Here’s a minor but attention-grabbing dental horror story: “A former dentist in Massachusetts has pleaded guilty to Medicaid fraud for using paper clips instead of stainless steel posts in root canals.”
Technically, though, posts aren’t used in root canals. But “Mass. dentist admits doing paper clip post and core restorations following root canal treatment” is kinda wordy. And it doesn’t sound quite so scary.
Root canal treatment basically involves gutting a deeply decayed tooth: taking out the diseased but living tissue and filling the empty space – the literal “root canal” – with gutta percha or similar material. Since so much tooth structure is lost, the dentist has to recreate some of it to provide stability for a crown. This recreation is called a “core.” Sometimes, a metal post will be placed alongside the root canal to help anchor the core to the tooth.
Suffice it to say, those posts aren’t normally made of paper clip sections – although, according to the AP, Massachussetts Attorney General and non-dentist Martha Coakley said that “paper clips can sometimes be used temporarily.”
Interestingly, posts may actually make a root canal tooth more vulnerable. One study – published in the European Journal of Medical Research in 2005 – found that while 6.6% of non-post root canal teeth had complications, more than 13% of post restorations did.
The Cox-Regression analysis showed that teeth restored with a post system had a statistically significant higher failure rate (p = 0.044) than those which had been restored without posts.
Considered from the standpoint of biological dental medicine, inserting metal into a root canal filled tooth is just adding fuel to a fire. Not only do you have a dead tooth in the mouth as an energetic block and potential source of focal infection; you also have inorganic material disrupting energy flow on the associated meridian, just like a dental implant. Even more, if other metals are in the mouth – say, a core made out of mercury amalgam – you have a trigger for oral galvanism. In short, you’ve effectively tripled the risk of developing dentally-related illness elsewhere in the body, far beyond the mouth.
As for the Massachussetts doc? He’s also pled guilty to assault and battery, illegally prescribing prescription drugs and witness intimidation. He’ll be sentenced next week.
Image by Louise de Cours, via Flickr