Root Canals Are a Chronic Focus, Part 1

From the February 2014 issue of Biosis:

What Weston Price REALLY Learned About Root Canals

By Gary M. Verigin, DDS, CTN

Every week, we get calls from people who desperately want to know if we remove root canal teeth. They say that somewhere on the Web, they’ve read that having those teeth removed may relieve their symptoms of MS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or any number of other chronic, degenerative diseases.

To be honest, it can sometimes sound like they’ve just heard Chicken Little holler that the sky is crashing down. For more often than not, they just haven’t investigated the issue very thoroughly yet. They’ve read or watched video by so-called experts who may refer to George Meinig’s Root Canal Cover-Up, whether they’ve actually read the whole thing or not, let alone Weston Price’s two volume opus on dental infections and systemic disease.

Meinig, of course, cites Price’s work as the main inspiration for his own change of heart about the dental procedure he once championed. (In case you don’t know, Meinig was a founding member of the American Association of Endodontists, the professional group for root canal specialists.) Dr. Price, he writes,

discovered a wide variety of degenerative diseases to be transferable to rabbits, such as endocarditis and other heart diseases, kidney and bladder diseases, arthritis, rheumatism, mental diseases lung problems, pregnancy complications, almost any degenerative problem – and after extraction of these teeth, a large percentage of patients recovered from their illnesses.

But that’s a little bit broader than what Price actually stated in Dental Infections and the Degenerative Diseases:

I see no escape from the conclusion that many of the degenerative diseases – [such] as nephritis, myocarditis, endocarditis, arthritis, neuritis, gastric ulcer, cholecystitis, appendicitis, neurasthenia, psychoneurosis, iritis, retinitis, myositis, pancreatitis, etc., etc. – have as one of their important, and [in] MANY cases their chief causative factor, dental infections. [emphasis added]

Clearly, root canals alone are not the issue. There are other factors at work. A closer look at Price’s 25 years of research and ultimate conclusions casts further light on what those other factors are.

wa_priceEven in his day, Price was known as a world-class dental research specialist. (He’s also known as the Charles Darwin of Nutrition, but that’s another story for another time.) He was so highly regarded by his peers that in 1915, he was appointed as the first research director of the National Dental Association – the group that would, just a few years later, change its name back to the American Dental Association (ADA).

By this time, he had already published 150 scientific articles in dental and medical journals, many of them on his research on root canal teeth. He was also well versed in the work of the noteworthy scientists on focal infection theory – William Hunter, Frank Billings, Milton Rosenau, Martin Fischer and others. From their work, Price knew that up to 33% of all diseases had at that time been linked to pre-existing dental infections.

Besides being Research Director, Price was also president and managing director of Cleveland’s Research Institute, where he presided over a team of 60 fellow scientists. His most trusted researchers and confidants were an advisory board of 18 leading researchers across multiple disciplines – microbiology, histopathology, general pathology, physiology, physiological chemistry, zoology, cardiology, serology and more. Each member was a brilliant pioneer in his own right. In addition to Billings and Rosenau, the most illustrious on this board included Dr. Charles Mayo, Dr. Thomas Forsyth, Dr. Truman Brophy, Dr. Louis Ladd, Dr. Frank Lillie and Dr. Walter Garrey.

Price jealously selected research scientists with whom he could have the closest cooperation possible, whose exclusive attention to detail would be concentrated on the work at hand, without the possibility of distraction or conflicting purpose. Their studies involved about 2000 patients and experimentation with at least 60,000 rabbits. Price – who spent his mornings engaged at the Research Institute on Euclid Street and afternoons seeing patients in his own office – expressed compassion and gratitude for both his human and animal subjects.

However, he wrote, “I wish to state that many of these rabbits have in my judgment made a far greater individual contribution and service to the welfare of humanity than hosts of human beings.”

Why so many rabbits? Price was meticulous in his research. He wanted to make sure his results were valid and avoid misinterpretation. His tests were often repeated, and he used a great variety of scientific methods to both demonstrate and accentuate the thoroughness and importance of his efforts.

His experiments famously involved implanting infected teeth under the skin of rabbits, but he needed control experiments first – something to measure outcomes against. So he began by implanting sterile coins, glass and other foreign objects. The only apparent effect was the formation of a somewhat clear, “cyst-like covering” around each object. Over the course of 100 tests, this covering was always found to be sterile.

