Are Root Canals Bad For You? The Dangers of an Infected Root Canal and Why You Should Say No to a Root Canal

Are Root Canals Bad For You?

To answer the question: "Are root canals bad for you?" it's essential to understand how root canal treatment works, how root canals can become infected after treatment, and how infected root canals can harm health and cause long-term side effects.

Explaining Root Canal Treatment

Root canal treatment involves removing the soft centre of the tooth—known as the pulp—by drilling a hole in the tooth, removing the infected pulp, disinfecting the root canals, clearing harmful bacteria, filling the hole, and placing a crown on the tooth. The premise of root canal treatment is to save a tooth that is infected or decayed by removing the infected materials and thus avoid having it extracted.

The Good: Why Root Canal Treatment is Popular

Millions of people undergo root canal therapy every year in an effort to prevent the loss of teeth that have "died." This common procedure is promoted by most dentists and endodontists, who are dental specialists limiting their practices to root canals and related problems. During this procedure, "dead nerve tissue" is removed, and a filling material is placed within a prepared chamber. This chamber housed not only the nerves but blood vessels and specialized cells for tooth health. In most cases, the obvious infection resolves, and the pain is eliminated without complications. Many teeth with root canals can remain as functioning components, especially if appropriately restored. It is not surprising that most dentists and their patients pursue this therapy when indicated. However, there is more than meets the eye regarding this subject.

The Bad: The Anatomy of Our Teeth

The bad news begins with the anatomy of our teeth. The enamel covers the chewing surfaces of our teeth and is generally what we see inside our mouths. This layer is very strong, yet only 1 ½ to 2 millimeters thick at the most. It covers dentin, which comprises most of the tooth volume. A less strong but dense single cell layer called cementum covers the roots of teeth. The pulp chamber is within the body of the tooth.

The main pulp chamber, generally centered within the body of the tooth and root(s), is not the only tube within our teeth. There can be one or more "lateral accessory canals" running from the main chamber outward and through the cementum. Additionally, there is a highly specialized network of microscopic tubes (tubules), designed to supply nutrients to the dentin as long as the tooth is alive. Each of these tubules begins at the surface of the pulp chamber and extends out to the enamel or cementum surface of the dentin.

These tubules do not interconnect and house extensions of living cells that line the pulp chamber and conduct fluids outward from the living pulp. The intricacy of this microscopic anatomy simply cannot be appreciated until we realize that each tooth contains approximately 1.5 million tubules! One front tooth with a single root has an estimated 3 miles of tubules!


The Ugly: What Happens in Root Canals When a Tooth Dies

The ugly part of root canals is what happens within these tubules when a tooth dies. As the living cells necrose (rot) within the central pulp chamber, their extensions also necrose within their tubules. Although root canal therapy should completely obliterate and fill the main pulp chamber, it is impossible to fill the millions of microscopic tubules.

Bacteria from infected teeth or from the dental procedure itself can remain within the tubules, growing and multiplying. Because microbes can change their form and function in response to a changed microenvironment within the tubules, they can go on living despite the altered oxygen and food supply. As they do so, they begin to produce various toxic chemicals that have been shown to be harmful to you and me. Some of these toxins can be especially toxic to specific organs and/or organ systems.


Infected Root Canals - Why Root Canals are Bad For You

While root canal treatment may sound good in theory, it is crucial to understand that it also presents serious health risks and can have severe unintended consequences. These health risks and consequences arise when root canals become infected, which occurs when the harmful infection-causing bacteria are not 100% removed during the root canal treatment. When this happens, the bacteria linger and multiply—often driving chronic inflammation, compromising immune function, and ultimately catalyzing other systemic health issues such as autoimmune disease, cancer, heart attack, stroke and rheumatoid arthritis.

There is much debate between dentists and endodontists as to whether root canals are bad for you, as many believe the probability of root canal infection is low. All, however, agree on one thing: that infected root canals are bad for you as they present a host of severe health risks.

How Does a Root Canal Become Infected? Understanding the Anatomy of the Teeth

An infected root canal can result from incomplete cleaning or sealing of the root canal system during treatment. This can easily occur due to the tooth's complex anatomy, which has roots that contain main canals and thousands of tiny side canals. These canals house an intricate network of nerves that extend throughout the tooth.

During a root canal treatment, the dentist removes the nerve tissue from the main canals to alleviate pain and infection. However, the side canals are incredibly small and intricate, making it nearly impossible to completely remove all the nerve tissue. Thus, harmful infection-causing bacteria may remain inside the tooth, even after root canal treatment.

Infected Root Canals Explained 

Infected root canals often contain necrotic (dead) tissue, inflammatory exudates, and sometimes pulp tissue remnants. These serve as a rich nutrient source for anaerobic bacteria, which feed on these materials, allowing them to multiply, persist, and excrete toxins. This is the mechanism by which root canals become infected.

