My Neck (thyroid), Head (brain, hair, sinuses), Chest (breasts, heart) & Infected Tooth

Infected Tooth & Thyroid

Thomas E. Levy, MD, JD, is a board-certified cardiologist and attorney. He was inducted into the Orthomolecular Medicine Hall of Fame in 2016. According to Dr. Levy, all root canal-treated teeth are infected and toxic. In this article published in JOM ion November 1, 2016, Oral Pathogens: A Common Cause of Chronic Disease, he wrote:

And while no part of the body can completely avoid the regular delivery of these toxic pay-loads, they are especially prone to go via the lymphatics into the chest, neck and head. The venous drainage ends up impacting especially severely the coronary and carotid arteries.

And I stopped.

Hidden Symptoms of Tooth Infection

And I thought about my history of mysterious health complaints and chronic diseases ever since a root canal was performed on my lower left molar over 20 years ago when I was in my 20s.

  • Hair loss that regularly clogged the shower drain
  • Irritability
  • Regular sinus infections
  • Constant red, runny nose
  • Frequent sore throats with fever
  • Painful neck and shoulders
  • Hypothyroidism diagnosis in 2006
  • Heart palpitations
  • Unusually dense breasts detected at my first mammogram age 40
  • A full-body thermography showed my entire head, neck, and chest lit up like a Christmas tree from inflammation

But let’s think for a minute about all the possible health complaints that could develop if those pathogens traveled to the head, neck, and chest regions.

Head Symptoms: Damaged, frizzy, flakey, itchy, thinning hair, mental health conditions, irritability, mood swings, brain fog, attention deficit disorder, ADHD, learning disabilities, dementia, sinusitis, running nose, problems with the eyes and ears, coating on tongue, bad breath, mouth sores, gingivitis, tooth decay, gum disease, loose teeth, facial pain, tooth pain, headaches, migraines, fever

Neck Symptoms: Thyroid disease, throat infections, tonsillitis, difficulty swallowing or taking a deep breath, thyroid cancer (and all forms of cancers of the the head, neck, and chest), neck or shoulder pain

Chest Symptoms: Dense breasts, breast cysts, heart disease, lung disease, chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, emphysema

I visited a biological dentist in New York City 5 to 10 years ago. He said, “Your dental x-rays look fine but I have a hunch that you have an infection at your root canal site. You should have your tooth extracted.”

Now that sounded so extreme, and so out of the blue, especially given my x-rays never showed a problem. I had no pain of any kind and no visible problems with that tooth. It looked perfectly normal. Plus I had read all about the hot bed of debate among the dental community on unnecessary extraction of root canal teeth. On top of it all, I didn’t want to walk around with a missing tooth and then worry what to do to safely replace it.

To extract a perfectly normal tooth with no evidence but a person’s hunch just seemed like too much. Besides, the official position of the American Association of Endodontists is that root canals are safe, after all.

I decided to keep my tooth. 

If I was going to ever extract that tooth, I wanted proof, hard proof. Period.

My “Asymptomatic” Tooth

The more and more I read about the topic over the years, the more and more my gut instinct started whispering and then shouting that something was wrong with my tooth.

I went to one dentist after another that told me my tooth looked fine on standard dental x-rays and I was not symptomatic for dental infection.

I had read about panorama x-rays. It is a 2-dimensional dental x-ray that takes a wide view of the teeth, jaws and surrounding structures. You see standard dental x-rays don’t capture what’s outside the capabilities of the imaging equipment, and that includes below the roots of the tooth deep in the jaw bones.

You see a healthy oral cavity is colonized by diverse “good” microorganisms and the oral microbiome is considered the second most complex microbiome in the human body, following that of the colon. Serious problems develop when the normal oral microbiota gives rise to opportunistic pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. These opportunistic pathogens can get access to the dental pulp tissue within teeth through openings in the hard enamel whose role is to prevent entry to the interior of the teeth. Oral pathogens can pass the enamel through cavities, cracks, or traumatic injuries to the teeth. In my case, I fractured that tooth when I was a little girl from grinding my teeth and then that tooth by my 20s got infected and was given a root canal. 

