General Dentistry |4 min read

Can Root Canals Cause Cancer? (Debunking Root Canal Myths)

X-ray showing a tooth's infected tooth roots with text "root canals cause cancer - fact or myth?"

Do root canals cause cancer?

The short answer: No, root canals do not cause cancer.

Then how did this myth come about?

Approximately 100 years ago, a dentist ran a series of poorly controlled and flawed tests. His research claimed dead teeth that have received root canal therapy still withhold harmful toxins. He believed these toxins lead to cancer and other health problems like arthritis, heart disease, and more.

Now, the more convincing answer…

What you need to know about root canals

When your tooth’s decay infects the pulp of your tooth (the inside of your tooth’s roots), you have two treatment options:

  1. A root canal, which removes the infection from within your tooth, seals it off to prevent further disease and damage. Then, your dentist caps the tooth with a dental crown to restore its appearance and function.
  2. An extraction, which removes your tooth entirely, and will cost you more to replace it or possibly cause you other problems if you don’t replace it quickly.

A root canal is generally the best treatment option because it saves your natural tooth, restores your tooth’s health, and preserves the function of your smile. Plus, it’s often covered by insurance and costs less than other restorative options.

Extractions will leave you with a hole, which can cause your surrounding teeth to shift, making it difficult to chew or speak clearly, and allows your bone to deteriorate. Replacement options like dental implants are more costly and time-intensive than root canals.

If left untreated, your infected tooth can cause:

  • Pain – more to come on this point
  • Inflammation
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures
  • Tooth abscess
  • More!

Not to mention, your mouth is a gateway to the rest of your body. Studies have shown links between bacteria in your mouth and serious health conditions like diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and stroke.

Root canals eliminate the infection from within your tooth and body. They do not leave behind toxins, nor do they cause cancer. And with modern technology like digital x-rays, this is more evident than ever before as we can see your tooth in precise detail.

But why stop there? Let’s debunk the myth of root canals causing cancer even more…

Research on root canals and cancer

The study that sparked this myth was flawed for a few reasons:

  • Tests were performed in a nonsterile environment
  • Conditions were poorly controlled

And the biggest one: Other researchers have not been able to duplicate the results.

Since this initial claim, no other researcher has been able to produce the same results. In fact, research has generated quite the opposite results.

According to a study published by JAMA Otolaryngology…This text is linked to the website for J.A.M.A. Otolaryngology and opens in a new window…, patients who have had multiple endodontic procedures have a 45% reduced risk for cancer.

Another myth with root canals is they cause pain. So, let’s address that one while we’re at it too.

Do root canals hurt?

When you hear the word “root canal,” what comes to mind? For many people, it is pain and discomfort. But why is that?

One common sign you may need a root canal is severe tooth pain. The kind of pain where you need an emergency root canal because you can’t bear it.

Unfortunately, the narrative has been twisted, so people tend to lump this prior tooth pain with root canal therapy altogether. But the truth is, infected teeth cause pain while root canals get you out of pain.

Getting a root canal is typically pain-free, thanks to modern technology and anesthetic, and many patients experience instant relief.

And if you think a tooth extraction is less painful, listen to this:

According to the American Association of Endodontics……This text is linked to the website for The American Association of Endodontics and opens in a new window……, patients who experience root canals are six times more likely to describe it as painless compared to those who have a tooth extracted

To avoid tooth pain, we recommend visiting your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings. They will be able to notice any initial signs and treat your tooth before symptoms flare-up.

Now you know, root canals are safe

If you’re looking for a root canal dentist near Beaverton, OR, visit us at Harmony Dental! Our dentist, Dr. Bruno da Costa, offers general, cosmetic, and restorative dentistry under one roof.

We even offer free second opinions to help you feel informed and confident in your oral health decisions!

Our office is conveniently located in Beaverton, OR, and proudly serves surrounding communities, including Tigard, Aloha, Portland, Cedar Hills, Lake Oswego, Raleigh Hills, Sherwood, Garden Home-Whitford, Tualatin, and West Slope.

Click here to find all our new patient information.

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