How long can a root canal last?

In Part 1 of this two part article about root canals, I told the story of my first, traumatic, root canal on a front tooth more than thirty years ago.

I still have that root canal right in the front of my mouth. Over the years it gradually became discolored. I called it my grey tooth and would try to hide it in photos.

It felt like the most visible marker of my bad teeth I could feel it growing weaker and tried to avoid biting into crunchy food on that side.

Then, about 8 years ago, it snapped in half on a cookie. Now my grey tooth was a blackened stump hovering over a gap.

It wasn’t painful, it wasn’t dangerous, but the shame was overpowering. To my mind, nothing screamed ‘desperately poor’ like a missing front tooth.

As soon as I could get to a dentist, I got a crown which involved inserting a post through the stump roots, into the gum, crowned to match the rest of my teeth.

Good news: no more grey tooth. Bad news: the crown was even more fragile than the dead tooth and snapped off within a few months, leaving me with a blackened stump/steel post/gap in the middle of my mouth, in the middle of a job search.

I had to find a new dentist and borrow money to pay for another crown. With the new crown I avoided biting cookies, carrots and apples. But within months it had broken on a piece of toast.

I asked for the replacement crown to be made shorter for better stability. It has only needed to be replaced once in seven years. I don’t mind the short tooth, even though gives me a lisp.


Root canals and your health

There is a growing awareness of how a root canal can affect one’s general health due to toxification of bacteria in the tiny tubules of the roots. This can lead to inflammation in the mouth or elsewhere in the body, especially along the meridians (microscopic energetic channels) that connect each tooth to organs, sinuses, sense organs, vertebrae, muscles, tissues, joints and glands.

Root canals have been implicated in the onset of degenerative diseases such as arthritis, heart valve problems, breast cancer, gall bladder disease, eczema, cystitis, colitis, migraines, sinusitis, hypertension coronary artery disease and thyroid disease.

Many people have found that debilitating symptoms such as problems with digestion, fatigue, headaches or skin, that couldn’t be diagnosed or cured conventionally actually disappeared when they had a root canaled tooth removed.

There is a contentious debate between dentists who unquestioningly advocate doing root canals to ‘save the tooth’ and those who believe all root canals are toxic and must be removed for safety. On one side they compare a toxic root canal to an infection under your fingernail to treat with antibiotics, and other side they compare it to a gangrenous toe that must be amputated.

I believe that both and neither argument is correct, because some of us are more resilient and able to tolerate a root canal, and its potential toxicity, better than others. This resilience can change over time and in response to different circumstances.

Should you remove your root canal?

Many people can tolerate a root canal well and it is possible to live for decades without a root canal causing problems. 

My first root canal is now over 30 years old and of the five more I have had done since, two remain in my mouth.  My overall health is pretty good but I know that the longer a root canal is in place, the more one is at risk.

Symptoms of an autoimmune condition or degenerative disease would certainly make me question whether I should remove one or more of my root canals.

However, I work with a kinesiologist who monitors the level of toxicity in the root canal and any adverse affects through out the body, especially on associated meridians. I’m confident that I am managing the risk with a healthy lifestyle and close monitoring.

I’ve created a checklist of ten questions to help monitor the stability and potential impact of a root canal on general health, which you can download now.

This is my checklist of questions to ask both before getting a new root canal and when considering removing one. Most of the questions are the same in both situations, and the checklist includes a separate discussion for how to interpret your answers when considering a removal.

Assessing your root canal

If, like me, you have root canaled teeth in your mouth right now, what should you do?

Some professionals will advise removal in every case.

However, many people can cope with one for years, or at least tolerate the consequences of root canal toxicity for years.

The first question to ask about your existing root canal is whether you have symptoms that suggest toxic influences from the root canal.

If you have a degenerative disease or symptoms in related body parts for that tooth, there is a reasonable likelihood of a root canal connection.