In an ideal world, every root canal procedure would reach and eradicate all the pathogens within the tooth. I assumed this to be the case, but the more I dug into this topic the more I understood. Even when done perfectly by an expert dentist there is always the possibility that the root canal treatment fails to get all of the pathogenic microorganisms present. There are many possible hiding places for microorganisms in those roots, accessory canals, and complex dentin tubules. Plus some microorganisms have developed resistance to antimicrobial treatment and can survive the sterilization procedures performed in a standard root canal. This study here showed that even when all the pathogens are removed during a root canal procedure, the endoctoxins that they release may still be present. And here’s another point. There is always the possibility that a completely sterilized root canal tooth can get re-infected. 

In a study published in May 2019, researchers identified the microbiota associated with endodontic (root canal) failure as well as the reasons why these microorganisms are capable of surviving disinfection measures. They wrote:

These microorganisms have in common the following proprieties, which make them able to escape the disinfection measures: the ability to form a biofilm, to locate in areas unreachable to root canal instrumentation techniques, synergism, the ability to express survival genes and activate alternative metabolic pathways.

Enterococcus faecalis is one of the most commonly identified microoganism associated with endodontic failure, although there are many different bacteria, fungus, viruses, and even parasites that can breed in our root canal teeth. E. faecalis is a Gram-positive facultative anaerobe that naturally inhabits healthy human GI tracts but it can develop into an opportunistic pathogen in root-canal teeth. It is also a common pathogen in hospital-acquired infections. It can cause enocarditis and sepsis, urinary tract infections (remember my history of UTIs!), and meningitis.. E. faecalis is multi-drug resistant to many different antibioitics which makes it difficult to treat and it is not a far leap to guess that it may also be resistant to the standard root canal disinfectant materials. 

Tooth Anatomy & Thyroid

During the root canal procedure, the tooth is cut off from the blood and lymph supply thereby cutting off the paths to bring immune cells into the tooth and to carry waste out. Neither the body’s immune system nor antibiotics can reach within this root canal tooth and those little bugs within it go on their merry way breeding like rabbits with nothing in their way. Imagine that infected root canal like a water tap stuck “on” with pathogens flowing out of it every every second of every day for years, and even decades for some people, making their way around the body. The reality is that a root canal tooth is a “dead” tooth and I’m not sure how having a dead thing in your body can be such a good idea.

Oral Pathogens & My Thyroid

Yes the immune system can fight the pathogens once they have migrated outside the root canal space where they can be reached by antibodies traveling through the blood stream but just imagine how a constant flood of “foreign” invaders would over time weaken the immune system and even set the stage for autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Grave’s disease. Think of the root canal tooth as an ant hill and “the ants go marching two by two, hurrah, hurrah”. It sounds so cute in a children’s song but not so cute when bad bugs are marching out of my tooth towards organs more than likely, I have a hunch, to the weakest links in my body. The immune system can only handle this non-stop onslaught for so long before it breaks down. It’s just a matter of time.

A 2018 Yale University study discovered that bacteria in the small intestines can travel to other organs and trigger an autoimmune response. This concept that pathogens can travel around the body is what got my wheels turning to write this article.

I had my root canal for over 20 years so just imagine the number of years that those bad bugs were growing and replicating in my darn tooth and then traveling to my nearby head, neck (yup I’m sure my thyroid was a target) and chest regions, not to mention to other body parts, in my case to my bladder (oh the terrible recurring UTIs began at about that same time), by taking a ride through our blood stream and lymphatic system. The immune system is designed to protect the body from danger, but sometimes that survival mechanism can go astray. Imagine, for example, the bad bugs from your root canal reach your thyroid gland. Your immune system has tagged that bug as an invader that it needs to destroy and, while it tries to eradicate the bug, it can also mistakenly destroy portions of the thyroid gland (an innocent bystander) where the bug is hiding.

It is really a vicious cycle. And then comes the question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” One of the classic signs of hypothyroidism is chronically low body temperature. That low body temperature makes the chronically ill hypothyroid person’s body a haven for bugs. This explains too how vulnerability to infections in all different body parts – sinuses, ears, eyes, throat, lungs, intestines, vagina, bladder, feet, and teeth – goes hand in hand with low thyroid. 

