As so often happens at Science Based Medicine, the inspiration for today’s post comes from a reader of the blog, seeking evidence-based advice and references after receiving conflicting (and perhaps even contradictory) information from other sources. On one hand, it saddens me when people get bad advice from health care professionals or elsewhere, whether it’s from their “regular” doctor, an “alternative” practitioner, or from Dr. Google; on the other hand, the fact that well-meaning patients are seeking out science-based recommendations through Science Based Medicine is encouraging and emphasizes the important role this blog serves.
The email that was referred my way was written by a man who is considering having a tooth extracted in the hopes that it will alleviate some general health issues he is having. He writes:
May I request that you write an article refuting the claims made in the book “Toxic Tooth — How a Root Canal Could Be Making You Sick”?
The purpose of my request is that I am considering getting a root canal pulled out.
After an initial back and forth where I told him that I’d look into it and to meanwhile not do anything hasty, he related his general symptoms (all correspondence reprinted with permission):
My personal information is I am a ** year old male, and I have a lot of fatigue. MDs are not able to tell me why. I have a TSH of 12. MDs are not able to tell me the root cause. I have Monocytes of 13, normal range is 4-13, this means I have an infection. This makes me wonder if maybe that root canal is the cause of that infection.
To translate (very superficially and simplistically): His TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) level is elevated. TSH is a hormone released from the pituitary gland and helps regulate the thyroid hormones which are involved in the body’s cellular metabolism. Normal values are in the 0.3–3.0 µIU/mL in an adult, and an elevated TSH usually means that the patient has an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). On rare occasions, it can indicate the presence of a thyroid tumor or other uncommon issues. His monocyte level is a bit elevated as well, which could mean the presence of a chronic infection or perhaps an auto-immune disease, but that lab value alone is not enough to make that call. But I’m just a dentist; what do I know? (more…)