Compounding this is the fact that anaerobic bacteria often form 'biofilms,' which protect the bacteria from the host's immune response. The root canal is also relatively isolated from the systemic immune response, which further allows bacteria and infection to proliferate. This is the process of chronic infection and inflammation

Root Canal Treatment Side Effects

The side effects from root canal treatment are attributed to this chronic infection and inflammation. To manage this inflammation, the lymphatic system surrounding an infected root canal will drain toxins from the area. Excessive and prolonged infection (as with infected root canals) sees these toxins continually pushed into the bloodstream, after which they are deposited in various other organs and systems throughout the body. This catalyses a host of health issues, and is what is responsible for driving root canal treatment side effects.

Which Bacteria Lurk in a Dead Tooth?

Studies show that microorganisms are present in all root canal-treated teeth with apical inflammation, indicating a chronic infection. If an inflammation is visible on an X-ray, the failure rate of the treatment increases due to this chronic infection.

Researchers have identified 75 different bacterial strains in root-treated teeth with apical osteitis. Common bacteria found in and around dead teeth include:

  • Enterococcus faecalis
  • Capnocytophaga ochracea
  • Fusobacterium nucleatum
  • Leptotrichia buccalis
  • Gemella morbillorum
  • Porphyromonas gingivalis

These bacteria can affect various parts of the body:

  • Heart: Four species
  • Nervous system: Three species
  • Kidneys and brain: Two species
  • Maxillary sinus: One species


These bacteria produce highly toxic and potentially cancer-causing hydrogen sulfides (Thioether/Mercaptan) from cysteine and methionine. These toxins can inhibit vital enzymes, leading to various systemic and organic diseases. The inhibition of enzymes in the mitochondria's respiratory chain has been proven in vitro. Chewing releases these bacteria and their toxins into the lymphatic system, bloodstream, and entire body.

Immune Response

The healthy pulp, as part of the immune system, plays a crucial role in defending against these bacteria. Chronic bacterial colonization of the pulp often leads to inflammation of the surrounding bone, activating the immune system continuously. Macrophages release inflammatory mediators (TNF-alpha, IL-1, growth factors, PGE2, and leukotriene) into the bloodstream, which can promote chronic inflammations and autoimmune diseases. Additionally, TNF-beta-producing T-lymphocytes are stimulated, which may promote chronic diseases and cancer. TNF-beta has been linked to an increased risk of postmenopausal breast cancer.

Root Canal Infection Symptoms

The first signs of root canal infection are typically felt or are visible in the mouth. Root canal infection symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Toothache
  • Abscess
  • Bad breath
  • Bad taste in the mouth
  • Pus discharge
  • Swollen tissue
  • Tooth discolouration

Long-Term Side Effects Of Root Canals

It may surprise you that root canal infection symptoms and side effects are not confined to the mouth and can be expressed across other body parts and systems. Herein lies the risk posed by root canal treatments and infected root canals. Long-term side effects of root canals can arise due to how toxins from root canal infections spread throughout the body. Some of the most notable long-term side effects of root canals can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Cancer
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes

Root Canal Treatment Side Effects According to Dr Weston Price

In the early 1900s, Dr. Weston Price, a pioneering researcher, conducted extensive studies on root canal treatment side effects, particularly how root canal treatment affects systemic health. His research—which involved thousands of patients and tens of thousands of rabbits—demonstrated that teeth with root canals could contribute to serious diseases and even death.

Price's experiments showed that root canal-treated teeth implanted under the skin of rabbits often caused severe infection, leading to the rabbit's death. However, the same was not observed when healthy teeth or sterile objects were implanted under the skin of rabbits.

Ultimately, Dr Price's research indicated that root canal treatment side effects were severe, and that root canal treatment posed a significant risk. He also noted changes in blood chemistry and systemic health following the placement and removal of root canals, further underscoring the potential dangers of this treatment.

The Dangers of Root Canals - Why We Do Not Offer Root Canal Treatment

The risk of these systemic health issues arising from root canal treatment is precisely why we do not offer root canal treatment at our clinic. While post-treatment root canal infection is not guaranteed, we believe the risk for infection and long-term side effects are too great. We have found that many 'old' root canals with demonstrable infection, even on a radiograph, have evidence of affecting system health.

Are Root Canals Bad for You - A Final Word

So, are root canals bad for you? Well, not always. However, in our view, there is an undeniable risk associated with failed root canal treatment. For the above reasons, we advocate against root canals and advise people to think twice before opting for root canal treatment. As we have outlined in a previous blog post, oral toxins are known to be one of the most significant drivers and aggravators of chronic diseases, and this is highly pertinent to the discussion on root canals and whether root canals are safe.

By understanding the complexities and potential risks associated with root canal treatment, you can make more informed decisions about your dental health. Always consult with a knowledgeable dentist to explore all your options before proceeding with a root canal.

If you are chasing high-level health and wish for a measurable outcome, DO NOT remove a root canal-treated tooth or dental amalgams without first looking at your blood chemistry.