There is no blame here. I know how serious this topic is for everyone. We make the best decision we can at the time with what we know. My hope is that this article gives you new information to help you make the best decisions for your own teeth.

Dental Pathogens Tricky to Detect

The decision to extract my tooth was one that took years for me to decide and a decision that I did not take lightly. 

I also limit my exposure to radiation whenever possible including dental x-rays and that meant making a decision about the panoramic x-ray as well. The less unnecessary exposure the better, right. I weighed the pros and the cons and after all that I knew about the topic, I felt it was the right decision to make in my case. 

It is important to add here the importance of thyroid safety when it comes to taking dental x-rays. Be sure that a thyroid collar (also known as a thyroid shield) is used during dental x-rays. Your dental office may have led aprons with built-in thyroid collars or as a separate collar to add to it. In 2012, the American Thyroid Association released a policy statement about minimizing risks to the thyroid gland association with radiation exposure from diagnostic medical and dental radiography.

Radiation exposure to the thyroid among both children and adults is currently the strongest known risk factor for thyroid cancer.

Thyroid-protective collars should be used for all dental x-rays when they do not interfere with the examination.

The American Thyroid Association also published a study in 2017 titled Childhood radiation and thyroid cancer. The authors found that thyroid cancer was more common in individuals who had a history of radiation exposure to the head and neck areas as children.

I searched my area online for dentists that offer the panormic x-ray. Not all dental offices carry this technology.

My dentist pointed at the panoramic x-ray results and there below the root tips of my root canal tooth was a major, visibly huge even to my untrained eyes, infection that descended down my jaw bone. The infection was missed for years of going from dentist to dentist taking one standard dental x-ray after another and every dentist reporting that my tooth was perfectly fine. He put up my recent standard dental x-ray to compare it to the panoramic and everything made sense. 

The standard x-ray only showed a view just below the root tips of my teeth but this infection was just below that and spread out in a large formation in my jaw and that was the reason it was never detected, until now.

Those little monster bugs had eaten their way through the bone under that tooth and were on their way to the adjacent bone. I might have started losing teeth from all of this if I hadn’t discovered the stealth infection with this panoramic x-ray.

By the way, root canal teeth are not the only source of dental pathogens that are important to consider here.

Other Sources of Dental Pathogens

Dental implants.

More than 5 million dental implants placed each year in the United States. Researchers have uncovered the significance of microbial biofilms associated with all types of implanted medical devices including tooth implants. Microbes gather in formation into what is termed “bioofilms” as a means of survival. Imagine the little bugs all gathering into a ball, for a moment, the body’s immune system forms antibodies to attack foreign particles including bad bugs but the bugs buried deep within the ball evade attack from the immune system and even antibiotics can’t reach them inside the ball. Here’s the scary thing. Implanted medical devices including not just dental implants but also catheters, artifiical valves, joint replacements, cardiac pacemakers, and stents provide an ideal environment for colonization. Even the dental plaque that we get cleaned off the surfaces of our teeth during routine dental visits are biofilms. Those bugs are seriously smart. They know how to survive and outwit us.

It goes without saying that everyone should regularly brush, floss, and get dental cleanings. I’ve added a tongue scraper to my daily routine to remove the tongue coating that can develop from buildup of microorganisms and can contribute to bad breath. I also use a waterpik with salt added to the water or just rinse your mouth with salt water. I mix salt and baking soda with a touch of water to make a paste and apply it to my gums with a toothbrush for a minute before rinsing off. I don’t use baking soda regularly because of the abrasiveness of it but from time to time. Remember that pathogens can move from your mouth to your toothbrush and vice versa. If you’ve been using the same toothbrush for 5 years, throw it out and buy a new one. Make a routine of buying new toothbrushes for yourself and your family members, including children, every so often. In between, keep your tooth brush clean. Don’t place it on the dirty bathroom counter or bristles down in a dirty toothbrush holder. Regularly clean your toothbrush too. I put my toothbrush bristles down in a clean glass and cover the tip with bristles with salt and leave it for an hour.

