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The Trouble With Dentistry

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

trouble with dentistry

Story at-a-glance -

  • The Academy of General Dentistry reports at least 40 million suffer from sensitive teeth resulting from irritants reaching nerve endings through a tube system in the dentin of your teeth
  • This dental anatomy was described by Dr. Weston Price in the early 1900s when he found anaerobic bacterial growth in these tubes were infecting teeth and gums and traveling throughout the body
  • Price was able to link the spread of bacteria to chronic diseases, including heart disease, arthritis and neurological conditions; he also linked the growth of bacteria to a refined food diet
  • Root canals leave dead teeth in your mouth, which ultimately become infected, just as any dead part of the body does. These bacteria can circulate through your body as your blood and lymphatic systems drain toxins from the area
  • One step toward achieving good oral health is to integrate holistic and preventive nutritional and oral health strategies to support your oral microbiome and to seek the care of a biological dentist

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research,1 92% of adults aged 20 to 64 have had cavities in their permanent teeth. Interestingly, Caucasian adults and those living in families with higher incomes have had more decay, or at least have been treated for more cavities. Adults in the same age range have an average of 3.28 decayed or missing permanent teeth.

While many believe water fluoridation is an effective way of preventing tooth decay, supporting facts are just not there. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) data reported by the Fluoride Action Network, the U.S., which provides fluoridated water to 74.6% of community water systems,2 has higher rates of tooth decay than many countries that do not fluoridate their water, including Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden.3

If fluoridation were effective, you would expect to see higher numbers of cavities in communities without fluoridated water and the number of cavities to decline when fluoride is introduced. Instead, demographic studies have demonstrated fluoridated water has little to do with cavity prevention.4,5,6

Instead, caries often follow demineralization of the tooth triggered by acids formed during bacterial fermentation of dietary sugars. Just as depression is not triggered by a lack of Prozac, dental caries are not caused by a lack of fluoride — a neurotoxic compound that has no biological benefits. Excess dietary sugar is the most significant factor driving dental decay.7

Dentistry Lacks Sufficient Research to Substantiate Many Procedures

The American Dental Association (ADA) claims the Code on Dental Procedures and Nomenclature (CDT) as their intellectual property.8 In 2000,9 the code was named as a HIPAA standard code set, and any electronic dental claim must use these procedural codes. According to the ADA, there are times when a code is not available and dentists are encouraged to request additions and revisions.

This process is different from the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) based on data developed by WHO,10 which copyrights the information and publishes the classification.11 An adaptation of the classification for use in the U.S. is completed by National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), and must conform to WHO conventions.

Oftentimes when expensive surgery or a regimen of pills is recommended, most seek a second opinion. However, the same is not true when you're sitting in the dentist chair. A Cochrane review of dental studies12 finds many of the standard dental and cosmetic treatments are not substantiated by research.

For instance, they could not find enough evidence to support or oppose the surgical removal of asymptomatic impacted wisdom teeth,13 to prove if antibiotic prophylaxis is effective or ineffective in those at risk for bacterial endocarditis before a dental procedure,14 and only three trials were found analyzing the efficacy of filling cavities in primary teeth, none of which were conclusive.15

In other words, much of the research in the field of dentistry is sadly lacking. While the recommendations may be appropriate, they may also not be, and many simply do not have adequate evidenced-based science to warrant their use.

As noted in recent article in The Atlantic,16 "[W]hat limited data we have don't clearly indicate whether it's better to repair a root-canaled tooth with a crown or a filling." Derek Richards, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Dentistry at the University of Dundee, commented on the gaping hole of evidence in the field of dentistry:17

"The body of evidence for dentistry is disappointing. Dentists tend to want to treat or intervene. They are more akin to surgeons than they are to physicians. We suffer a little from that. Everybody keeps fiddling with stuff, trying out the newest thing, but they don't test them properly in a good-quality trial."

Anatomy of a Tooth

According to the Academy of General Dentistry,18 at least 40 million adults in the U.S. suffer from sensitive teeth. They describe the sensitivity as being caused by the movement of fluid within tiny tubes located in the dentin, or the layer of tissue found beneath the hard enamel. When the fluid reaches the nerve, it causes irritation and pain.

These tiny tubules are exposed when your enamel is worn down or the gums have receded. This increases your risk of experiencing pain while eating or drinking hot or cold foods. The Cleveland Clinic19 lists some factors that may lead to sensitivity, including brushing too hard, gum disease, cracked teeth, teeth grinding and acidic foods.

The tubules branch throughout the tooth and are different between peripheral and the inner aspects.20 The branching pattern reveals an intricate and profuse system crisscrossing the intertubular dentin.

Studies demonstrate anaerobic bacteria and gram positive rods, as well as a large number of bacterial species, may be found within this tubule system in those suffering periodontal disease. The researchers concluded:21

"It seems clear that, in more than half of the infected roots, bacteria are present in the deep dentin close to the cementum and that anaerobic culturing of dentin is more sensitive than histology to detect these bacteria."

Further research finds a necrotic dental pulp may develop unnoticed for years and the course of the disease is modulated by the variance of the microbiota in the root canal space and the capacity of the individual's immune system.22

Another study23 found the environment of the deep layers of the endodontic dental area is anaerobic, favoring the growth of anaerobes, including Lactobacillus, Streptococcus and Propionibacterium.

