Is modern dentistry a hoax?
Sometime in 2011, during the so called “Arab spring”, I saw a picture of a Yemeni protester on a front page of a newspaper. He must have been shouting something on top of his lungs, and one could see right into his mouth. All of his teeth were nicely exposed by the camera’s flash. The teeth were quite remarkable – discolored, with tartar build-up and not a single amalgam filling to be seen. Strangely, but no suspected cavities could be spotted either. He still had all of his 32 teeth. He appeared to be from late twenties to mid-thirties. When I had been his age, I had amalgam fillings in every single back tooth.
If one were to type words “unnecessary dental treatment” into a search engine there will be numerous articles decrying unscrupulous dentists and corporate greed. See the links at the end of this page for reference. While this is certainly true to some extent: people have always been greedy, or just desperate to make the ends meet. If one is to believe the infamous Karl Marx – “a glazer dreams of a hailstorm breaking all the windows in town” – it would not be too great a stretch of imagination to extend this Marxian idea to a greedy dentist hoping for a flood of patients requiring costly treatment.
So what is the proportion of dental treatments that are considered unnecessary? Professor Aubrey Sheiham estimates this at 20%. 1 in 5 treatments being unnecessary is bad, of course, but could be explained by a dentist being overly cautious or patients demanding extra works just in case. Nobody wants the feared caries to get out of hand. So perhaps here and there a few fillings will be replaced too early, or a crown put where a patient can do without.
But it appears increasingly likely that 20% is actually a tip of the iceberg.
Several truly shocking cases have been reported by such esteemed organisations such as Harvard University or ABC news.
Healthy teeth of young children have been drilled and even root canal treatments have been done on baby teeth. These abuses have been attributed to corporate greed. Or, as the perpetrators would have cynically put it – “acumen for business”, or “good business sense”.
“‘McDaniel vented. “There’s no way I would bring my children there. They tie the little ones down on papoose boards and do unnecessary baby root canals for the bonus money.”’ Nieman Report
However, unnecessary dental treatments have been done in the former Eastern Bloc countries, and not just recently, but when they still were under the communist rule.
I am in my forties and grew up in Eastern Europe. There are fillings in most of my teeth, and 3 of the molars are missing now. How did this happen? It all started in primary school. The communist dentistry was compulsory for all school children. Every school had a resident dentist, and every pupil had to attend every year. Dental treatment doctrine called for an aggressive intervention ( it was a communist doctrine after all). So wherever there was a slightest sign of tooth decay, or caries, a tooth would be drilled (with no anesthetic of course(ref 1)) and a cheap filling slapped in.
Children were terrified of dentists, but the vast majority would easily be coerced into attending the “torture chambers” as the dental rooms had been known. The new fillings would always crumble out within a month or two. The rest of the year the victims would walk around with exposed cavities in their teeth - with the protective dentin breached. When a child fell into the dentist’s clutches again the next year there would be a real caries in the hole drilled out the previous year.
Once that first drilling has been done, the dental treatment, strictly-speaking, is no longer un-necessary, so the cavity would be drilled larger every year and re-filled with cheap cement. By the time the children left secondary school many, if not most, of their teeth had fillings or open holes where the fillings crumbled out. They would have their first root canal treatments in their twenties and extractions in their thirties.
It happened to me and all my friends. It is unlikely the dentists in communist countries had been motivated by monetary gain – like everybody else, they were state employees and had been paid set salaries. Communist system is infamous for waste, as much as capitalist is for greed. It was this idea that every suspected case of caries must be treated aggressively and that every brown spot on a tooth will soon become a hole (it will if you drill it), was the official medical wisdom of the day. When I studied medicine for six years at University, I have done a very short course of dentistry, and the doctrine was the same as when I was at school. Communist dentists genuinely believed they were helping people.
