Homeopathy at the dentist?
February 9, 2024 5:54 PM   Subscribe

OK, I have been going to the same dental practice and felt quite happy with them for years. I am due to have an extraction next week, and was prescribed antibiotics to start 24 hours beforehand, and then given "StellaLife VEGA Oral Care" rinse to use every day before and for a week after. So, I look it up and it's a "homeopathic oral pain management system" -- this is very weird.

I seriously doubt that my dentist thinks that "like treats like" and that infinitesimal amounts of a substance are going to affect my pain or recovery.
But the fact that he gave me this stuff (and charged me like $50 for it has me seriously questioning the entire practice, including their ethics and commitment to literal science.
Is this an overreaction on my part?
What would you do in a similar situation?
posted by mmf to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What would I do in a similar situation? Start looking for another dentist. I want someone who is up on the latest medically sound science based practice, because dentistry has really improved in the last decades.

But then I am severely allergic to woo-woo.
posted by Peach at 5:58 PM on February 9 [18 favorites]

If this is the product in question, I would expect it to work fine (the “inactive” ingredients are pretty much what you’d expect from the non-homeopathic version of it: xylitol, allantoin, glycerin, etc). The fact that your dentist’s office is pushing it strikes me as more likely to be greed-based than woo-based, either of which could be dealbreakers for me (or not) depending on how much I liked the dentist.
posted by not just everyday big moggies at 6:15 PM on February 9 [6 favorites]

Quackwatch says the rinse isn’t supported by scientific evidence at all. Find a new dentist, and maybe check out your state’s consumer-affairs department to find out if there’s a way to report this to whoever in your state licenses dentists.
posted by mdonley at 6:16 PM on February 9 [6 favorites]

I would ask the dentist if they were aware that it was homeopathic and had not had any FDA testing. Things slip through, they may have been using it on the recommendation of another dentist without having looked too close.

If they said they knew I would probably move on to another dentist.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:59 PM on February 9 [12 favorites]

Dentists are honestly some of the weirdest fucking people on the planet earth.

My uncle is a dentist, an excellent dentist, and I would not trust him with a single thing in my life except for dental care. (And to be fair, I live 1000+ miles away from him so I don't even do that anymore.) Cf. that dentist who shot the famous lion, Pete Postlethwaite in Lost World saying "I've been on too many safaris with rich dentists," etc. I think it's some terrible combination of the godlike megalomania that many surgeons acquire mixed in with all of the toxic tendencies that can come with being a high earning small business owner that allow those with the worst possible personal traits to thrive. I don't know. It's a thing.

Obviously homeopathy is ludicrous, but if you're otherwise happy with the dental care you're receiving just take the quack rinse back, ask for it to be removed from your bill, and keep your eyes open at future visits. Ask questions often. If you feel bad, leave forever.

It's hard to find good dentists, and I truly believe deep down in my soul that many (most) good dentists are complete fuckin weirdos.
posted by phunniemee at 6:59 PM on February 9 [19 favorites]

I don't think you're overreacting, there's absolutely no excuse for a medical professional to engage in quackery. I would probably go through with the extraction, since presumably they've done enough of those to be competent at it, but then I would look for another dentist going forward.
posted by equalpants at 7:54 PM on February 9 [5 favorites]

Realistically, it's hard to find a dentist. Check his complaints with the dental board for your state. He is probably giving good care, with a side order of extemely profitable woo. If you choose to reschedule, that makes sense; if you choose to have the procedure, you'll very likely be fine. I think selling malarkey is chicanery, but he can be a greedy jerk and still be quite competent at extractions.

Last time I saw my MD, she recommended Bach Flower Remedies. I questioned her and mostly got {shrug}. In addition to finding her recommendation absurd and wrong, I felt that she didn't take my concerns at all seriously. Now I have to get on waiting lists.
posted by theora55 at 8:23 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]

Couple thoughts.

First, giving you what is essentially water to rinse your mouth with for pain management will make most people happy that dentist thought about after care, the ritual and placebo effect is what many people need to feel cared for. If he just told you to rinse with water many people would be like, guy doesn’t give a shit, other dentists have special sauce. That he charged you so much for it is scammy, but if you don’t have to pay for it does the placebo work as well?

Second, dentists are scammy as hell these days it seems. Apparently just doing normal dentistry and being honest doesn’t pay as well as it once did. So they’re going whole hog into selling sleep studies, Botox, and all kinds of non dental shit in addition to unnecessary dental shit, I wouldn’t accept anything any of them say at face value. It’s fucking sad, I wouldn’t do anything major that isn’t solving a problem you had before going to the dentistw/o three opinions. It’s fucking depressing. I can’t even blame insurance cause most dental shit is over and above base coverage and only partially covered at all, so all their scammy stuff isn’t covered…which they will pretend is.