You can also try the ancient Ayurvedic practice of “oil-pulling”. I use dentist Dr. Carey O’Rielly’s tip of adding 2-3 drops of oil of oregano in 1 tablespoon of cold pressed organic olive oil and swish it around my mouth for a few minutes and spit it out. The idea is that it pulls out the toxins including the pathogens so you don’t want to swallow this. Dr. O’Rielly has a holistic dental practice in Encinitas, California. In this video, he explains how salt kills the bacteria in your mouth.

Killing Bacteria Naturally with Salt

To complicate things further when it comes to medical devices is the fact that many of us are sensitive to one or more types of metals and plastics used in those medical devices. Titanium dental implants are the most common type yet titanium allergy is a real concern. Titanium contains traces of nickel and nickel allergies are pervasive and can develop at any age. Nickel is used in crowns, bridges, partial dentures, and orthodontic appliances like brackets and retainer wire. Zirconia implants are an alternative. They are advertised as metal-free, chemically unreactive ceramic. Although truth be told, we can be sensitive to all types of materials, metal or ceramic or any other material. There are dental material compatibility tests, like the Clifford Materials Reactivity Testing and MELISA Test, available to test a broad range of dental materials to determine which materials are biocompatible with the patient’s unique biochemistry.

Orthodontics.

Did you get sick during or soon after you had braces? I was startled to read these words from researchers in a 2014 study:

Improved preventive measures and antimicrobial materials are urgently required to prevent biofilm-related complications of orthodontic treatment from overshadowing its functional and estehtic advantages. High treatment demand and occurence of biofilm-related complications requiring professional care make orthodontic treatment a potential public health threat.

Periodontal disease.

One plausible cause of gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is colonization of microbes in the mouth, including the dental plaque biofilms on tooth surfaces. The body’s immune system goes into a hyper-response to attack the microbes that are tagged as “foreign” resulting in chronic inflammation of the gums and even eventual gum recession and loosening of teeth. It is important to note that we all have symbiotic microbes (good bugs) as part of the normal flora in our mouth. Actually we have microorganisms all over the outside and inside of our bodies and some provide benefits including some oral bacteria that can protect us from tooth erosion. Not all bugs are bad, all the time. You just have to look at the long list of newly identified pathogens associated with periodontitis to know that there are definitely bad oral bugs too, all kinds of them.

Dentures.

Researchers estimate that 20% of the UK population wear some form of denture prosthesis and half of these individual develop denture stomatitis. Candida albicans (an insidious yeast) is the primary cause due its biofilm-forming ability. In this study, different types of popular denture cleaners were tested. Antimicrobial denture cleaners do not fully eradicate C albicans. In another study, the importance of daily removal of the denture biofilm including both mechanical cleaning in conjunction with immersion in denture cleansers is advised. “Complete denture biofilm is defined as a dense layer of complex microbial communities embedded in a polymeric matrix, and it is known to contain more than 1,011 microorganisms by gram in dry weight.” With what I wrote above about the power of salt to kill microorganisms, immerse your dentures in warm salt water as an added cleaning step or add salt to the denture cleaner directly.

Extraction of My Root Canal Tooth

My extraction was done with a biological dentist. I did an online search for “holistic dentist” and “biological dentist” in my area and surrounding areas. I called each office, one by one. I went in as an informed patient and I hope the same for you should you find yourself in a similar situation.

Here are 2 important questions that I asked:

1. Will the extraction include removal of the periodontal ligament?

The periodontal ligament is a group of specialized connective tissue that connects each tooth with the walls of the tooth socket and anchors it to the jaw. Given the ease with which pathogens travel in the body, it makes sense that the bugs in an infected root canal tooth would travel to the surrounding areas including the periodontal ligament. Extraction of my tooth would require a knowledgable doctor who would also remove that periodontal ligament and infected bone.

There’s another important reason to extract the periodontal ligament.

Jaw bone cavitations. 

Standard tooth extraction, including extraction of wisdom teeth, may omit this important step. According to the Weston A. Price Foundation:

The primary cause of these jawbone cavitations in extraction sites is the failure of the convention dentist or oral surgeon to remove all of the periodontal ligaments when pulling a tooth. Dr. Hal Huggins likens the severity of this dental omission to the failure of removing the placenta (afterbirth) after delivery a baby.