Nobody questioned the wisdom of these aggressive dental treatments. Indeed, I myself believed that if there is a brown spot on your tooth that cannot be removed by vigorous and repeated brushing, this is indeed caries that needs to be nipped in the bud. So, when a dentist told me that there is no need to drill a small dark spot at the side of my tooth, I thought she was being negligent. I monitored that spot for 30-odd years. It never grew any bigger and never became a hole. Now, I realize it was not a convenient location to drill. The same tooth, like all its neighbors had been drilled from the top.
In fact most of the teeth, in most patients are being worked on from this direction – from the top. Have a look at dental x-rays on Google images.
Incidentally, top surfaces of teeth are those that are most easily and intensively brushed. The least easy part to brush is between the teeth; indeed in many people it is actually impossible to brush or even effectively floss due to teeth growing so close together. So, between the teeth is a location where you are most likely to find cavities. Except you don’t find them there. When first of my molars had been removed in my mid-twenties, an inner surface of the next large molar – No. 6 became exposed. As expected it was badly discolored and quite inlaid with rough brown-colored tartar. This previously-hidden surface had never been brushed, never been polished, and never been drilled. It looked bad, but there was no cavity there. In fact this inner surface looked like the teeth of the Yemeni protester on the front page of the Metro. My tooth No. 6 had a filling, of course, put from the top. Over the years two more of my teeth had been extracted. The teeth had been weakened by huge fillings put in from the top and fractured when I accidentally bit on a bone in my meal. Previously inaccessible inner surfaces of neighboring teeth become exposed. Again there was discoloration, rough tartar that had over 3 decades to grow, but not a single cavity could be found, not even a tiny one. No, not even a hint of a cavity.
A few years ago I read a short science news article in the London Metro. Using a new scanning technique, researchers found that most brown spots on teeth are not caries. They estimated that some two-thirds of drillings have been done unnecessary. That is over 66% of unnecessary first- time treatments. But from examining my own teeth with a dental mirror, particularly the previously hidden surfaces that used to be between the teeth my conclusion is that that 66% is a very, very conservative estimate. The tooth dentin is incredibly tough, if in 30 plus years an inner surface of a tooth which had never been brushed, which looks horrendous, had not developed a single cavity, than how could top surfaces of teeth develop holes? With a little help from our friend – a well-meaning dentist, perchance? Needless to say I examine my children’s teeth with a dental mirror about once a month. Even if I were to spot a brown spot, I would not rush them to a dentist, unless it becomes a real cavity. They are still young – 4 and 7, and so far, touch wood, I had seen not a single brown spot. I have been brushing their teeth regularly before their bedtime. After the teeth have been brushed no food or drink is allowed. After I shown my little children my extracted teeth with blood dried on them, they gladly follow this regimen.
Needless to say my children are not registered with a dentist, and I have no intention changing that.
I will not go so far as to call the modern dentistry a hoax. Clearly if you bit on a bone and fracture a tooth you will require a treatment. If you had a little hole drilled in your tooth already, there is no option, but to keep replacing that filing. But I firmly believe, with the evidence to back me up, that most first-time dental work is un-necessary and harmful, particularly in young children. If a person brushes their teeth regularly from a young age it is possible to go through life without ever having any dental treatment at all. Do not let a dentist breach your dentine. Outer layer of your teeth, dentin, is incredibly resilient and can withstand a lot of abuse, but it cannot withstand the dentist’s drill. Do not let a dentist go crazy with a drill. Let it be known from the start that you do not agree to any first-time drillings, and would like to have the “suspicious discoloration” monitored and not drilled at this time. Do not be deceived, by two for one offers, or by an offer to throw a little exploratory drilling for no extra change. Free cheese is only in a mousetrap.
People are different, even dentists. Most dentists are well-meaning and would not deliberately drill a perfectly healthy tooth. But you never know if perhaps you run into one who has a difficulty paying his mortgage or has a little cocaine problem. He just might be tempted to use a very aggressive approach to caries.
