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 Root Canal Coverup, Fact or Fiction 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Integrative Dentistry by . View all columns in series
Root canals are required as the treatment of choice when a tooth has become infected or traumatized to an extent that there is nerve damage. Root canals have been a source of controversy since the turn of the century, when they first were used to treat nerve damage.

The controversy between conventional dentistry and biological dentistry regarding root canal therapy include not only the need for root canals, but also the technique.

The technique for conventional root canals employs several materials and steps to complete the treatment. An opening is made with a drill into the pulp chamber that gives access into the canals that house the nerve and blood supply to the tooth. Using instruments, the canals are cleaned of the infected and damaged nerve and blood supply. The area is irrigated and sterilized with hydrogen peroxide, sodium hypochloride (bleach) or a compound containing ethylenediamine-tetraacetate (EDTA). The amount of either form of irrigants are very small and administered to the canal via a syringe.

Biological dentists indicate that these solutions are hazardous and can cause damage to tissue. There have been no studies indicating these substances will damage the tissues, with the amounts that are used for root canals. Dentists have recommended hydrogen peroxide as a rinse for a short period of time, with the presence of certain types of gum (periodontal) disease such as acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG). In this instance, hydrogen peroxide is in contact with the tissues, and it actually helps kill bacteria and not damage it. However, if hydrogen peroxide is used on a daily basis as a rinse, it will cause damage.

Instead of hydrogen peroxide and sodium hypochloride, biological dentists recommend sanum remedies, which are homeopathic remedies from Germany. They claim that research by Swiss biologist Haefeli has shown that sanum assists antibodies produced by the immune system. No further studies have been done on this remedy in regards to root canals.

Colloidal silver is also recommended instead of hydrogen peroxide or sodium hypochloride for sterilizing the canals. This method has also not been studied for its effectiveness with root canals.

Once the canals are cleaned out, the conventional dentist either fills and seals the canals (in which case the root canal is completed) or places a cotton saturated with a material called formocresol (formaldehyde-creosote) or they may use eugenol (oil of clove) and make another appointment to complete the treatment. Formocresol is very potent and toxic.

Some of the modalities used by biological dentists for this final stage of the treatment include bio-frequencies. These electromagnetic resonant square wave (sound) frequencies, are delivered to the canals via a small pre-programmed electronic instrument. The claim is that these frequencies will destroy the harmful micro-organisms and not the healthy one. These instruments have not been approved by the FDA and are allowed to be used for relaxation, stress and pain management only. There are no studies indicating they are effective in the treatment of root canal therapy. Within 8 treatments, the biological dentists indicate the bacteria will be destroyed and the treatment completed.

The filling and sealing of the canals is the final stage of root canal therapy. If a biological dentist decides to fill the canal with a material instead of destroying the bacteria with bio-frequencies, then the filling of choice is Biocalex (Endocal). This was originally marketed in France and introduced in the United States in 1995. Biocalex consists of heavy calcium oxide powder and liquid ethyl glycol. The powder and liquid are mixed and placed in a moist canal. This mixture forms calcium hydroxide and expands to six to nine times its original volume. The American Association of Endodontists warns this filling material be placed with caution, due to the fact that it expands and may fracture the root of the tooth.

Conventional dentists complete root canals with a material called gutta percha. Gutta percha was first introduced to the western world by a British surgeon, Dr. William Montgomerie in 1843. The material is a purified form of Mazer wood trees indigenous to Indonesia and Malaysia. When combined with zinc oxide and other agents including plasticizers, waxes, metal sulfates and resins, forms a dimensionally stable seal for the canal without expansion.

Biological dentists indicate that gutta percha is a latex material and many individuals are allergic to it. According to a study done by Kleier and Shibilski (J Endod 1999:825-828) there is no automatic cross-reactivity with gutta percha in patients allergic to latex. They found that gutta percha and the natural rubber latex found in gloves and rubber dams (used by dentists to isolate teeth) are significantly different. Gutta percha is derived from a different tree than natural rubber latex, but is a member of the same botanical family. Gutta percha occurs naturally as 1,4-polyisoprene and is harder, and less elastic than natural rubber. Modern gutta percha contains only about 20% of the natural product. They found that the difference in chemical make-up and manufacturing between natural rubber latex and gutta percha results in minimal cross-reactivity.

In conclusion, routine dental visits, balanced nutrition free from junk foods, and practicing good oral hygiene, is the best method to avoid root canals and other extensive dental treatment. If you do require these types of dental care, find a dentist you can communicate with and feel comfortable with, and understand what type of treatment you need, why you need it, how to prevent it from happening again, and move ahead.

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 About The Author
Flora Stay, DDS holds a doctor of dental surgery degree from University of California, San Francisco. She is the founder of ...moreFlora Stay DDS
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