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Guest column

MagazineJuly 1992 (Vol. 3 Issue 4)Guest column

Dr Weston Price, a former director of Research for the American Dental Association, spent 35 years in the first third of this century researching the systemic diseases of the heart, kidney, uterus, nervous system and endocrine system, which resulted

Dr Weston Price, a former director of Research for the American Dental Association, spent 35 years in the first third of this century researching the systemic diseases of the heart, kidney, uterus, nervous system and endocrine system, which resulted

Dr Price saw many truths that even today we have a hard time seeing, for we are bogged down in the "but we've always done it that way" thinking. His observations led him far beyond the accepted remedies of that day (1915-1930) which, incidentally, are basically the same treatments that are the foundation of today's root canal fundamentals. He researched 24 of those fundamentals and found each to be lacking.

Root canal fillings (that fill up the space formerly occupied by the nerve) can be done in two ways. Usually a hole is cut from the top of the tooth into the nerve chamber and the chamber is filled through the hole. Another method is used when the abscess is further advanced. This involves cutting through the bone at the root end, clearing out all the infected material there and then sealing the root tip and sewing the area together. Bone will fill in the defect. What material is usually used to seal the pulp chamber at the root tip? Amalgam. "Retrograde filling" is the term applied to this type of root canal sealing process. Mercury now has direct access to the body fluids and can cause problems similar to those created from amalgam in the mouth. The only difference is that those fillings in the mouth are much easier to replace.

All the age old common concepts about root fillings were challenged by Price in such respected dental publications as the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Journal of the American Dental Association. He disputed that:

X-rays reveal the presence of infections.

Infections express themselves as bone absorption.

A given dental infection will express itself approximately the same in all people.

If pus is flowing from the tooth it is very dangerous to the patient.

Local comfort and efficiency of treated teeth are the evidence and measure of the success of a root filled tooth.

What did Price find that convinced him that some people could not tolerate root canals?

First he observed that if he removed root filled teeth from people suffering from kidney and heart disease, in most cases, they would improve. In an effort to establish a relationship between the tooth and the disease, he inserted the root filled teeth under the skin of rabbits. Rabbits have a similar immune system to humans. In fact, a normal, non infected human tooth (as removed for orthodontic reasons) can be inserted under the skin of a rabbit for a year with practically no reaction. A thin film will form over it, but microscopically there are no rejection cells present.

When a root filled tooth was implanted under the skin of a rabbit, the rabbit died in under two days, sometimes within 12 hours. Price then took a small fragment of the tooth and inserted it under the skin of a rabbit. In two weeks the rabbit would lose over 20 per cent of its body weight, and die of heart or kidney disease, depending the illness of the human donor. To further challenge this observation, he removed the fragment and transferred it to another rabbit. In two weeks he observed a duplicate performance. In one case, he reimplanted the same tooth fragment in 100 rabbits, each in succession dying from the same disease that the human had. (In most cases he transferred the fragment only 30 times.)

As obvious as the consequences were, dentists persisted in placing root canal fillings. This, of course, caused a hot argument among dentists, and soon Dr Percy R. Howe published a paper in the Journal of the National Dental Association rejecting Price's findings. Howe injected large amounts of streptococcus bacteria into rabbits, and found no adverse reactions. This 1920 publication is still used as proof that root filled teeth are not harmful to humans.

Price investigated the methods used to sterilize root canals (similar to today's technology) and found that teeth retained their sterility for only about two days. Most lost it in less than 24 hours. But where were these bacteria hiding? A tooth contains enamel, dentin and a central pulp chamber. This central pulp chamber can be sterilized to a reasonable degree by removing its contents of nerves, arteries and veins. The dentin, however, is composed of thousands of tiny "dentin tubules". Although microscopic in size, these tubules are quite adequate to house billions of bacteria. If one took a front tooth and arranged the dentin tubules end to end, they would measure three miles.

Where do these bacteria come from? They are normal inhabitants of the mouth. When a tooth becomes decay prone, they invade the tooth and start killing tooth tissues. When they reach the pulp chamber, they invade not only the pulp tissue, but also the dentin tubules. When a dentist cleans out the pulp chamber, he removes all the bacteria in the chamber, but those little guys who went into the tubules are still there. Then the dentist seals the tooth, and that's when the trouble starts.

In this "anaerobic" condition one that contains no oxygen these streptococci (specifically diploic and short chain strains from the viridens group) undergo a slight change in body form and metabolism to adapt to this new environment. Now, instead of producing slightly offensive waste products, these transformed bacteria produce a potent poison called a toxin, but the cells of our immune system cannot get in through the tiny hole in the outside of the root to destroy the bacteria. The toxins can seep out. Fluids containing nutrients can seep into the tooth, so the bacteria continue to thrive in confinement.

If the body launches a big fight against the toxins, then pus forms around the tooth. Conventional wisdom says that pus is bad for the patient, and we must give antibiotics until it is gone. Price found that pus was nearly sterile, and, though disagreeable, it was a sign of successfully quarantining the toxins from the tooth.

Another upsetting situation pointed out by Price was that x-rays frequently miss abscesses that are on the front or back of a tooth. About 30 per cent of the teeth have extra canals which may exit anywhere from halfway down the tooth, to all the way down at the tip, as they are supposed to. They can also exit at the front, back or side of the tooth. Those "other" canals that abscess are the ones apt to be missed on x-ray.

If the body's immune system is compromised, then very little action is initiated around a root filled tooth. Certain enzymes may escape, which stimulate the bone to form what is termed "condensing osteitis" around the tooth. This is heavier than usual bone. It may actually fuse the surrounding bone of the tooth. On x-ray films, this will appear to be what is considered excellent healing. This tooth gives no local trouble as far as pain and pus are concerned, but the toxins that seep out get into the circulation and with little immune system interference, they seek a specific organ to attack. This is called tissue localization. Price had demonstrated this by transferring sections of root filled teeth from animal to animal, generating the same disease with each transfer.

Many people have root canals that don't give problems. How does one distinguish between the susceptible and the non susceptible? Price recorded 140,000 determinants in some 1200 patients to come up with the answer. The bottom line is heredity. If your biological ancestry for two generations back, including brothers and sisters of your grandparents, was resistant to degenerative disease, then you are of good stock and not likely to be affected by root canal. On the other hand, if there is a high frequency of heart and kidney problems, diabetes or reproductive disorders, then you might be susceptible.

Price also determined that a variety of stresses tended to push people over their threshold where root canal becomes a problem.

He found that the two greatest were pregnancy and influenza. Under the influence of either, the toxins from root filled teeth were much more apt to produce disease at the individual's specific susceptible site. Other stresses that upset root filled teeth were grief, anxiety, chilling, severe hunger, and acute and chronic infection.

What if you have a root canal and want it removed? You don't just pull the tooth because this might give you more problems. When these teeth are removed, the attachment from the tooth to the bone, called the periodontal ligament, must be removed with a dental bur at the same time. This irritates the old bone, stimulating it to form new bone. Recently, in my studies at the University of Colorado where I was finishing a masters program in science, we looked at biopsies of the bones under the root filled teeth that we had removed. The lymphocytes of autoimmune disease were imbedded at least a millimetre intothe bone, and sometimes more. All this must be removed if good bone healing is to be achieved.

Dr Huggins, an American dentist, has spent 25 years researching lecturing and writing about the dangers of amalgam fillings and root canal filled teeth.

More recently during study for a master of science, he discovered that many people suffer form immune suppression due to the presence of dental fillings and root canals. Dr Huggins may be contacted at 5080 List Drive, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80919, USA

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