Can thermal imaging technology serve as a screening tool to assist a person who questions if they have an infected root canal, cavitation, or other chronic dental infection?
Some of our most popular articles on our blog all focus on root canals and what you can do about them.
In our root canal series, we discuss issues like the fundamental problem with root canals, options if you have a root canal, as well as your options if you are told you need a root canal among others.
It’s always been a source of frustration for us to not have a tool to help folks identify if any of their existing root canals are problematic.
You see, just because you have a root canal doesn’t mean you should have it pulled. There are currently no better options than a natural tooth to function as a tooth.
For example, take Kathy, a mid 40s woman who wrote us saying that she had 4 root canals and was suffering from a compromised immune system. Kathy said she felt that the root canals were at the source of her auto immune condition. She asked us if we had any suggestions how she might be able to determine which, if any, of her root canals were challenging her immune system.
Where’s the solution??
It was out of this frustration and prayer to be shown a solution that we realized that the answer could be from applying already existing technology in a different way.
We had been aware of thermography technology for years. Susan has been having breast screenings using thermography for the past 10 years, in place of the highly controversial mammograms.
If you haven’t heard of thermal imaging yet, you definitely aren’t alone and you owe it to yourself to get educated. In fact, most of the people you know aren’t aware of this powerful screening technology.
Originally developed by the military and used by NASA, thermography is finding its use in medicine as a screening tool to identify early tendencies toward breast cancer.
In fact, according to Dr Mike Godfrey, one of the experts we interviewed in our Healthy Mouth World Summit, thermography has been proven to be more effective at identifying early breast cancer than mammography, the current ‘go to’ screening tool for breast cancer.
An answer to the prayer…
One day, the ‘inspired’ thought came to me, “Perhaps thermography technology could be used to identify sites of chronic heat (aka inflammation) in the mouth?”
After all, an infected region around a tooth is about the same depth inside the body as a problem area within breast tissue.
So, when we were in San Diego last, we looked up Wendy Sellens, a certified thermographer who coauthored the book, Breast Cancer Bootcamp, with THE authority of thermal imaging, Dr William Hobbins.
Although Wendy’s area of specialization is in early screening for breast issues, she conferred with Dr Hobbins and found out that indeed, thermal imaging has its place in identifying areas of chronic heat in the face.
Thermal Imaging Can Serve as a Functional Screen for Chronic Heat in the Mouth
I was thrilled hearing this because that meant that we had a solution to share with people like Kathy to determine if any of her root canals were problematic!
You see, for a person like Kathy who had 4 root canals and an auto immune condition, the thought of pulling 4 teeth was not a pretty picture. However, if Kathy could get a thermal image of her face and determine if chronic heat/inflammation exists in the region of one of her root canals, she could focus her efforts in addressing that area. And if she had to have that one root canal tooth removed, at least it was only one tooth and not all four!
So, while at Wendy’s clinic, I asked if she would be willing to take some images of my head. I shared with her that I had one area in my mouth that was ‘talking to me’ and I wanted to see if the thermal images would pick up the sense that I had of a minor infection.
Sure enough, when we discussed the images, Wendy asked if the region was in my lower left jaw as she was seeing increased heat patterns there. The thermal images successfully picked up a low level of infection I had around one molar in my lower left jaw!
3 Ways Thermal Imaging Can Help in Dentistry
We see 3 obvious ways thermal imaging can help in dentistry.
- Identifying if an existing root canal has chronic inflammation (infection) in the surrounding tissue
- Identifying if a cavitation (extraction site that has infection in the jaw bone below the gum tissue) exists
- Identifying if an abscess is beginning to develop
What about X-rays?
While x-rays do identify some infection, they are simply not designed to identify sites of chronic heat, inflammation, and infection as subtly as thermography. That’s what is so great about thermal imaging, it can pick up areas of chronic heat before the challenged site becomes a full blown abscess.
What’s the next step?
Tell your dentist you would like them to research and be trained in thermal imaging as a screening technology for chronic oral infections, or to network with a certified thermographer in your area.
Some dentists are aware of the benefit of thermal imaging in dentistry. While recently interviewing a rockstar dentist in New York City, she mentioned using thermal imaging in her practice.
Watch out for conflicting information…
According to Wendy Sellens, LAc, of Pink Images, not all thermographs are created equal. Some clinics will look to sell you on ‘whole body’ scans. Sellens shared with us, “The signals that come from all parts of the body don’t necessarily mean that there’s something wrong in that exact spot. There can be heat signals and referral patterns”.
However, in breast tissue and the head, there is a direct relationship with being able to screen for heat spots (sites of chronic inflammation).
So, you can definitely approach a thermography clinic that may not be used to taking images of someone’s head and ask them if they would be willing to take a few images to help you screen for possible chronic dental infection.
And if you’d like to see the use of thermal imaging in dentistry, here’s a short youtube video that combines thermal imaging and x-ray.
Where can you find a certified thermographer?
Here are a few resources to help you along your path. We haven’t done any research on either of these groups, so be sure to do your own due diligence. Both sites do have the ability to search for a certified thermographer in your area.
International Association of Certified Thermographers find a practitioner page
American Academy of Thermology search database
European Association of Thermology
As always, please share this article if you know a loved one who might benefit from hearing about using thermal imaging in screening for problem root canals. It literally could save lives in this case.
How about you? Would you use thermal imaging to screen for problems in your mouth if your dentist used it?
We have many dental offices who follow our blog, so letting the industry know that you would seek out a dental office who uses thermal imaging will help the dental profession incorporate this functional screening tool in their practice! Please comment below if you want to go to a dentist who uses thermal imaging.
Understanding the Issues with Root Canals [article]
“I Have a Root Canal. What Are My Options?” [article]
“My Dentist Says I Need a Root Canal. What Are My Options?” [article]
Options if You Have a Missing Tooth [article]
3 Questions to Ask Your Dentist About Root Canals [article]
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