If the periodontal ligament is not removed after the extraction, the surrounding bone does not receive the biological message that the tooth is gone and that new jaw bone growth is needed. That void, that hole, in the jaw bone is called a cavitation. These holes have impaired blood flow so they are filled with dead tissue making it a perfect breeding ground for pathogens and the toxins they secrete and both seep into the body. This impaired blood flow also means that immune cells and antibiotics have a hard time reaching within these holes to eradicate the bugs. Cavitations can cause facial pain but they can also be “asymptomatic” with bizarre, seemingly unrelated symptoms far removed from the original source of infection. Think head, neck, chest, but also the rest of the body.

When researchers explored extraction sites for cavitations, cavitations were found in 75% of all extraction sites in the mouth and in 88% of wisdom tooth extractions specifically.

Dr. Weston A. Price was a renowned dentist in the early 1900s. He began to suspect that root canal teeth were causing chronic diseases in his patients, including one woman who was in a wheelchair due to severe arthritis. The tooth looked “normal” with no evidence of infection on x-rays. He extracted her root canal tooth and implanted it under the skin of a healthy rabbit. Within 48 hours that rabbit was crippled with arthritis. In 10 days, the rabbit died.

2. What is your treatment protocol for the prevention and/or treatment of pathogens that spread from the extraction site?

Reported cases in the scientific literature of dental infection spreading to the brain date back to 1985. In 2013, the Canadian Dental Association published a case report of a 30-year-old man, reportedly in good health before his dentist completed a root canal on his molar. The next day the man called his dentist to complain of facial swelling and pain and was prescribed amoxicillin and moderate strength analgesic. The symptoms increased over 48 hours and he had lost vision in his left eye. He was admitted to the hospital for eye infection and died several hours after admission. And this reminds us all to speak to our dentists always before serious dental work, especially in cases of known infections, about their approach to treating pathogens that may spread through the body.

The American Association of Endodontists recommends antibiotic use in endodontic treatment in special cases including patients at risk of infective endocarditis or prosthetic joint implant infection, as well organ and stem cell transplant patients.

I am generally cautious about antibiotic use because wiping out my beneficial gut bacteria would then also leave me vulnerable to infestation of opportunistic organisms. Keeping a strong gut flora is particularly important should an infection in my tooth travel down to my gut. Every case is different, however, and it is essential to discuss what steps your dentist will take especially what steps they recommend you take should you develop signs of infection post-treatment. There are alternatives to antibiotics and seeking multiple opinions from different dentists including biological dentists can help you make an informed decision. Alternatives to discuss include Leucocyte and Platelet Rich Fibrin (L-PRF), Pure-Platelet-Rich Plasma (P-PRP), ozone water, topical ozone oil, intravenous vitamin C.

Tooth Infection & Hair Loss

Soon after my tooth extraction, I started to notice more energy. And my face, it began to have more color, less pale and sickly, with a healthy glow.

The thyroid hormone medication dosage that was ideal for me the past 6 years was all of a sudden more than my body needed. Hyperthyroid-like symptoms began and my thyroid dosage needed to be reduced. I’m feeling great at this lower dosage.

This past summer I went in for my third full-body thermography (I’ve been getting them done every few years and I tell my thermography story here.) Going over my latest results and comparing them with my past results, one thing jumped out off the pages. The red hot inflammation all over my head (in particular my mouth and sinuses), neck, and chest had dramatically reduced. The technician said, “You had the highest inflammation in the lower left gum line in past results but now there is zero detected. What have you done?” Remember that my root canal was on a lower left molar.

But, there was something else and this blew me away.

One of the most popular articles at Hypothyroid Mom is 10 Things That Stopped My Thyroid Hair Loss. My massive thyroid hair loss dramatically reduced thanks to those 10 things that I wrote about in 2014, but this tooth extraction did something dramatic.

I’ve been counting the number of hairs that fall with every shower every day now for years. I started doing this when the hair started falling out in big mounds and I was seriously worried. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it is normal to lose 50 to 100 strands of hair per day. So I started counting. I was up to about 300 hairs a day at my worst. And thanks to the 10 things that I listed in my article I was down to about 80-100 strands of hair loss per day. I was ecstatic. My thinning areas were filling in and my hair was looking less like a dry hay stack.