Next, he implanted samples of healthy teeth that had been removed from orthodontic patients. Again, the response was the same: the formation of a cyst-like covering around the tooth. It was the same whether the tooth was implanted just under the skin or embedded in muscle tissue. No reaction was observed, no matter how long the teeth remained embedded. The rabbits lived full, healthy lives.

toxic_rc_toothThings went very differently, however, when samples of infected teeth were implanted. Often, a fibrous capsule formed around the sample. When this didn’t happen, Price typically found deposits of inflamed exudate and/or pus around the embedded tooth, along with white blood cells and often more than 10 different strains of streptococcus. (“Exudate” is fluid containing solutes, proteins, cells or cellular debris that is discharged into nearby tissues.)

In those cases – when no capsule formed – the rabbits usually died within a day to a few weeks. Most died within just 6 days.

When a capsule did develop, the rabbits generally lived for several months to a year. Often, they showed no evidence of injury. They did develop degenerative diseases, usually of the heart or kidneys.

Price also observed that, invariably, the capsule would begin to absorb the tooth, as if to get rid of it.

Whenever one of the rabbits died, Price would retrieve the tooth, wash it with pumice, then implant it into another rabbit. Some experiments, he’d repeat the process 30 times with the same tooth. Thirty times, the lab rabbit died.

These deaths cast light on a critical point. Going into the experiments, it was assumed that the toxic load would be reduced with each cleaning and transplant. As the toxins diminished, each rabbit, Price theorized, would live longer than the ones before it. Yet all but one died within 6 days; the one that didn’t lived for 10.

Clearly, it was not the microbes themselves that caused the rabbits to die; it was their toxic byproducts fueling infection.

This was borne out by other tests, as well. For instance, in one case, Price retrieved the root canal sample from a rabbit that had died, boiled it for an hour and then let it return to room temperature before implanting it in another rabbit. Encapsulation took place within two weeks and the rabbit lived for 22 days.

In a similar experiment, he took tooth fragments that had been implanted in several rabbits in succession and autoclaved them at 60 pounds of pressure for one hour before implanting them in a rabbit. It lived 35 days. Autoclaving infected fragments at 300 pounds for two hours changed nothing. The next rabbits into which they were placed all developed encapsulations but did not survive, disproving Price’s hypothesis that sterilization would make the teeth as safe as healthy ones. Repeatedly, his tests showed that the toxins generated by the microbiota were much more lethal than any direct action of the microbes.

Price’s experiments with mice are also fascinating – and perhaps even more telling, as mice are biologically closer to humans than rabbits and have a somewhat more robust immune system. And these tests involved more than just implanting teeth and observing responses. Price nutritionally altered their diets, as well. Mice that were given a diet deficient in minerals took about 40 days, on average, to expel the infected tooth that had been embedded under their skin. Those that were given a nutritious, mineral-enriched diet needed only 6 days to accomplish the same task.

His conclusion? The environment in which the tooth is placed – the “soil,” so to speak – matters greatly.

In the next issue of Biosis, we’ll delve into Price’s conclusions about the impact of root canaled teeth on health and what subsequent research has had to tell us about this particular type of oral focus…

To subscribe to Biosis, Dr. Verigin’s quarterly newsletter, use the form you’ll find in the sidebar here.

Infection image from Dr. Graeme Munro-Hall BDS, via PRLog

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10 Natural Medicine Quotes

Collected from around the Web…

hippocrates quote
geddes quote
lipman quote
peale quote
burbank quote
montaigne quote

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Mercury Amalgam Affects More Than Just the Teeth It’s Packed In

Sometimes, you can’t help but wonder if dental mercury’s defenders operate on the belief that if you say something over and over and over and over and over and over again, repetition shall make it so:

screenshot of pro-mercury article

For a good discussion of the data on sources and levels of mercury exposure, see this analysis of a similar pro-mercury article.


But let’s pretend – just for a moment – that mercury amalgam is all that its defenders claim it is: strong, durable and completely safe when packed inside a tooth. Of course, this means also pretending that countless patients who have suffered illness related to their amalgams don’t really exist or were never really sick…or some other cold and insulting fiction.

Even if such a world existed, that amalgam would still be about 50% mercury and considered hazardous material anywhere outside human teeth. When removed, it’s considered toxic waste. And every year, 340 tons of it makes its way into the environment.

Dental Mercury’s Toxic Journey Back to the Environment

From there, it’s up the food chain – the much more concerning source of mercury than dental amalgam, according to the apologist above.

It’s not without reason that dental sources of mercury were addressed in the Minimata Convention, even if the recommended measures are weaker than ideal.

There are other more suitable, less toxic and equally durable alternatives to amalgam available. Considering all the risks – to patients, dental workers and our very planet – it seems only common sense to opt for those safer alternatives.

