How One Bad Study Spawned Several Root Canal Myths

Oral Surgery | 2 | Nashua Family Dentistry | Nashua, NH

Back in 1998, a British doctor published a study in a respected medical journal. This study claimed there was a link between getting the MMR vaccine and getting autism. That was a big claim, so scientists began looking closely at the study, its data, and how it was done.

It quickly became clear that this doctor’s study was false. The numbers didn’t add up, and no other scientists could replicate his results. Eventually, it was discovered that this doctor was paid several thousand dollars by a lawyer group hoping to sue vaccine companies. In the end, the medical journal retracted the study. The whole this was a hoax.

Too little, too late. Millions of people believed vaccines caused autism. They refused to get vaccines for themselves or their kids. Even though scientists all over the world have declared vaccines to be healthy, some people refuse to listen. They believe the MMR-autism myth too deeply.

Believe it or not, dentistry has it’s own “bad medical study” myth. This one involves root canals, and it’s just as stubborn.

In the 1920s, an American dentist published a study in a respected dental journal. This study claimed root canal procedures caused illness, arthritis, and more. The line of reasoning went like this:

  • Root canals are done to remove pulp inside a tooth that has become infected by harmful bacteria.
  • When you remove the infected pulp, you expose the body to it.
  • That allows the bacteria to spread throughout your body and cause arthritis and more.

No, that last one doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

The dentist behind the study concluded that the only way to protect the body is to extract a tooth. Ban all root canals and remove an infected tooth instead. In fact, remove any teeth that have already undergone root canals. All root canals are dangerous!

At first, the dental community panicked. No one wants to hurt their patients, so they gave up doing root canals are started tooth extractions like crazy. But as with the vaccine study, dentists began taking a harder look at the root canal study. And again, the numbers didn’t add up. Dentists began to question the study’s accuracy and validity. In a few years, there was an uproar. More research was done that showed root canals weren’t only safe; they were much better than tooth extractions. By the 1950s, that study was discredited. Dentists routinely did root canals when needed.

Too little, too late. The myth that root canals are bad began to spread. People ignored the advice of dentist and scientists. They stubbornly held onto the myth that root canals caused illness. Let’s be clear here: root canals are perfectly safe. Data proves that. Scientists agree. Dentists agree. Anyone with training and education agrees that root canals are a great way to remove infections and save teeth. That’s why we offer them at our Nashua, NH dental office.

Yet that myth persists. You can find several websites claiming this 1920s study is correct. One even claims root canals cause cancer. The sites say it was repressed by some giant conspiracy for … well, the conspiracy theorists tend to fall apart on this point. But it’s a giant conspiracy nonetheless!

To show you the truth, here is what root canals can do for you.

  • Root canals end toothaches. All of a tooth’s nerve endings can be found in the pulp. When bacteria get inside a tooth, they infect your pulp. That can repeatedly trigger the nerve endings there, creating a powerful toothache. That’s why tooth pain is a root canal symptom. Some come and go, while others are constant. Either way, it hurts. Root canals remove the infection so the pain goes away.
  • Root canals save your teeth. If that bacterial infection is not removed, it will spread throughout the dental pulp. Your tooth needs healthy pulp. If all of it gets infected, the tooth will be more susceptible to damage and might even fall out. Sometimes, the pain is so bad that the whole tooth has to be extracted. Root canals remove the infection behind all of that. You can normally keep your tooth thanks to that treatment.
  • Root canals prevent bacterial infections from spreading. Besides nerve endings, your pulp is home to blood vessels. When bacteria spread there, they can seep into your bloodstream. That means the infection can spread to different parts of your body. Yes, root canals aren’t just safe, they can be healthy!

Myths can be stubborn things. One flawed study back in the 1920s should not prevent you from getting the dental care you need. If you are ready to stop a toothache and save your tooth, call us today at 603-546-7460.

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