Root Canals, Formaldehyde, Infections — Oh My!

Episode 15 of Dangers in Dentistry, originally aired on KPRZ in San Diego.

No one wants a root canal. But are there medical reasons to avoid the painful root canal therapy that so many people undergo?

The bacteria left in the tooth after a root canal can infect the mouth, the jaw, the blood stream, and the entire body. The chemicals used to sterilize your canal during the procedure (including formaldehyde) can also cause serious damage to your overall health.

So why are root canals performed? Do they really “save the tooth,” as endodontists and dentists like to say?

Discover the truth about the dangers — and benefits — of root canals in this week’s episode of Dangers in Dentistry, with America’s Holistic Dentist, Dr. Marvin.

Dr. Marvin
San Diego, Encinitas Holistic and Natural Dentist

Subscribe to RSS Feed Subscribe RSS Feed to iTunes



  1. My mom has had a root canal recently and has ever since been suffering from a bad cough. Bad enough that she coughs and retches for 20 to 30 minutes, sometimes twice a day. It appears to be an infection in the trachea because thats where she says the breath seems to stop. She’s been put on antibiotics, but its been 2 weeks on that but there’s hardly a difference. During the coughing fits, she can’t breathe. Could this be related to the root canal? What are the possible solutions since the apnea is very scary.

  2. so i’m reading this looking for some sort of answer to the extreme pain that i have in my front tooth where 9 months ago had a crown then root canal.
    my tooth was chipped pretty bad from young age the filling had broken off 4 years ago and just kept breaking it was driving me nuts
    went in asked about options either another filling or crown, i was told a crown would last estimated 15yrs rather than 15 months so i did the math figured spend the $ once.
    they started process of getting tooth ready for crown severe pain had to adjust bite after a couple of weeks cause i was determined to ignore pain, had no idea my bottom teeth weren’t supposed to hit the back of front teeth and they didn’t tell me either before i left

    they told me after 2 more weeks that they were just gonna put crown on pain was from grinding my teeth
    ok they put crown on adjusted bite a bunch
    i was still in pain, bad a week later they tell me only option is root canal no infection was showing in X-rays by the way.
    i was still hurting by the 4th visit back they told me it was too soon (a month later) that tooth was still sore been thru a lot of trauma
    so i let it go I’ve been in pain ever since was too embarrassed to call back and my husband wouldn’t let me finish paying the bill since issue wasn’t resolved.
    I’m at the point now where my lip touching it or moving around it hurts, there is chipped pieces on both sides of back of crown and a tiny chip at top front of crown. i can see the back cause i have been using one of those little mirrors they gave my child at dentist to check for food since it seems to shift when food stuck in between teeth.
    I’m at my whits end here and am actually scared to go back to the guy and certainly don’t have the $ to start over

    oh i forgot to mention that 2 teeth back the gums have turned severely red and seem to have sunk in on both sides my top jaw hurts pretty much all the time like i have a bad sinus infection without the sinuses.
    please help can anyone give me some tips on how to relive the pain and what step to take now?

  3. Events: After 5 symptom-free years of having root canal done on tooth #12, it has suddenly come alive with severe pain & thermal/contact sensitivty. So, last Monday, the endodontist drilled in it again and ‘put in medicine’ to fight any suspect infection, and return in 3 weeks to finish the root canal process. Since I was already on 500mg/day of Levaquin, additional antibiotics were not prescribed. For 5 days everything was fine. Now there the gum at the root level is swollen with more pain, though a different kind of pain than earlier (but no thermal/contact sensitivity at the tooth. Now I am starting on 4x500mg/day Pencillin VK.
    Question: Why would a root canal go bad after 5 years? And why the sudden infection while on Levaquin antibiotic? And is Penicllin VK the proper antibiotic for this type of infection?

    • loralilee Says: May 7, 2014 at 3:48 am

      I’ll let u know something a sincere dentist told me—–Once u have bacteria in a certain spot, u cannot get rid of it %100. Because of this, a abcess can always return. I spoke to George Meinig right b4 he passed away. He was the author of, “Root Canal, Cover up”. He said that ur dentist or endodontist may tell u that they got all of the bacteria, but, that isn’t true. So, I hope this helps u. Once u have bacteria in a certain spot, dentist cannot get rid of it %100, they can %99 but, not %100. Because of this, the infection may return at some point. There is a lot our dentist don’t tell us Alex. It’s all about making money.