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9 Dental Don’ts

So what’s better than fluoride at preventing cavities, gum disease and other oral health issues? Quality nutrition is a big part of it – going easy on hyper-processed foods, added sugars, soft drinks and the like; going heavy on whole foods, produce and healthy natural fats.

Good hygiene is another critical factor. Yet perhaps many of us come up short because what’s to be done seems so simply obvious: What could be so hard about brushing or flossing?

Nothing, really. But there’s a lot about them that’s easy to overlook. And that’s the stuff of this helpful list of 9 dental don’ts that can lead to big problems down the road – courtesy of Dr. Timothy Chase, a cosmetic dentist in New York City:

Top Oral Hygiene Mistakes You May Be Making

    child at mirror with toothbrush

  1. Brushing too long or too often
    Brushing is necessary to maintain great oral hygiene, but that doesn’t mean you necessarily have to brush every time you eat. According to Dr. Chase, you can actually end up doing more harm than good if you brush your teeth too often or too long. What he suggests is that you brush 2-3 times per day, at least a half hour after meals to avoid eroding your tooth enamel.
  2. Brushing too hard
    One might think that the harder you brush, the more likely it is that your stains will disappear. However, that doesn’t exactly hold true, and brushing too hard can actually cause injury to your gums and can lead to loss of enamel and notching of the root surface of the teeth. Brushing should be done using gentle pressure, with the bristles angled toward the gum line, in small circular motions. Another easy solution is to replace your manual brush with a quality electric brush, which studies show work better and cause less damage.
  3. Brushing immediately after eating
    Brushing soon after eating or drinking acidic foods is one big mistake a lot of people make. Doing so can increase the risk of tooth abrasion. Shortly after you eat or drink acidic foods, the acids in the food weaken the enamel of your teeth. Therefore, postpone brushing to at least 30 minutes after eating, by which time the saliva secreted in the mouth can neutralize the acids.
  4. Only brushing your teeth
    Brushing is not limited to just the teeth. Your tongue needs to be cleaned too. The grooves and ridges on your tongue can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Ignoring your tongue can be the cause of bad breath as well.
  5. Using the wrong toothbrush
    All tooth brushes are not created equal! The only types toothbrushes that should be used are those with soft or extra soft bristles. Using a medium or hard brush can lead to gum recession and damage to tooth structures.
  6. Not replacing your toothbrush
    Can you remember the last time that you replaced your toothbrush? Over time, brushes lose their flexibility and the bristles begin to wear out. Not changing your toothbrush at least every three months can make your efforts to maintain oral hygiene useless.
  7. Not using floss
    Toothbrushes can’t reach certain places, such as between your teeth and under the gum line. Flossing should be done at least once a day to reach these areas, but can be done more often if you tend to have food stick between your teeth. Gently move the floss between your teeth until it reaches the gum, then pull it so that is partially wraps around each tooth. Floss once or twice a day, preferably after dinner.
  8. Not drinking waterIt is very important to drink water throughout the day. Not only does water help rinse food particles from the mouth, but it also helps restore the natural pH. In addition, water keeps you hydrated, which helps in the production of saliva that keeps the mouth healthy and clean.
  9. Not receiving regular dental check-ups
    Even if you correct all of your oral hygiene mistakes, you still need to visit your dentist at least once every six months or more if you have any dental issues. Brushing and flossing alone cannot remove plaque that can harden into calculus; only your dentist or hygienist can remove this. Besides dental disease, your dentist can also help diagnose other potential issues such as oral cancer, TMJ and other systemic diseases.
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A Breath of Fresh Air

Here’s a breath of fresh air, courtesy of a general dentist and dental consultant over in the UK: Fluoridation – whether effective or not – isn’t really worth fighting for.

The days of mass medication are surely over. People nowadays know how to look after themselves and have no wish to have additional chemicals added to their drinking water. They see this as an unwarranted and highly personal interference in their lives without public support and without a real chance for the people to object….

This is not a rant against water fluoridation so much as a plea to listen to, recognise and understand the strength of the public opposition and to realise it is highly unlikely we will ever see mass fluoridation of the water supply and perhaps that might not be so bad.

Oral health is improving generally and the minority of children who need the help we could offer via the water supply are not likely to ever receive it. That may seem harsh and unkind but if the mass of the people have implicitly or explicitly decided that water supply fluoridation is not to their taste we are wasting precious time and resources on a project that is doomed to repeated failure.