But, I had no idea that it could get even better than that.

Over the last several years I’ve been experimenting with even more hair loss treatments and several that are bizarre, really, not what I expected at all made a big difference. I’ve been counting the hairs that fall out every day when I shower in a way to see if I can quantify what things that I’ve tried are working and what’s not working. Stay tuned because I plan to share my findings over the next few months at Hypothyroid Mom. Thanks to these things my hair loss reduced down to about 60-80 strands of hair loss per day.

This is “normal” daily hair loss according to the American Academy of Dermatologist. And my hair was visibly thicker and more voluminous.

But, I still had no idea that it could get even better than that.

One morning a few weeks after my tooth extraction, I counted my hairs after my shower like I always do. 

30.

I thought it must be some mistake. Some hair must have fallen down the drain or on the floor or it was a fluke. It must be.

Day after day for the last 9 months since my extraction, I have been down to 20-50 strands of hair loss per day.

A far cry from the 300 when I feared that I might go bald. Better than the 80-100. And even better than the 60-80.

“Hey Dana, your hair is so shiny.”

“And so healthy.”

“Did you do something different to your hair?”

“No,” I reply. “I got my infected root canal tooth pulled out, finally.”

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About Dana Trentini

Dana Trentini M.A., Ed.M., founded Hypothyroid Mom October 2012 in memory of the unborn baby she lost to hypothyroidism. This is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for consulting your physician regarding medical advice pertaining to your health. Hypothyroid Mom includes affiliate links including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.

Comments

  1. Denise Wall says

    Please answer if you had the tooth replaced or not. I am waiting to go to a biologic dentist and I want to have all the information at hand and whether or not you replaced or not was not confirmed in the article. I subscribe and read your articles faithfully, please help.

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  4. Angela Winegar says

    I had a root canal done in my eye tooth 🙁 My Hashimotos dx came 2 years after my root canal. I dont have any pain with it but I cant imagine getting it removed because it’s in my smile line……. :(:(:(:( any thoughts??

  5. HI, this is all so interesting to me. I had a total thyroidectomy due to cancer. After receiving the radioactive iodide tablets for my scans I started having trouble with my salivary glands and tear ducts, which my doctor said was common also. However I have had lots of dental work since this surgery multiple extractions, pain where there is no cavities, also great sensitivity due to the enamel decreasing on my teeth, none of this happened until after my thyroid removal and treatment. I have had problems with jaw pain due to the salivary glands but I never thought that maybe my sinus and dental issues I deal with now could relate. Thanks for sharing everyone.

    • I didn’t have any major problems with my salivary glands after RAI, but it did reduce the saliva flow. I sure that is has contributed to my already poor teeth. And then medications (anti-depressant) that causes dry mouth. Biotene products are designed for dry mouth issues. I get painful salivary gland swelling (chipmunk cheeks) if I let myself get dehydrated during hot weather.

  6. This is a very timely issue for me. I’ve had issues with an upper left jaw root canal. It has been going on for a year. I’m scheduled to have the root removed in Nov. This past year I’ve been having a lot of inflamation and have been diagnosed with sclerosing mesenteritis. Maybe having this root extracted will make a difference. Did you have tooth replaced? My dentist is recommending an implant.

  7. I had a severely infected root canal. I had flu like symptoms for over a year,, jaw pain and a knot on my jaw. I do feel so what better. I recently went to my Dr. and there was still some of the broken tooth in the site. I’m trying to figure out what to do. You did not replace the tooth?

  8. I had a severely infected root canal. I had flu like symptoms for over a year,, jaw pain and a knot on my jaw. I do feel so what better. I recently went to my Dr. and there was still some of the broken tooth in the site. I’m trying to figure out what to do. You did not replace the tooth?

  9. This is incredibly interesting! I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and then had 2 root canals some years later. I have several of the symptoms mentioned in this article, including sporadic recurring tooth pain in the teeth that had root canals. Regular dental x-rays always show nothing. This article also has more than a few typos. I would be happy to help with this!

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