(I’m no health expert nor public health authority, etc.)
Left out of the last blogpost (when visiting San Francisco) was a whole afternoon spent in a dentist chair… Thursday evening (10/23), I broke a piece of tooth off when I bit into a delicious piece of hard-crusted bread…
It was a bit of a shock to hear a tooth break, but it strangely did not hurt much. In the bathroom mirror I also noticed a crack running along the whole length of the rest of the troubled molar…
Strangely only the nearby gums hurt, so I immediately wondered if perhaps the broken tooth was the one with the root canal from many years ago. I had forgotten. I thought that had only been 4-5 years, but I looked it up later and found that that tooth had first been filled as a teenager, then when the filling went bad in 2003, a very deep filling had been put in.
And then, when it turned out that that deep filling had traumatized the nerve, in September 2005 that tooth suddenly turned excruciatingly painful, requiring Vicodin painkillers just so I could sleep. Given the choice between a root canal or having the tooth extracted, I chose a root canal, in part ’cause it was made to sound as a way to save the tooth permanently and without any negative side effects.
I was able to keep the inflammation down until I had the root canal done in Belgium in early 2006, so about 8-9 years ago.
(A friend told me that nowadays dentists often acknowledge that root canals need to be checked up on and may need to be redone every 10 years or so.)
Googling around, I found an affordable dental school program in San Francisco that was able to see me right away.
The “surgical extraction” was a challenge, requiring bone needing to be drilled away, and the tooth breaking in more pieces at every attempt to pull it. (Nevermind that I’m near-impossible to numb…. A bit of a harrowing ordeal…) They were busy with me all afternoon. Glad I got it dealt with without any delay though!
Root Canal or Extraction?
Perspectives on this matter continue to differ. In the past I’ve gone along with the mainstream Endodontics viewpoint (that root canals are generally better than extraction), and now I find myself more inclined to take natural dentistry, including nuance about root canals, and considering dietary changes to improve dental health, more seriously.
A couple more holistic-health-oriented folks did mention back then that in the long run tooth extraction was likely the better idea, for various reasons, such as the ones stated by Dr. Mercola in his, “Dangers of Root-Canaled Teeth“, from which these quotes:
“Root-canaled teeth are essentially “dead” teeth that can become silent incubators for highly toxic anaerobic bacteria that can, under certain conditions, make their way into your bloodstream to cause a number of serious medical conditions—many not appearing until decades later. […]
When a dentist performs a root canal, he or she hollows out the tooth, then fills the hollow chamber with a substance (called guttapercha), which cuts off the tooth from its blood supply, so fluid can no longer circulate through the tooth. But the maze of tiny tubules remains. And bacteria, cut off from their food supply, hide out in these tunnels where they are remarkably safe from antibiotics and your own body’s immune defenses. […]
There is no other medical procedure that involves allowing a dead body part to remain in your body. When your appendix dies, it’s removed. If you get frostbite or gangrene on a finger or toe, it is amputated. If a baby dies in utero, the body typically initiates a miscarriage. Your immune system doesn’t care for dead substances, and just the presence of dead tissue can cause your system to launch an attack, which is another reason to avoid root canals—they leave behind a dead tooth. […] ” (read more from Dr. Mercola)
For the perspective of the American Association of Endodontists, see their “Myths About Root Canals and Root Canal Pain“, from which this quote:
“A root canal is a safe and effective procedure. When a severe infection in a tooth requires endodontic treatment, that treatment is designed to eliminate bacteria from the infected root canal, prevent reinfection of the tooth and save the natural tooth. […] “
I can only speak for myself… I doubt bacteria were fully eliminated given the compromised condition seen on the X-ray in the jaw bone underneath the tooth (image above); and the tooth wasn’t “saved”, either. In less than a decade it became so brittle it simply broke apart.
That doesn’t change that I am very grateful for the people who helped me at every turn, though. I think they all meant well, believed what they claimed themselves, and all did their best. And basically I benefitted, even if it was just temporary. (It was nice to have that tooth around for another 8-9 years.) I was told that with the troubled tooth extracted that the ‘likely infection’ nearby could now heal much better. So I suppose there’s some truth to the theory that a dead tooth can become a source of future infections after all…
If I knew then what I know now, I might have chosen extraction in the first place. Good to be root-canal-free again.
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In unrelated other news, last night I slept off the Angel Lake Scenic Byway outside of Wells, Nevada:
It was fuh-reezing at night. First night for the season I chose to sleep in my warm winter bag. Toasty. ;-) Gorgeous area, just off I-80…
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