There are certainly better, less passive, more ethical ways of improving oral health…

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Put Up the Pinata! Root Canal Awareness Week Is Almost Here!

tooth pinata and toothbrush batAnother year, another National Root Canal Awareness Week about to begin, courtesy of the American Association of Endodontists (i.e., root canal specialists).

“Millions of root canal treatments are performed successfully every year,” they say in their publicity materials, “saving natural teeth and helping patients keep their smiles.” They tout the fact that more than 3/4 surveyed say they’d “want to avoid losing a permanent tooth, something root canal treatment can help prevent.”

That’s presuming, of course, that they don’t mind that tooth being morally, ethically, spiritually, physically, positively, absolutely, undeniably and reliably dead.

For that’s what a root canal therapy (RCT) involves: removing all the living human tissue within, then filling and crowning the remaining hull of the tooth. Take a look:

In no other case would it be considered good medicine to leave a dead organ inside a living body.

More, it is impossible to completely disinfect the dentin – the tissue between the enamel and pulp. Its 3 miles or so of microscopic tubules make an ideal home for bacteria and other pathogens, which continue to generate toxic, metabolic waste long after the tooth has been filled and crowned. In fact, that’s when they thrive, preferring a dark, moist, low-oxygen environment.

Such toxins may freely enter the general circulation via the tooth root and go on to affect other tissues in the body.

That’s what Dr. Joseph Issels was getting at when he referred to a root canal tooth as “a dangerous toxin producing ‘factory,’” and a potential source of chronic, degenerative illness – just as Weston Price had established in the early 20th century and has been repeatedly confirmed since.

The solution is not to just yank out all root canal teeth, though. In fact, one reason why Price’s work on focal infections came to be discounted was dentists naively extracting root canal teeth from patients whose health did not improve one bit afterwards. It wasn’t the theory that was wrong; only some of the actions it inspired.

Simple extraction is seldom if ever enough.

If healing is to happen, the health of the extracellular matrix – the biological terrain – MUST be addressed first. For just as its condition dictates the course of disease, it also guides healing. Addressing the terrain means supporting and strengthening the body’s self-regulating abilities so that when it comes time to address specific dental issues – root canal teeth or otherwise – the body will be able to respond positively and move toward health.

For more on Issels and the connections between systemic health and root canal teeth, see “Focus on Foci” from the Issels clinic.

For more on the biological terrain, see Dr. Verigin’s booklet How Illness Happens, and related materials in our Biodental Library.


Image via Lucy Barfoot

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5 Toothy Idioms – & What They Mean

Mind if we chew the fat for a while? Not spend time gnawing on some chunky piece of lard, of course, but talk – and in particular, about some toothy idioms, such as…well, “chewing the fat.”

teethAn idiom is a turn of phrase, an expression that can’t be understood literally. Rather, it means something totally different and separate. Often, it’s tough going to translate idioms from one language to another, but all languages have them.

And more often than not, they have some basis in their literal meanings. Let’s look at “chew the fat” again. Imagine a person chewing on a buttery piece of meat: It looks kind of like talking. The word “ruminate” – to think deeply about something – relates to a similar expression: chewing the cud. Picture a cow, an animal known as a “ruminant,” peacefully chewing her cud on a grassy knoll.

Since teeth are a critical part of our existence, it’s not surprising that so many idioms use teeth. Here are 5 familiar ones:

  1. Armed to the teeth
    This old expression – dating to Middle English – means “to be armed completely.” When we use it today, though, we may not be talking about actual weapons but merely saying, in a more colorful way, that we’re thoroughly, totally prepared.
  2. By the skin of your teeth
    This phrase comes to us from the book of Job (19:20): “My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth.” Teeth not actually having skin, of course, there’s some argument as to what this actually means. We use it today to mean a narrow escape – without a scrape.
  3. Cut your eye teeth on
    When children’s first teeth begin to erupt, it’s often described as cutting teeth. To cut your eye teeth – the canines – on something means to learn the ropes of something new for you, usually eagerly. (Why are the canines called “eye teeth”?)
  4. Grit your teeth
    If you have to go through a difficult situation, you toughen up and soldier through. You may even literally clench your teeth together. Of course, you don’t want to do this habitually – well, unless recurring headaches and associated pain are your thing.
  5. Long in the tooth
    This means old – or getting there – and comes from the belief that as you age, your gums recede so your tooth roots are exposed. Such teeth look longer. However, gum recession is neither inevitable nor unheard of among younger folks. In fact, it’s a problem we’ve been seeing more of in recent years. For more on its causes and solutions for it, see our previous post on the topic.

Image by cordyceps, via Flickr

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