Root Cause is the Netflix documentary stirring up root canal concerns
I had to write this Root Cause review because root canals loom big in my life. I’ve had six root canals in five teeth, I still have three in situ. Their origins are, without exception, memorably traumatic, but their current status in my body is relatively benign.
Avoiding what would have been my 7th root canal by changing my diet seemed like a miracle that opened my eyes to the wonderful and wacky world of alternative oral health (or alt-oral as I like to call it).
In the seven years since healing that root naturally, I have become very familiar with the experts and arguments presented in the recently released Netflix documentary Root Cause.
Books by several Root Cause featured experts are on my shelves, but I don’t agree with everything they say. Particularly when their tone veers into fear-mongering, exaggerated extremes and conspiracy theories. Theories which aren’t part of the documentary, but are easy to find in most alt-oral discussions of root canals.
On one hand, it’s exciting to see the root canal debate enter mainstream awareness. Root canals are problematic and the dental profession’s excessive use of the procedure needs to be challenged, particularly when cavities or abscesses are not present.
The flip side to this is the manipulative way that director, Frazier Bailey, presents a mixture of facts, opinion and distortions lacks nuance. These very qualities are what make Root Cause so slick and watchable actually undermine the credibility of its central argument, that root canals can cause harm. And don’t even get me started on the film’s objectification of women – I’ll save that discussion until the end of this review.
Watch ‘Root Cause’ until the end
The best part of Root Cause is the second half, where some of the more sensible and balanced information and practical advice is presented. Although the ‘sexy dental hygienist’ trope was quite unnecessary.
My highlight was Dawn Ewing and Mark Briener‘s explanations of how every tooth sits on two or more meridians, which is the main mechanism for the whole body health impacts of root canals. This is incredibly useful information to apply to any oral health problem, not just root canals. I was thrilled to see it explained clearly in a mainstream context.
Almost as an aside towards the end, the Netflix documentary mentioned that everyone processes root canals differently. Some people are much more susceptible than others to being affected by toxic root canals.
Let me repeat that, because it wasn’t emphasized enough in Root Cause: not everyone gets sick from root canals.
The dangers of root canals which are explored in such great depth were eventually put into the context of the toxic overload that everyone of us is subjected to. Sustained, cumulative and insidious exposure to environmental toxins, toxic emotions, EMF (electro-magnetic frequencies including wifi), pathogens and of course junk food, overload the body which is already burdened with a root canal.
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Recoiling in fear
By half way through the Root Cause documentary, my cortisol was so elevated by the graphic, gruesome root canal footage paired with a barrage of cancer statistics. So much so that it was hard to actually hear those quiet voices of reason at the end.
Root Cause uses horror genre film-making techniques (e.g. structure, filters and music) to manipulate our emotions.The sunshine and humour of the first act, contrasted with the dark intensity of main act, are all very effectively scary and disempowering.
Unfortunately fear and powerlessness, along with anger and grief, are toxic emotions which may actually exacerbate the impact of root canals on our health.
Many Netflix viewers are urgently seeking ways to remove their root canals safely because it’s almost impossible to watch and not feel scared. Unless you reject everything Root Cause says.
There’s plenty of dental professionals (a majority) who are using Root Cause’s dodgy statistics and misquotes to dismiss the whole argument about root canal risks. Mainstream dentists are publishing mocking reviews and associations of dental professionals worldwide are lobbying Netflix to take it down on the basis of poor science. Update: it appears that Netflix has now taken down Root Cause*, though it’s still available on Amazon.
And that’s the real problem, because important information is half-hidden in amongst the dramatic license of Root Cause. Root canals are to frequently recommended with little regard to the risks they may carry for some people.
Balance and tolerance
The Root Cause documentary didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know from seven years of research into root canals. I was already familiar with many of the experts that were selectively quoted. Having read widely and in-depth enabled me to put the documentary’s messages in context that many viewers lacking background knowledge would miss.
Root canals can contribute to serious health problems for some people. Most root canals contain bacteria, and along with cavitations, may be a contributing factor with some cases of chronic degenerative and/or autoimmune conditions.
However, everybody is different. We all have a different ability to tolerate a root canal.
