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Are there alternative treatments for oral health?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

There are no alternative treatments that have been proven effective for use in oral healthcare. Correct brushing and flossing techniques are the best way to maintain your oral heath. Regular dental cleanings (usually bi-yearly, or as recommended by your dentist) are an important way to prevent oral health problems or diagnose them early when they do occur. Additionally, fluoride is used to strengthen teeth and prevent decay, but you might not know that you ingest it. For more than fifty years, the American Dental Association has recommended the addition of fluoride to the drinking water of most communities, and it is likely your town is included.

Some forms of "alternative" or "complementary" medicine may be effective for oral health problems. Recent studies, for instance, show that some people who suffer from chronic dry mouth may get relief from acupuncture, the ancient Chinese therapy that involves the careful placement of tiny needles in the skin. On the other hand, many other forms of alternative therapies offered for treatment of oral health conditions lack solid evidence that they really work. Never use nontraditional medicine to self-treat any health condition. Always talk to your doctor or dentist first.
Perhaps the most "alternative" or "complimentary" approach to oral health is also one that has become the most evidence-based and research supported: to avoid the commonly believed "pesticide approach" of killing plaque or 'germs on contact' in the mouth with the use of antimicrobials such as triclosan and chlorhexidine. Instead promoting an "organic gardening" approach with products that are devoid of detergents, chemicals and alcohol -- to restore and rebalance the natural ecology of the mouth. The resulting reduction in inflammation from this natural approach can have profound influence on total body wellness.
 
The best thing you can do for your oral health is to brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes and to floss daily. You should also have your teeth examined regularly by a dentist and make sure to eat a balanced diet. That's the only way to ensure good dental health. 
As Dr. Dean Ornish answered in another Sharecare question (http://www.sharecare.com/question/more-money-spent-alternative-medicine), "people are voting with their feet" and choosing alternative health care, and spending over $34 billion a year out of pocket for those services.

Lots of the knowledge of what we might call alternative treatments can be helpful in dentistry. Dentists have incorporated acupuncture, hypnosis, advanced nutritional counseling, ozone therapy, cranio-sacral technique, and much more into their practices (we hope with good training and experience). 

The ways that alternative treatments can augment and help dental care could fill a book, and probably should. But it always must be an addition to good basic dentistry, never a substitute.
 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.