Dental woo consists of quack practices masquerading as dentistry, unfounded beliefs that some dental health practices are harmful (particularly, water fluoridation and mercury amalgam fillings), and patent medicines for dental health sold on the health food store market.
Other dental woo includes magnetic devices claimed to relieve toothache, and "dental charts" claiming to show relationships between the teeth and other parts of the body (similar to iridology for the eyes and reflexology for the feet).
L. Ron Hubbard went them all one better by claiming, in Dianetics, that tooth decay can be caused by "dental engrams" resulting from being spoken to while under anesthesia at the dentist's office. Hubbard believed that "engrams" resulted from any person being spoken to while asleep or unconscious. Somehow, if this happens in a dentist's office, the engrams which result are "dental engrams" that will cause your teeth to rot. Really. We're not making this crap up. Hubbard, of course, had a mouthful of awful rotten teeth.
 Mercury amalgam fillings
Mercury amalgam fillings are the subject of a great deal of woo floating around on the internet and elsewhere. Quackwatch has an in-depth article on the subject for those who are interested. It's important to note that mercury amalgam is not merely a mixture of mercury with silver and other substances, it's a chemical compound in which the mercury atoms are bound up in larger molecules, and these molecules behave very differently from standalone mercury atoms.(this statement has no reference and is not supported in the scientific literature. This does not change the toxicity of mercury vapor that is released, nor the mercury contaminated particulate matter generated during use.)
Mercury was used extensively in the amalgam used for fillings but has since been replaced by more effective and safer alternatives (not that mercury fillings were particularly dangerous to begin with) in many places. In this role it has been falsely linked with multiple sclerosis although study after study has found no connection between the two.
Some quack dentistry practitioners have diagnosed all manner of diseases, from arthritis to chronic fatigue syndrome, as being caused by mercury fillings and/or root canals, and have prescribed the unnecessary replacement of such dental work for their patients. A "scathing exposé" of the "evils" of mercury dental amalgam was shown on CBS's 60 Minutes during the 1980s, which certainly added fuel to the fire. The most common claims made by the dental mercury militia include:
- "The 'smoking tooth video' proves that the fillings emit high levels of mercury." The video can be seen here. The smoke plume in the video, however, can't be mercury as mercury is heavier than air and will fall to the ground, not rise up. A full debunking can be found here.
- "Other countries like Germany have banned or limited the use of mercury amalgam fillings." The reason behind this is because of environmental damage caused by careless disposal of mercury waste or leakage of mercury in transport.
- "It's a cover-up!" This would involve thousands of dentists keeping quiet about the risks of mercury amalgam fillings over the entire world for more than a century. That's some serious secret service dentistry.
A related bit of woo is practices claimed to detoxify the body of mercury after mercury fillings are replaced, including chelation or eating large amounts of the herb cilantro (coriander). This claim is baseless, although it does have the side effect of tasting good.
 Psychic dentistry
Now if all the above wasn't crackpot enough for you, some people have tried to remedy this problem by mixing dental quackery with psychic powers. One of the most famous "practitioners" of psychic dentistry, the Rev. Brother Willard Fuller, takes even this form of woo to a whole new level by adding in faith healing. Fuller claims to be able to use the power of God to restore fillings and even grow new teeth. Actual dentists who examined his "patients" found out, of course, that this was a load of bullshit.
 Focal Diagnostics
Dating from the 60's, there was a medical belief that a lot of medical disorders would originate from chronical inflamations on specific places (foci). By treating the foci, the medical disorder would disapear. While the idea abandoned elsewhere in medicine, the use of focal diagnostics is still in use in dental alternative medicine.
 Electro-acupuncture according to Voll
Electro-acupuncture according to Voll is based largely on the idea of Focal Diagnostics. It comes down to measuring the electrical impedance between acupuncture needles and thus determining the focus of the disease. Usually the proposed treatment consists of acupuncture and removal of amalgam fillings.
 Orthomolecular Medicine
This consists of treating dental diseases which are not very well known to the general public by food supplements; and attributing medical and healing properties to food supplements, thus appealing to a sense of fear that patients having the disease might have.
In many countries it is forbidden by law to make fraudulous commercials (attributing medical and healing properties to food supplements) and also forbidden by law to make commercials that appeal to a sense of fear. This doesn't stop several manufacturers of such supplements to continue breaking the law time-after-time. A good example is the Danish food supplement manufacturer Pharma Nord that has been sentenced and fined several times by various courts and advertising authorities (exemple: over Q10 in the Netherlands). Still this doesn't stop Pharma Nord from continuing this marketing campaign, apparently there are enough gullible victims that make up for the legal costs.
 Periodontal disease quack treatments
Periodontal disease is a disease of tissues surrounding teeth, and is usually caused by poor oral hygiene. Several quack cures are peddled for this disease.
Even though no serious scientific research has ever proven relationships between Q10 and periodontal disease, manufacturers of this food supplement keep on advertising that Q10 is the cure to periodontal disease. As a matter of fact they attribute periodontal disease to a lack of the food supplement Q10, which would make periodontal disease a nutritional disease, which it clearly and scientifically proven isn't!
The suggestion probably comes from the Scurvy disease which is indeed a nutritional disease and like periodontal disease makes your teeth fall out. Periodontal disease and Scurvy are totally different diseases.
 Vitamin C
Sometimes high doses of Vitamin C are "prescribed" to treat periodontal disease. The mistake is that where vitamin C does treat and prevent scurvy, it doesn't treat periodontal disease as this is a totally different disease. In Western civilizations, scurvy as a disease hasn't been seen around since the beginning of the 20th century, except in very individual cases of serious malnutrition.
 Ozone therapy
The Healozone is a medical device that produces ozone gas and has a dispensing mechanism with a handpiece having a cap on the end, that can be placed on top of teeth and molars. The idea is to kill germs with the ozone gas and thus sanitizing the tooth; the problem is that in an environment full of bacteria like the mouth, re-colonization of the sanitized tooth will happen almost instantaneously once the cap is removed.
Until now scientific studies have only showed minor preventive effectiveness of the Healozone device. For this reason the use of this device is very limited and not popular in regular dental medicine; certainly no therapeutic properties can be attributed to the HealOzone device.
Irish comedian Dara Ó Briain coined the term "toothiologist" in one of his sketches on alternative medicine therapists. Ó Briain was trying to paint a picture of alternative medicine that was so ludicrous that no one would ever fall for such a scam: a person letting a completely untrained alternative therapist do work on her teeth.
 See also
- Dental Watch, a site run by Quackwatch
- Mercury Must Be Bad - If Not in Vaccines, in Teeth, Science-Based Medicine
- ↑ http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/mercury.html
- ↑ Mercury Fillings: A Time Bomb In Your Head, Natural Life Magazine, Jan/Feb 1997
- ↑ How Anti-Amalgamists Swindle People, QuackWatch
- ↑ Request for an opinion on the environmental risks and indirect health effects of mercury in dental amalgam, Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER)
- ↑ Theft, murder, intrigue. It's a man's life in the British dental association!
- ↑ Psychic Dentistry, Investigator 93, Nov. 2003
- ↑ http://www.kwakzalverij.nl/156/Alternatieve_tandheelkunde_IV (in Dutch)
- ↑ http://www.kwakzalverij.nl/298/Een_pil_tegen_parodontitis_
- ↑ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMvMb90hem8