      Might be worth looking at getting the tooth out

  4. After doing some research, I’m wondering why I sat there for eight hours to get two root canals done four years ago. Also, why have my dentists not listened to me when I told them something was wrong?! In the past four years, I’ve been on multiple rounds of antibiotics, but I still have a lingering infection. I haven’t had a day where my entire lower jaw hasn’t hurt in the past four years.

    My main question: Why didn’t my dentists warn me, and why haven’t they been listening to me when I tell them I’m in pain?! This whole ordeal makes me even more afraid of going to the dentist.

    • This is one of my biggest pet peeves: dentists who think they are above the patient and refuse to listen. Why does graduating from dental school give someone the right to ignore their patients? It seems to me that would be in direct violation of the Hippocratic Oath that we all took in school.

      • Hello Dr, I had root canal done on tooth # 7, till 4 years i did not experience any pain but after 4 years I am experiencing pain and pressure there(manageable not severe), I am unable to consume anything hot or crunchy, all i can eat is soft and easy to chew food stuff, I also have a cavity on my upper tooth for which my dentist has recommended root canal, If i undergo root canal for another tooth of mine and would experience the same scenario in couple of years then whats the use?It is not a feasible solution in long run. Please advice. What advice would you give to avoid such pain or infection in a root canal-ed tooth? What care should be taken after undergoing root canal to avoid such a scenario? (I stay in India, cant consult you personally)

  5. Tony Fernandez Says: August 9, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    WoW! That pretty much sums it up,you are totally screwed if you need a Root Canal!

    • You’re right… it’s good motivation to brush and floss regularly, right? Remember, too, that many root canals are simply misdiagnosed (not all, but often they get mis-diagnosed because our dental system does not encourage or reward detailed diagnostics, so if your tooth hurts and there is no obvious reaon why, many dentists will recommend a root canal because it WILL get you out of pain). So if someone recommends a root canal, get a second opinion, just in case.

  6. Dr Marvin,

    Thanks for the info!!! Very Useful and interesting.
    Like Sean, I also feel the options to root canals not viable.
    1. Leave alone — hole maybe bad, teeth may shift.
    2. Implants: May contrain metal — bad!!
    3. Partial: May contain metal – Bad!!
    4. Bridge: May contain metal — BAd!!!
    OK: I See the trend……..and a potential money making solution. DESIGN, implants, Partials, and Bridges that are NOT Detrimental to the Body! Whomever can do that……..makes alot of MONEY!!! Great potential PATENT.

    Surprized, noone has solved it???

    Love your site!! Keep up the good work educating people.

  7. Udayan Chattopadhyay Says: May 16, 2011 at 5:52 am

    I had to get a root canal done… painful but necessary!

  8. […] We talk a lot about the alternatives to root canals typically the only alternative mentioned is extraction of the tooth. But is that really the only alternative? Surely there must be other options, right? This was the question posed by Sean after listening to recent podcasts (Root Canals, Infections, Formaldehyde, Oh My!). […]

  9. I feel like I’m missing something here. I thought there was going to be a clear discussion on the alternatives. The only alternative I got out of both radio broadcasts was tooth extraction, or at least that was the way it seemed. So the alternatives are root canal or tooth extraction?

    • Sean, the answer is much more complicated than that, but typically yes, the only two options are root canal or extraction. To better explain all the options I wrote a new article today (the full answer was too long for a comment on a post). You can check it out here: The Alternatives to Root Canals. I hope that helps clear it up a bit better.

      Thanks for the comment/question. I’ll be sure to explain our position on root canals further next time.
      Dr. Marvin

  10. steven crawford Says: October 8, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    With this in mind, if you’re having a root canal therapy, you better make sure your dentist is well experience and qualified.

  11. […] post:  The health concerns of base canals and formaldehyde, and what you … Share and […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *