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Radiation and root canals

jeb54321
Posts: 22
Joined: Sep 2009

I know this is a really stupid question, but I have to ask...

I'm 54, and I've never had a root canal in my life (lot's of fillings as a kid, though).

I had radiation for base of the tongue cancer in 2009. Almost immediately after my radiation treatment concluded, I needed a root canal. I didn't have any pain, because I was still really heavily sedated as part of my recovery. They realized I needed it because the abscess showed up on an x-ray. Afterwards, I kept saying to people "What's the deal with root canals? It didn't hurt a BIT". Ah, little did I know.

Now, almost two years later, I've had the SECOND root canal in my life.

When I ask, I've been told that the root canals are coincidental and not related to the radiation. My radiation oncologist snickered when I told him this, but that was as far as he'd go.

Is there any experience or hard evidence that radiation leads to the need for root canals? Or is it really just routine deterioration because of the natural decay process in a mouth with no saliva production?

And, I don't really need to know for any medical reason - at this point, it is what it is.

I just have a certain morbid curiosity.

Thanks!

Jim

ratface's picture
ratface
Posts: 1232
Joined: Aug 2009

Hi Jim, I to had an abscess shortly after treatment that lasted for 6 months and the tooth is still an extraction problem. Radiation damages the jaw bones. The thicker the bone the more radiation is absorbed. The more absorbtion the more damage. The bottom jaw bone is thicker than the top and will suffer more damage. The damage is that it becomes dead bone and blood flow decreases thus more problems with healing after extractions. Root canals are ok without hyperbaric treatment. Extractions can be an issue.

At the same time the decreased saliva is not flushing the teeth as it used to and allowing sugars and the build up of bacteria. The teeth are now being attacked from both sides. A root canal is done to remove bacteria from a root or pulp of a tooth because antibiotics can not get to the infection site inside a tooth root. The abscess is the pus that forms from the bacteria. Antibiotics are used to kill the bacteria outside the tooth. I was on antibiotics for the abscess at high doses for at least six miserable months. Teeth need to be a priority in our lives. I recommend everyone here buy a water pik to kind of take up where mother nature is failing us.

Skiffin16's picture
Skiffin16
Posts: 8057
Joined: Sep 2009

I'm 57, have had a lot of fillings when younger, also two root canals before treatment, and one since.

I think like Splinter mentioned, it's a little of both. Though I do have pretty good saliva flow, I'm still lacking much at night while sleeping.

Best,
John

denistd's picture
denistd
Posts: 487
Joined: Apr 2009

The effects of radiation on the teeth are well documented. I am in the process of losing all of them. I am being treated at Johns Hopkins in baltimore, hershey med center in PA does not have an oral surgeons department. My teeth have been breaking off at the gum line, there are only 4 teeth left on the bottom and 7 on the top. I have a great picture of my last X-Ray looks terrible. I was at the ENT today who said everything is fine except the teeth. My regular insurance has agreed to foot the bill as my onc wrote a letter stating it was a medical and not a dental problem.

denistd's picture
denistd
Posts: 487
Joined: Apr 2009

The effects of radiation on the teeth are well documented. I am in the process of losing all of them. I am being treated at Johns Hopkins in baltimore, hershey med center in PA does not have an oral surgeons department. My teeth have been breaking off at the gum line, there are only 4 teeth left on the bottom and 7 on the top. I have a great picture of my last X-Ray looks terrible. I was at the ENT today who said everything is fine except the teeth. My regular insurance has agreed to foot the bill as my onc wrote a letter stating it was a medical and not a dental problem. OOps

Kent Cass's picture
Kent Cass
Posts: 1746
Joined: Nov 2009

for me as John, in that I had one root canal and two Crowns post-tx. Had no complications after the RC, which happened some 5-6 months after the last rad.

kcass

fisrpotpe's picture
fisrpotpe
Posts: 1321
Joined: Aug 2010

My understanding with fillings is the radiation hits them and bounces in different directions which helps give certain area's more radiation than it should have. Our blood vessels in mouth and jaw are very tinny, this leads to damage easily from radiation. This will slow down the healing process in the mouth area for the rest of our lives. Then the dentist know some of this and when they see infection starting anywhere they want to reduce our risk of infection moving to the jaw bone, so they do root canals. We do not want to get infection of jaw bones as the only real fix for this would be removing the jaw bone and replacing the man made materials. I pretty much have lost track butt in the 15 years post treatment I have had over 8 root canals. I also had to have 2 teeth out because of a huge risk of infection years after the root canals. Lack of saliva also helps motivate decay daily.

Doing well hear now and continue to deal with teeth issues many more times than any other radiated area problems.

Keep you teeth clean and if you think they are clean double the cleaning. We can not do to much but we can do not enough.

John

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