Last month, I gave my first ever TEDx Talk, and it was such a great experience! In my talk, I discussed my own tooth story, today’s dental and endodontic renaissance, the regenerative properties of your jawbone, what your patient can do in the event of dental trauma, and how we as dentists can help create trust in the healthcare system among our patients. There’s nothing that I get more excited to discuss than the wonder of the modern root canal procedure.
What I spoke about
This is the short and sweet version of my talk, with timestamps. Please watch it below for the full version. I worked really hard on it, so it would fill me with joy for you to watch it!
If you’d like to hear about my journey from dentist to public speaker, check out my previous blog post.
I was destined to become a dentist
0:20: I was born without 8 teeth and spent a lot of my childhood in the dentist office. But when I developed an awful toothache around the time I went to college, it really stumped my dentist. He even questioned if the pain might all be in my mind. This resulted in a bunch of referrals, including to an oral surgeon, who extracted the wrong tooth. The infection was still there; now I had 9 missing teeth.
2:10: Right as the infection got unbearable, and my body spiked a fever, I was finally referred to an endodontist. He diagnosed my cracked tooth correctly and gave me a root canal. He saved me from this awful pain, and he helped me trust that it was okay to believe my body again. It wasn’t all in my head; it was real. And so was the lack of endodontic education.
3:12: The endodontist also led me to my career of being an endodontist, myself! I see this same tooth story happen every day in our practice. Why don’t we place the same amount of respect and emphasis on teeth as we do on other parts of our body? With 32 teeth, that’s 32 chances for a root canal.
Dentistry has changed, but it still needs more reform
3:41: Extraction is far too common, and it can lead to a loss of time, money, sleep, self-esteem, confidence, well-being, and health. It can also make patients stop trusting the healthcare system. Dentistry (including root canals) get a bad rap. But it’s come a long way through innovation and technology.
4:51: But there’s an even deeper problem with dentistry, and that’s the education system. Endodontics is so much more than root canals… it’s the science of the inside of the tooth, diagnosing tooth pain, and choosing the right treatment plan. If we as dentists really want to help our patients, and if patients want to be advocates for their own health, we need to understand the power of endo.
Let’s teach patients about their regenerative abilities
6:05: One thing most patients don’t know is that our bodies can regrow bone around our teeth. When we extract a tooth instead of performing a root canal, we’re preventing our body’s natural ability to regenerate bone.
6:21: Here’s a tooth with a pretty bad infection. All that supporting bone is gone and is now just a dark shadow. So many would extract this tooth. But extraction negates our body’s natural regenerative abilities. Much like an octopus can regrow its tentacle, we can grow our own bone back.
It took my patient about a year to do that. She didn’t need any additional medical intervention or any special diets or supplements. Just a root canal.
7:37: Best of all? This regeneration was free. Root canals cost less than extractions in the long run. Root canals can decrease global healthcare costs. Consider this: the reason your jawbone exists is to support teeth. You take out teeth, and that bone atrophies.
While we’re at it, let’s educate patients about dental trauma
8:15: The other thing I really wish everyone knew is what to do when you knock out a tooth. But an amazing 24% of ER trauma cases involve dental injuries. We need to educate our patients that the thing that will give them the best prognosis is to re-insert the tooth into the socket right away, and then hurry straight to the dentist.
This kind of simple education can have profound results. More educated patients = patients who are better advocates for their own oral health. Plus, our patients can spend their money wisely on procedures that will benefit them.
The modern root canal procedure doesn’t have to be scary
10:25: Root canals aren’t the worst treatment, especially in the hands of a skilled clinician. In fact, I regularly have patients fall asleep during their procedure in my practice.
Check out this patient. She’s had several prior root canals, and now she needs another one. And that means she’s spending more time and money on her mouth. The problem? The patient wasn’t fully informed about her oral health, and she didn’t receive care that properly treated her the first time. She had probably already spent the cost of a luxury vacation… on one tooth. And she has 32 of them, so this could happen again!
But in the modern root canal procedure, we use 3D imaging, microscopes, and sonic irrigation (love my GentleWave and CBCT!). This allows us to comprehensively treat our patients. We can see the problems more clearly than ever before, as well as have a clearer appreciation of each tooth’s unique anatomy.
Tiny canals like these are hard to find otherwise, and that’s why the infection wasn’t properly treated in the first root canal.
12:14: Thanks to everything in my modern endodontist’s arsenal — and because I followed the two cardinal rules of root canals, I was able to find the canal and treat the infection.
The Cardinal Rules of Root Canals:
- Find every canal.
- Get to the end of every single canal.
The modern day root canal can save healthcare
12:34: The modern-day root canal has evolved a lot, thanks to technology and dental education. Root canals are safer and more effective than ever. Honestly, I believe we’re going through an endodontic renaissance right now, and I’m HERE for it!
It’s my hope that this renaissance will support the understanding of the collective solution of education and patient advocacy, so we can take ownership of the decision making around our teeth.
By not only educating patients but also furthering our own training as dentists, we can work together to create this kind of change in the society around our teeth, our health and our general well-being.
Our relationship to our teeth is so important, and when we pull a tooth that can actually be saved, we are removing part of our identity and digging deep into our bank accounts.
Together, we can cut global healthcare costs by millions of dollars and create a more happy and healthy society by choosing to save our teeth.
Okay… I’ve always wanted to say this (but don’t worry, I didn’t on stage): Thanks for coming to my TED Talk!