No, root canals do not kill the tooth

By: Ankita Kulkarni
June 5 2023

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No, root canals do not kill the tooth


The Verdict False

A root canal only removes the infected dental pulp from the tooth. Experts have dismissed claims that the procedure impacts kidney health.

Claim ID 3e7815fa


An Instagram video is alleging that root canals are dangerous since it kills the tooth. A woman in the video claims that a "root canal filling is a dead tooth" since no blood or lymph is going through to clean it. "Every tooth has a link to different parts of the body. The kidney is not working well because the tooth that has the connection to the kidney part has a root canal in it." She also suggests people remove the root canal fillings as "they contain mercury which causes neurotoxicity." However, these claims are not scientifically supported.

The woman in the video is Barbara O'Neill, an unregistered practitioner who has been permanently banned from providing health services by the Australian medical authorities.

In Fact

The American Association of Endodontists (AAE) notes that a root canal, also known as endodontic treatment, removes the infected dental pulp tissue containing nerves and blood vessels from within the roots of a tooth. The empty pulp chamber is cleaned, disinfected, and filled with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha.

The association also clarifies that treatment will not kill a tooth; it will be able to function normally. Although the root canals remove the pulp-containing nerves in the tooth, "these nerves serve very little function in a fully formed tooth." Another page on AAE, debunking the myths about root canals, states that no tooth roots are removed in the process; but are only cleaned. It also adds that root canals do not cause diseases elsewhere in the body. However, if the infected tooth is left untreated, it can spread.

The presence of lymphatic vessels in the dental pulp, as claimed in the video, is still being debated. 2022 research that was published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) quoted their presence but could not conclusively demonstrate if these vessels formed systems within the pulp. Other studies say they are absent. Therefore, it would be incorrect to speculate over its presence or absence without proper evidence.

Research on the "connection between teeth and body organs" showed us that the theory stems from traditional Chinese medicine that calls this link as meridians or channels forming a network in the body through which qi (vital energy) flows, according to the U.S. National Institute of Cancer. It claims blocked qi causes pain or illness.

We also found a 2014 article by Dr. Stephen Barrett, co-founder of the non-profit National Council Against Health Fraud. He points out that "meridians are imaginary pathways” and “have no basis in reality.”

We also spoke to India-based endodontist Dr. Priyadarshini L. Naik who clarified that no roots are taken out during treatment. “A socket that holds our tooth remains intact during the procedure, and tooth functionality is maintained as it is.” she said. Speaking about the meridian tooth chart, she added, “The theory was proposed way too initially when not much was known about the dentistry field. Now we have progressed a lot, and it is not followed in modern science.”

She also ruled out the theory that removing the tooth would create problems in the kidneys or heart or liver. “This is not how this all works, and theory is not in practice,” she said.

Additionally, earlier dental amalgam that contained elemental mercury was used in fillings, but it was in extremely low levels, as per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Authority, and did not lead to any adverse health effects in the general population. However, currently, a compound called gutta-percha is used for filling, and it does not contain mercury.

The Verdict

A root canal only removes the infected dental pulp, not the roots of the teeth. The tooth will function normally after the treatment. Therefore, we have marked this claim as false.

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