Buy a dental mirror and, if you find something suspicious, then a dental probe too. Check out your own and your children’s teeth, check out your spouse’s teeth, and get your spouse to check yours. This way, if you do go to a dentist you will be able to say – a filling crumbled in my upper left 6 ( ref 2). You want this and only this replaced. Say confidently that you do not wish any works to be done to the brown spot on the left lower 7. If a dentist insists that a discoloration on lower left 7 is caries and it is dangerous, and needs to be drilled out, when you yourself have poked it with a dental probe and found no cavity there – you have fallen into the hands of an overzealous driller for dollars.
Say firmly that you want this brown spot monitored, but absolutely do not wish for the drilling to be done today – perhaps next time – if it gets worse. From my experience chances are this next time will never come, as the spot never gets worse. A little known fact is that some discoloration is caused by excessive fluoride. Usually it is just cosmetic. Again if you cannot find a hole there with a dental probe, it means there is no cavity there, and no drilling is required.
Do not agree to the dentist’s offer to put a little filling there at no extra cost. Prof. Sheiham writes that a filling should last for 15 years, and if it falls out in less than 5 it is negligence and should be replaced free of charge. Most feelings do not last 5 years, and none are replaced free. Do not be a fool who is easily parted from his money ( and deprived of naturally healthy teeth).
You can easily examine your own lower teeth yourself in front of a mirror. To examine upper teeth, and to look behind your top front teeth you need a dental mirror, and preferably your spouses help. Remember, rough brown deposits, somewhat like scaling on a hot-water pipework is not tooth decay. It is tartar-build up. When it gets really bad it can cause Peridontosis or Periodontitis – gum inflammation. But it is a separate issue from the cavities. Do not permit drilling anywhere where you yourself cannot find a real cavity with a dental probe. A dental hygienist can help get rid of the tartar, a regular gentle brushing will also help to get rid of it. In my early teens I discovered tartar-build-up behind my front lower incisors – not nearly as bad as in this picture. This was a result of lax brushing and too many sweets as a child. I got rid of this tartar over several years of regular brushing. There had been no dental hygienists in the Soviet Union.
Take particular care of your children. Some tooth-brushing advice appears to be designed to promote tooth decay. For example, a recommendation, that you brush your teeth when you wash your face in the morning, as part of the morning routine. Teeth must be brushed after the breakfast, not before. One has to be willfully ignorant to not understand the logic behind it. After a meal your teeth are coated with fragments of food, so the teeth must be brushed after, not before the meal.
Do not make your children cash-cows for a greedy dentist. Educate them about brushing teeth and avoiding cheap hard sweets. Sweets like that could be safely eaten after the evening meal, or after breakfast before brushing teeth. Offer your little dears nuts, dates and dry figs instead of chocolates, toffees and candy. And as for lolly-pops and hard candy sticks those are fit only for the bin.
A little known fact of dentistry is that females are more likely to lose teeth than males. Women statistically visit dentists more often. Therefore there is a statistical correlation between visiting dentists and losing teeth.
A word of caution – caries and cavity formation, as well as gum inflammation do happen. For example the Bleadon man, whose bones can be viewed in the Science museum in London, had several painful cavities and there is evidence the decay had spread to his jaw-bone. He lived 5 thousand, years ago, was aged about 50 when he died, and of course his teeth had never been drilled by a dentist.
So, it is not impossible for a real tooth cavity to occur naturally, instead of being created by a dentist in an otherwise healthy tooth. But it is very likely the Bleadon man never brushed his teeth, had no access to fluoride toothpaste, and perhaps he was a bee-keeper, or a nobleman who ate a lot of honey, and never brushed his teeth. In any case he was in his fifties – not a child at all. Keep this in mind
when a dentist says he want to drill a new hole in your tooth, because it looks like caries might develop there. We are not Bleadon men – we brush our teeth with fluoride toothpaste, we have dental mirrors and probes.
Your health is in your own hands, the logic tells that neither the government, no dental industry are interested in your teeth being healthy.
And the Logic will set you free.
This is the timeline that led me to believe that modern dentistry is mostly fraud.
Read additional notes and references for this article.