Avoid Root Canals Whenever Possible

Root canals are not your only option. Teeth are similar to other systems in your body as they require blood supply, venous drainage and nerve innervations. Teeth that have undergone a root canal are dead and typically become a source of chronic bacterial toxicity in your body. In one study published in 2010, the authors wrote:24

"Root canal therapy has been practiced ever since 1928 and the success rate has tremendously increased over the years owing to various advancements in the field. One main reason is the complete understanding of the microbiology involved in the endodontic pathology."

If any other organ in your body lost blood supply and lymphatic drainage it would die. Your physician would recommend it being removed so necrosis and bacteria would not kill you. But dead teeth are commonly left in your mouth. Anaerobic bacteria thrive in your dentin tubes and the blood supply surrounding the dead teeth drains the toxicity, allowing it to spread throughout your body.

This toxicity may lead to a number of diseases, including autoimmune diseases, cancer, irritable bowel disease and depression. Dr. George Meinig has a unique perspective on the underlying dangers of root canal therapy as he was one of the founding members of the American Association of Endodontists, root canal specialists.25

When he wasn't filling canals, he was teaching the technique to dentist across the country. After spending decades practicing endodontics, he retired and began pouring over the detailed research of Dr. Weston Price. He was shocked to find valid documentation of systemic illnesses resulting from the latent infections lingering in the filled canals.

The result was his book "Root Canal Cover Up." In an interview with me, Meinig describes the result of Price's research findings and credible reasons why you should avoid a root canal. Price's work demonstrated that many who suffered chronic degenerative diseases could trace the origins to root canals.

The most frequently reported conditions were heart and circulatory diseases. The next most common diseases were of the joints and those of the brain and nervous system. Meinig assumes all root filled teeth harbor bacteria and other infective agents, but not everyone is made ill since those with strong immune systems may be able to prevent bacterial colonies from taking hold.

Oral Health Inextricably Linked to Your Overall Health

However, Meinig cautions that over time, most who have undergone a root canal seem to develop some type of systemic symptoms. If you choose to have a dead tooth removed, just pulling the tooth is not enough. Price found bacteria in tissue and bone adjacent to the tooth's root. Consequently, Meinig developed a protocol he describes in his book to ensure no bacterial growth is left.

Historically, dentistry and medicine were separated. It's unfortunate how many fail to fully appreciate the influence oral health has on overall health. The delicate balance of bacteria in your mouth is as important to your health as your gut microbiome.

Periodontal disease, which affects the soft tissue and bone, is triggered by an increase in Porphyromonas gingivalis,26 a bacteria that impairs your immune response. Dental caries have been causally linked to Streptococcus mutans.27 In turn, your oral health impacts the rest of your body and they have a significant impact on your risk of disease.

For example, Type 2 diabetes and periodontal disease are strongly connected,28 as are cardiovascular disease and periodontal disease.29 Research30 has demonstrated failing to brush on a daily basis may increase your risk of dementia by 22 to 65%, compared to brushing three times a day, and good oral hygiene may lower your risk of pneumonia by 40%.31

When the bacteria causing tooth decay and gum disease enter your circulatory system, your body increases the release of C-reactive protein known to lead to many chronic diseases.32 Therefore it's only common sense to pay attention to your oral health, and develop good habits that support your oral microbiome.

Seek Out a Biological Dentist for Care

One step toward achieving good oral health is to seek out a biological dentist, also known as a holistic or environmental dentist. These doctors operate according to the belief system that your teeth are an integral part of your body and, hence, your overall health.33 They recognize oral and dental health have a major influence on disease and any medical treatment takes this into account.

While I recommend using a biological dentist for all your dental needs, if you're considering the removal of dental amalgams, it's absolutely essential. Most conventional dentists are unaware of the dangers involved and lack the experience to remove amalgam fillings without placing your health at risk in the process. Another strategy biological dentist use is to check the compatibility of dental materials with your body.

What's in Your Silver Fillings?

The silver fillings in your mouth are dental amalgam. As noted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA),34 dental amalgam has been used to fill cavities for more than 150 years in hundreds of millions of patients around the world.

Amalgam is a mixture of metals consisting of elemental mercury and a powdered alloy of silver, tin and copper, 50% of which is elemental mercury by weight. The FDA also admits amalgam fillings release low levels of mercury in vapor form that may be inhaled and absorbed in your lungs.

Mercury is a neurotoxin.35 How your health is affected will depend on the form of mercury, the amount in the exposure and the age at which you're exposed. Additionally, how long the exposure lasts and your underlying health will determine symptoms you may experience.

Symptoms of prolonged exposure to elemental mercury may include emotional changes, insomnia, headaches and poor performance on mental function tests. In 2009, the FDA issued a final rule on dental amalgams reclassifying mercury from a class I (least risk) device to class II (more risk) and designated a special controls guidance document for dental amalgam.36

The WHO37 found mercury exposure, even in small amounts, may trigger serious health concerns and can have toxic effects on lungs and kidneys, as well as the nervous, digestive and immune systems. It is considered one of the top 10 chemicals or groups of chemicals of major public health concern.

Daily Care May Protect Oral Health

As Meinig discussed in our interview, the only scientifically-proven way to prevent tooth decay is through nutrition. He related how in Price's travels he found 14 cultural pockets of natives who had no access to "civilization" and ate no refined foods.

While their diets varied, they all ate whole, unrefined foods. Without access to tooth brushes, floss, fluoridated water or toothpaste, each group were almost all 100% free of caries.

For a discussion of how you may integrate holistic and preventive strategies, such as making your own toothpaste, flossing guidelines, and information on oil pulling and nutritional supplements to support your oral health, see my previous article, "Dental Dedication: Improve Your Oral Health."

+ Sources and References