A Naturopathic trip to the dentist
By Dr. JJ Dugoua ND PhD
By the time you read this article, the worst of it will have passed - I will have gone to the dentist. Although a source of fear for most, a regular trip to the dentist is a necessary practice for good oral hygiene and disease prevention.
Ever since I was old enough to remember, I have visited my dentist twice yearly. Each visit would involve an inspection of my teeth, a thorough cleaning and a vigorous blood-inducing floss. At the end of it, slightly sore but teeth squeaky clean, my diagnosis would be a clean bill of health and cavity-free for last 33 years – knock on wood. Could it be due to good oral hygiene, good genes or naturopathic medicine practices? Probably a little bit of all three…
Naturopathic medicine in dentistry?
When we think of our teeth, we seldom think of naturopathic medicine. This is unfortunate because natural medicines can be very effective in treating certain dental conditions and in preventing common dental complaints. How about naturopathic medicine in cavity prevention?
Cavities, also referred to as caries, are holes in the two outer layers of the tooth, i.e. the enamel and the dentin. The enamel is the outermost white hard surface while the dentin is the yellow layer just beneath the enamel. These layers protect the inner tooth tissue called the pulp, where blood vessels and nerves reside. In general, small cavities don't cause pain, but larger cavities may cause a toothache due to irritation from accumulated food, bacterial toxins, foods that are hot or cold, and from sour/sweet foods.
Regular brushing and regular trips to your dentist are effective means of preventing cavities. Avoidance of sugar, particularly in children and adolescents, is also a good preventative measure. We know that sugar causes tooth decay as the bacteria that form together to become plaque use sugar as a form of energy. You don't want to fuel the bacteria that eat away at your tooth enamel and dentin.
Probiotics and cavities
Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, a probiotic (“healthy bacterial strain”), has been shown to antagonize many bacteria. A study was conducted on 594 children, aged 1-6 years old, where some children received milk containing Lactobacillus GG and others received normal milk five days per week. After 7 months, the results showed less dental caries in the Lactobacillus GG group and that Lactobacillus GG significantly reduced the risk of caries. The researchers found that this effect was strongest in children aged 3-4 years old.
Tea and cavities
In addition to being an effective antioxidant, green and black tea may also prevent cavities when used as a mouthwash. A small study found that a mouthwash of green and black tea with sodium lauryl sulfate, a surfactant and emulsifier, significantly increased antimicrobial activity; which may prevent cavities.
Other Naturopathic tips
- If you have trouble with plaque, sensitive teeth and bleeding gums, calendula-based toothpastes seem to work well. Based on my own experience and reports from my patients, calendula toothpaste is very effective at improving overall teeth and gum symptoms.
- If you fear a trip to the dentist, try the homeopathic remedy Aconite in a 30C dose or a few drop of Rescue remedy. Very effective for acute fear and for calming the nerves.
- To help with the post-dentist visit after pains, take homeopathic Arnica and Hypericum 30C each, before and after your treatment. In combination, these remedies will decrease nerve pain and tissue pain from most dental procedures.
Nase L, Hatakka K, Savilahti E, Saxelin M, Ponka A, Poussa T, Korpela R, Meurman JH. Effect of long-term consumption of a probiotic bacterium, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, in milk on dental caries and caries risk in children. Caries Res. 2001 Nov-Dec;35(6):412-20.
Esimone CO, Adikwu MU, Nwafor SV, Okolo CO. Potential use of tea extract as a complementary mouthwash: comparative evaluation of two commercial samples. J Altern Complement Med. 2001 Oct;7(5):523-7.