Most people will not develop heart disease, cancer or chronic fatigue from their root canal. But for some people, removing the root canal may help you to recover your health.
Many people are able to tolerate a root canal without health problems for many years. Comparing a root canaled tooth to a toe with gangrene that must be amputated is inaccurate and unhelpful.
Not every case of breast cancer can be blamed on a root canal. The commonly quoted statistic that 90-something percent of breast cancer patients have a root canal on the same side cannot be traced to any published research. Even where a cancer patient does have an infected root canal, it not necessarily the cause.
A broader holistic context
I’m a holistic oral health coach. When clients come to me with concerns about their root canal we also take into consideration the non-physical and energetic impacts of getting, removing or keeping it.
In addition to oral and whole body health impacts, we may explore:
- family history
- emotional issues
- dental trauma,
- social/professional consequences of extracting a tooth
- the cost and accessibility of the procedure.
Root Cause follows the story of the director, Frazier Bailey. A white Australian man with the privilege of trying dozens of alternative therapies in his search for a cure to his mysterious malaise (the film includes a montage which seems to cover every new age modality- in mocking rhyme).
Once convinced that his root canal is behind his symptoms there seems to be no practical obstacles to getting it removed. Bailey never mentions the cost, or any difficulty in finding a co-operative dentist.
A safe removal and replacement of a single root canal can cost $10,000 and it’s common to need multiple appointments over 3-6 months. The removal process can also include:
- the preliminary scan
- tooth extraction
- ozone cleaning of the jaw
- rebuilding the jaw bone (if needed), and
- installing an implant 3-6 months later.
That’s if you can find a dentist who will do it!
Not many dentists are willing to do this kind of procedure without evidence the the root canal has failed, so it’s not unusual to have to travel, sometimes internationally, if you are determined to have your root canal tooth extracted.
Removing a root canal safely is not an easily accessible option for many people, and this documentary has left them feeling scared for the root canals they have little choice but to keep.
There are holistic strategies, including herbs, homeopathics and energy healing that can help to mitigate the physical and metaphyscial impacts of root canals, so that the body can tolerate them well.
Admittedly, Root Cause set my teeth on edge from the very beginning with its sexist montage of women in bikinis. I tried to put aside my objections to the objectification of women’s bodies that cropped up all too often throughout the film… because what does the gratuitous male gaze have to do with root canals?
I squirmed to see another condescending montage, as the main character rhymed his way through alternative therapies with no regard to the cultural context from which many of modalities have been extracted… because all those therapies weren’t the point of the documentary either.
Nonetheless, I kept watching, despite my discomfort with Root Canal‘s tone, because I want to know why so many people have suddenly started requesting my Root Canal Decision Checklist. This checklist is a free resource available on my website that didn’t get much attention until Root Cause was released on Netflix.
But in fact, the casual sexism and cultural insensitivity of Root Cause are completely aligned with its fear-mongering central message presented through a lens of privilege.
Mainstream dentist’s patronising and negative Root Cause reviews find plenty of material in the film that is deserving of valid criticism. So by itself the documentary is unlikely to sway any dental professionals currently committed to root canals.
The only way that the dental industry is ever going to look critically at the consequences of root canals is if a sufficient mass of their customers expect their concerns to be taken seriously.
Thanks to Netflix, mainstream dental practices are experiencing an increased number of patients refusing root canals, requesting removals and ultimately seeking more sympathetic providers.
Root Cause, for all it’s many flaws, is provoking a new wave of consumer demand that dentistry continues to dismiss at its own peril.
*Update: On the day I published this post, Root Cause was suddenly removed from Netflix. It was unexpected; Root Cause was not included in Vulture’s list of 42 movies planned to be removed from Netflix in February 2019. As yet, there is no explanation for this removal. Why did Netflix take down Root Cause? Was it responding to pressure from dental associations?
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Have you been told you need a root canal but you’ve been putting it off, hoping the tooth doesn’t get worse?
When your tooth wakes you in the night do you lie there trying to decide which would be worse, a root canal or an extraction?
Do you wish there were an affordable, effective, natural alternative?
Since I prevented what would have been my 7th root canal, I’ve helped many people save their teeth too.