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Do Root Canals Cause MS or Trigger Flares?

Posted on May 26, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Joseph V. Campellone, M.D.
Article written by
Simi Burn, PharmD

Many people with multiple sclerosis (MS) have questions about whether dental work and root canals can cause MS or trigger flares. Although there is still much to learn about MS, the available scientific evidence does not indicate that root canals directly cause MS or trigger MS flare-ups and relapses.

MyMSTeam members have shared their experiences and questions about root canals. One member inquired, “I’ve been having root canals since the age of 19. Just wondering how many more MyMSTeam members have had issues with their teeth before being diagnosed?”

Another member shared, “I have MS, and I am also diagnosed with trigeminal nerve pain on my lower right side. I developed a toothache on the lower right side, so my dentist suggested a root canal, which will need a crown.”

“I am scheduled for three root canals. I am in a relapse. Is this going to be a safe move for me with the trauma and healing of a root canal?” asked a third member.

Keep in mind that trigeminal neuralgia (pain from the trigeminal nerve, which sends signals from your face to your brain) may be confused with tooth pain. See your doctor to make sure the pain isn’t due to MS nerve pain.

In this article, we’ll look at the relationship between MS, dental health, and dental procedures.

Root Canals and MS

Scientific evidence does not indicate that root canals cause MS or trigger MS flares. However, there has not been extensive scientific research that focuses specifically on dental procedures and MS.

A root canal is a common dental procedure needed when a tooth is badly decayed or seriously infected. To protect the tooth, the nerve and its surrounding dental pulp (soft tissue) are removed, and the tooth is sealed shut. Root canals are often necessary to save teeth that would otherwise have to be pulled.

A root canal is typically performed under local anesthesia and takes one to two hours to complete. Most people report little pain after the root canal and feel relief from their symptoms almost immediately. After a few days of rest, most people can resume their normal activities with no problems.

How Does MS Affect Oral and Dental Health?

MS and oral health are related both directly and indirectly.

People with MS are more likely to experience gum infections (periodontitis), dental cavities, and gingivitis. Periodontitis contributes to inflammation, which can trigger MS relapses. People with MS tend to have more extensive gum disease and an increased number of decayed, missing, or filled teeth compared with the general population.

These factors can increase the chance that people with MS will need dental procedures such as a root canal. If your dentist recommends a root canal, it is important not to delay or avoid it. A root canal can help prevent infection and inflammation from spreading and potentially worsening MS symptoms.

MS Symptoms and Oral Health

Properly brushing and flossing can be difficult when you’re experiencing active MS symptoms, such as balance problems, spasticity, fatigue, and reduced manual dexterity. Tips such as using an electric toothbrush and sitting while brushing your teeth can help. Poor dental hygiene leads to inflamed sores, oral infections, and irritated gums.

MS Medications and Oral Health

Some disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) and drugs used to manage MS symptoms have possible side effects that can cause or contribute to oral or dental health problems. DMTs can increase the risk of needing a root canal because they are linked to an increase in the risk of infections. Some medications used to treat MS symptoms have oral and dental side effects, such as dry mouth, which can lead to dental problems.

MS, Dental Surgery, and Anesthesia

Some people with MS worry about whether dental procedures, surgery, or anesthesia can increase their risk of relapse. Scientific studies have shown that they don’t. One study analyzed 281 people with MS who underwent 609 surgeries. The study found that only 12 people had a postoperative relapse, indicating that the risk of MS relapse was not increased with surgery and anesthesia.

Keep Up With Checkups and Cleaning

Make sure to get regular dental care and not delay necessary dental procedures. Delaying or avoiding necessary dentistry can worsen a dental problem — potentially leading to worsened MS symptoms, such as widespread inflammation, or complications like a serious infection.

Tell your dentist about your MS and your medications. If you’re experiencing tooth pain or signs of infection, it’s important to see your dentist as soon as possible for evaluation and treatment.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyMSTeam is the social network for people with multiple sclerosis and their loved ones. On MyMSTeam, more than 186,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with MS.

Have you had a root canal or dental work? How did it affect your MS? Has MS had an impact on your oral health? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Joseph V. Campellone, M.D. is board-certified in neurology, neuromuscular disease, and electrodiagnostic medicine. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Simi Burn, PharmD is a seasoned pharmacist with experience in long-term care, geriatrics, community pharmacy, management, herbal medicine, and holistic health.. Learn more about her here.

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