Conventional medical tests will probably not pick up whether the tooth is connected, but alternative tests such as Applied Kineseology or AEV (Electro-acupuncture) or consulting with a Medical Intuitive or Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner may help give you some guidance.

If there are no obvious symptoms, but you are concerned about future risks, I recommend going through the Root Canal Questions Checklist for a holistic perspective on your options.  Maintaining a healthy, low stress lifestyle and monitoring your health closely can help you to manage the risks of living with a root canal. 

On the other hand, if your root canal seems to be connected to serious health problems in the rest of your body, removing the tooth may alleviate your symptoms or may even cure the disease.

Extracting a root canal

Removing an existing root canal means extracting the tooth.

Extraction carries it’s own risks which are increased when the underlying problem that led to the root canal procedure and/or contributed to it’s intolerable toxicity has not been addressed.

If jaw tension, poor nutrition, poor hygiene or emotional issues triggered the infection or decay that led to your root canal, those same issues may also make you more vulnerable to a ‘failed root canal’, may provoke disease elsewhere along your meridians, may lead to cavitation after an extraction or an implant being rejected by the body.

Cavitation is an infection in the jaw bone which can gradually erode bone density and lead to inflammation in the mouth and elsewhere in the body especially those parts connected to the tooth’s meridians. Cavitation (which is a risk associated with all types of extractions) can take years to develop noticeable symptoms.

Watch this space

Eventually extractions (of any kind) may lead to bone loss, misaligned teeth, and perhaps issues with the opposing teeth as well (the risk is higher if the gap is left unfilled).

You will have to choose between an implant, a partial (false tooth) or leaving a gap. 

None of these is an ideal option and for many people losing a tooth is a major barrier to choosing to remove a root canal tooth, especially if there are no obvious symptoms of toxicity.

Furthermore, few conventional dentists seem willing to remove an apparently healthy (at least by conventional dental standards) root canaled tooth.  There are actually very few dentists worldwide who actively encourage the removal of root canals (they generally prefer to do over the root canal – do overs of failed root canals account for two of my six root canal procedures).

Working with a root canal removal specialist can cost $10,000* for multiple visits to prepare for the extraction, laser clean after extraction to prevent cavitation and eventually filling the gap with an implant (*this kind of service seems to cost about the same in both USD and AUD).


Living well with your root canal

For many people, removing a root canal is not affordable, accessible or perhaps even desirable.

Once you have a root canal in your mouth there is no ideal outcome, so you need to feel confident that you are making the best decision for your unique needs and circumstances (recognising this may change over time). 

If the best decision right now is to keep your root canal in place, at least until you can find or afford a dentist to remove it safely and replace it appropriately, what’s next?

The same strategies that may heal and prevent decay in your living teeth are the foundation for tolerating a root canal, even if there is toxicity.

Nourishing food, herbs and supplements increase your body’s resilience and help your elimination organs to deal with root canal toxins effectively.

Relaxing the jaw enables your innate bodily systems designed to flush out toxins to function better.

Safe and effective oral hygiene habits help keep the oral cavity healthy to avoid provoking more toxicity in the root canal.

Perhaps most importantly though, working energetically with your meridians (and the rest of your energetic body) may help you to tolerate and perhaps even to heal a toxic root canal.  Some of the modalities that work energetically with meridians include kinesiology, acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine and the kind of intuitive healing that I practice with my clients.

Meliors Simms headshot

Hello! I'm Meliors Simms, the Holistic Tooth Fairy.

As a natural oral health coach I have worked with hundreds of clients worldwide to avoid unnecessary dental procedures and have better experiences with the necessary ones. (Find out about my coaching services here).

After a diverse career (from research to counselling to arts) and a lifetime of terrible teeth, I stumbled on an Alt Oral approach which prevented what would have been my 7th root canal.

That inspired years of independent research and experimentation, eventually resulting in my uniquely holistic approach to oral health.

My new book The Secret Lives of Teeth is a comprehensive guide to healing teeth and gums with metaphysical perspective. Read a sample here for free



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