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Netflix: Root Cause

*Note: The documentary is no longer available on Netflix.

A recent documentary “Root Cause” on Netflix has raised a series of questions from the general public about whether root canal treatment is safe. The film focuses on the filmmaker’s journey on finding a solution to his overall feeling of general malaise. After years of trying numerous alternative therapy, he found his symptoms resolved after having a root canal treated tooth removed. Throughout the documentary, he interviews numerous medical and dental authorities presenting claims and studies that support the theory that root canal treatment, by leaving dead tissue (in this case, a tooth without nerves) inside the body, leads to systemic infection. One key piece of evidence presented reports that patients who had root canal treatment had a higher incidence of breast cancer in the same side of the body.

While beautifully shot, with beautiful vistas of Australia and the Gold Coast, the evidence presented in the documentary were widely criticized due to its questionable sources. Without hearing the evidence from the dental profession, we believe it can cause a great deal of misinformation to the public.

Numerous dental organizations all over North America, including our BC dental association, have drawn up scientific responses, negating each and every piece of evidence presented in the documentary.

The following summary is from the BC Dental Association,

1) Root canal treatment is a safe, effective, evidence-based treatment, performed routinely across Canada to alleviate pain and salvage teeth with an inflamed or infected pulp.

2) Claims that root canals cause degenerative systemic disease are based on research that is nearly 100 years old and that has long been debunked by modern scientific research.

3) There is no valid scientific evidence linking root canal-treated teeth to disease elsewhere in the body.

4) A patient’s risk of cancer does not change after having a root canal treatment. In fact, patients with multiple endodontic treatments have a 45% reduced risk of cancer. (2013 Journal of the American Medical Association Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery)

The main dental authority referred to in the documentary is Dr Weston Price – a dentist from the early 1900’s who advocated tooth extraction over root canal treatments, whose studies have been criticized and discredited since they were published close to 100 years ago.

Regardless of the evidence and the controversy surrounding the documentary, there are messages from the film that we do agree with.

The film summarizes that we should address the cause, not just the symptoms. Often times, caries or worn/fractured teeth are treated by fillings or crowns without educating the patients about the chemistry responsible for the caries in the first place or investigating potential bite issues that might be driving the wear on teeth.

The film also talks about how the medical and dental field don’t interact enough with each other.

The most important take-away from the film, we believe, is the message of taking good care of your oral hygiene and having a program in place to minimize the amount of pathogenic organisms in your mouth leaking into your bloodstream. Scientific studies have shown strong correlation between gum inflammation and cardiovascular disease. (