The headline was compelling for someone like me who has a tooth with a root canal:
“97% of Terminal Cancer Patients Previously Had Root Canal Procedure”
“Yikes!” I thought, “Am I in danger – or is it this just some alarmist sort of fake news?”
Quickly, I sped to the nearest internet access point (my computer) to do some down and dirty research into the medical matter.
Although I really am not a big fan of the debunkers over at Snopes, what with their alleged links to the CIA and all, the site does perform some critical thinking about sensational stories like this one as they circulate around the world wide webs.
I won’t keep you in suspense: FALSE is the short answer from Snopes. The rumor that 97 percent of terminal cancer patients had undergone prior root canal procedures and that the two conditions were related was first promoted on Mercola.com:
“In recent years, the claim about root canals and cancer risk has gained traction due to a 2012 article published to the website of Dr. Joseph Mercola.”
Personally, as a health researcher and writer, I find the information on the Dr. Mercola website to be very very useful. I quote from this source often, after verifying the facts elsewhere.
So when Snopes totally puts down Dr. Mercola, calling him “a vocal supporter of a number of discredited or dubious medical beliefs who has decried artificial sweeteners, microwaves, and sunscreen as major lurking dangers in everyday life,” I lose my faith in what these “fact checkers” have to say about a possible relationship between root canals and cancer.
Personally, based on my extensive research, I am convinced that overusing artificial sweeteners, standing too close for too long to a device that emits microwaves (or any other radiation), and sunscreen are all harmful to many, if not most, humans.
And, of course, I’m not alone in those opinions. But let’s get back to the toothy matter before us now and really bite down into it.
Snopes took issue with Dr. Mercola’s conclusion, which he reached after learning about a certain Dr. Weston Price who journeyed around the globe to study the teeth, bones, and diets of native people who didn’t eat modern food:
“Around the year 1900, Price had been treating persistent root canal infections and became suspicious that root-canaled teeth always remained infected, in spite of treatments. Then one day, he recommended to a woman, wheelchair bound for six years, to have her root canal tooth extracted, even though it appeared to be fine.”
What happened next is pretty amazing. The woman agreed to have her root canaled tooth removed. She recovered “immediately” from her arthritis and could walk without using a cane.
But what happened after that is even more amazing. The ingenious Dr. Price took the diseased tooth, which had produced continual inflammations and bacterial infections inside the patient’s mouth for such a long time, and implanted it under the skin of a rabbit. This is 120 years ago, yo:
“The rabbit amazingly developed the same crippling arthritis as the woman and died from the infection 10 days later.”
Dr. Price continued his research and demonstrated that “many chronic degenerative diseases originate from root-filled teeth,” in particular, heart and circulatory diseases. He cataloged 16 distinct bacteria that cause these maladies.
He also found strong high positive correlations between root-filled teeth and diseases affecting the brain, joints, and central nervous system.
Snopes pointed out that Dr. Price’s work had failed a peer review fairly early on:
“Dr. Price’s research techniques were criticized at the time they were published, and by the early 1930s, a number of well-designed studies using more modern research techniques discredited his findings.”
In a 1951 look-back review, the Journal of the American Dental Association “noted” that Dr. Price failed to follow accepted scientific procedure – such as including control groups during testing – implying, therefore, that all of his results are invalid and unproven. Just forget what happened to that woman and the rabbit, y’all.
Snopes attributes Dr. Josef Issels, a German physician, with saying that “in his 40 years of treating ‘terminal’ cancer patients, 97 percent of his cancer patients had root canals.'”
Now, that’s an interesting observation from a seasoned medical veteran. But Snopes took a dim view of Dr. Issels’ observation that terminal cancer and root canals go side by side:
“Of course, it’s quite likely that 97 percent of Dr. Issels’ cancer patients had also consumed marshmallows at some point, but in the absence of any documented causative factor, that statement demonstrates nothing more than a spurious correlation.”
Snopes then disses Issel, along with all alternative health practitioners and followers, by saying that “Dr. Issels was a promoter of alternative cancer therapy regimens who was charged with manslaughter in 1961 after three cancer patients died while under his care.”
Snopes failed to add one important little detail about the Issels criminal charge: the “initial conviction on the manslaughter charge was overturned in 1964 on the grounds that Issels had genuinely believed that his therapy could cure cancer.”
Plenty of other dental professionals are weighing in on the root canal-cancer story. The people who charge big money for performing delicate root canals assure their customers that there is no harm. The “focal infection theory” proposed by Dr. Price was false because his mainstream medical competitors disagreed and furthermore, he hadn’t used the proper scientific rigor imposed today, darn it.
Who could have imagined that a subject like this would generate so much controversy? While it does seem true that no one has proven that root canals directly cause cancer, there is strong evidence that root canals are linked somehow with other bacterially-based illnesses.
I don’t know about you, but my gut feeling (so to speak) is that there could be something to the notion put forward by Dr. Price that bacteria could continue to thrive around the deadened primary roots.
I feel another article coming on.