal and are in good health, mark the date of the root canal on a calendar for reference. Go ahead and get the root canal but keep a close eye on your general health. If you notice a worsening of your health, you may want to consider removal of the root canal tooth. If you are already in poor health or have a chronic illness, a root canal should probably be avoided.