Do Root Canals Really Cause Cancer?

Is There Any Truth to Root Canals Causing Cancer?

In the age of the internet, you can find misinformation everywhere.  One of the topics with some popularity online is the claim that root canals can cause cancer.  This is a dangerous myth because it could lead some people to put off essential endodontic dental care, risking the spread of a dangerous infection.

The Basis of the Claim

The statistic being used to support this claim is something along the lines of “94% of people with cancer have had this dental procedure!”.  Many websites, and even a short documentary film make the claim that because so many people with cancer have had a root canal treatment, that root canals must cause cancer.  Some make an argument that a root canal treatment is the only type of healthcare that allows something “dead” to stay in the body.

This is a false statement.  A tooth requiring a root canal treatment can have dead tissue within.  We call it pulpal necrosis.  The important thing to understand is that the root canal procedure removes all of the dead tissue.  It does not leave dead tissue inside the body.

Correlation vs. Causation

In regards to the first claim about cancer statistics, it is essential to understand the difference between correlation and causation.  A correlation is a simple connection or commonality between two things.  Causation means that one thing is directly responsible for the other.  You can see from the actual wording that these claims are for a causation, when really the truth is that there is likely only a correlation.

Here is an example.  Dark staining of the teeth from betel nut chewing is most prevalent on the Asian continent.  Correlation states that this cultural habit is common among people of Asian descent, and therefore, dark teeth staining is more likely to occur in Asia.  Causation states that living in Asia stains your teeth black. (FALSE)  Do you see the difference?

Applied to our current topic, it goes like this.  Correlation states that most cancer patients are in an age bracket that, for multiple reasons, suffered from more dental problems and required more root canal treatments, and because cancer is much more likely among people in this age bracket, it is likely that they will also have had root canals.  Causation states that root canals cause cancer. (FALSE)

Are Root Canals Safe?

Root canal treatments are necessary to remove infected and dead tissue from the hollow space within a tooth.  An RCT completely removes these dangerous cells and tissues, filling the chamber with a biocompatible material.  Research studies have followed root canal treatments for decades and show no negative health effects from the presence of a tooth treated with a root canal.

What is the Alternative to Root Canal Treatment?

When a tooth has an infection or dead tissue inside, a root canal treatment is the only treatment that allows you to keep the tooth in your mouth and continue using it for normal function.  If you are uncomfortable with the idea of a root canal, the only alternative treatment that will protect you against the spread of dangerous infections is an extraction of the infected tooth.

There are consequences of extracting a tooth, and you can eliminate most of them by replacing the missing tooth with a dental implant.

More Questions about Root Canals?

If you have questions like these that cause you to put off a root canal treatment, call Empire Dental Specialty Group to schedule a consultation with one of our board-certified endodontists (root canal experts) today! Dr. Goel and the endodontic team can walk you through the procedure, discuss any risks and answer any questions you may have about root canals.