Obviously some experiences informed that. But to your question, he’s probably a fine dentist but told to max profit off patients at dentist conferences. That he’s only screwing you for 50 bucks here is a sign he might not be so bad if you really need this procedure.
posted by ixipkcams at 9:16 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]

Ok. My post is going to be somewhat contrary to most of the posts here.

Quackwatch posted above does say "There is no published scientific evidence or logical reason to believe that the homeopathic ingredients in StellaLife’s Oral Recovery kit produce any medicinal benefit, “promote oral health,” or “promote a lifetime of good health or well-being.” It’s possible that the kit’s non-homeopathic ingredients provide a rinsing or covering action that can lessen post-surgical discomfort."

So, sure maybe the homeopathic ingredients don't do anything, but that doesn't mean the entire product is worthless.

I have a "homoepathic" remedy I use regularly, not because I believe homeopathy works, but because the base ingredients the homeopathic ingredients are carried in do work (well-known, well studied ingredients).

I use it in spite of the homeopathy.

I found this independent study that shows the mouthrinse to be effective and less damaging than a traditional antiseptic. It also shows reduced pain with this rinse vs traditional antiseptics.

Are we being so quick to dismiss homeopathathy that maybe we are "throwing out the baby with the bathwater," so to speak?

So essentially, what I'm saying is maybe your doctor has ready the independent study(ies) and is using the product based on the studies results and despite the homeopathic ingredients rather than because of them?

But I would probably just ask the dentist if I was concerned. Especially if you've been happy with your care for this long.

posted by CleverClover at 7:06 AM on February 10 [9 favorites]

Nthing the woo-woo homeopathy. And FWIW, I recently had a tooth extraction with a fabulous oral surgeon who is very very good at what he does. There was no woo-woo and the antibiotic was started prophylactically after the surgery. I would look for a new dentist.
posted by bluesky43 at 7:17 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I would add my 2 cents to the idea that this is not that big of a deal. From my own experience with wisdom teeth, etc, I know that you are supposed to rinse regularly to prevent "dry socket" or whatever, and using a mild antibacterial solution seems pretty normal (if I remember correctly, I used salt water). Beyond the homeopathic stuff, this product seems like it is in the ballpark of a mild antimicrobial (e.g., the citric acid ingredient). (Of course I haven't like scientifically evaluated the product, just guessing.) I think the dentist is probably guilty of prescribing a $50 product when salt water or diluted hydrogen peroxide would do the same thing, but I wouldn't worry so much about "science" aspect, it's more of a "greed" situation, I think. Which is annoying, but, I love my dentist despite the fact that I can't get out of his office without some recommendation for a new rinse or floss or toothbrush that they are selling right there in the office - I view this as a little bit worse than that, but in the same category.
posted by Mid at 7:34 AM on February 10

I had been going to a small, new-ish dental office right near my home. A clean facility with very modern equipment. Never had to wait long times. Kind of a deadly dull waiting room... but seriously, that was my only critique. I can walk there!

Last time I was there, however, the hygienist was talking to me, perhaps a little too chatty... whatever, I don't mind. She was wearing 2 masks and a face shield, gloves, all the normal protective gear. Starts talking about Covid. I mention that it's gotta be risky cleaning people's mouths. She starts going on and on about how she's not vaccinated, doesn't "believe" in vaccines, that the vaccines give you Covid, etc. Couldn't stop her with a suction tube in my mouth.

I eventually tell her that I find that extremely unprofessional and told her to stop. I said something like "you work in medical-adjacent field and it's alarming that you claim to disbelieve medical evidence." I came really close to calling her out on it right there, telling her boss, whatever. But she was a nice older lady, and I didn't want to make a scene or get her fired.

I found a new dentist. If I were you, I would find a new dentist. But I don't know your situation, I live where there are dozens of dentists nearby.
posted by SoberHighland at 8:15 AM on February 10 [2 favorites]

OK, so I'm a doctor (not a dentist), and I'm a specialist, which means that almost every patient I ever see comes to me as someone who has a relationship with another doctor (a PCP, another specialist, someone in my specialty and I'm the second opinion, etc) and as part of my evaluation I read the other doctors' notes.

People by and large are not good at judging whether they are receiving good care. They're great at telling if they like a doctor's bedside manner or if their office has good staff, but I have seen absolutely egregious care—literally stuff that I have reported to professional boards because it was so bad—documented by physicians who have amaaaaazing relationships with their patients, whom the patients love and trust so implicitly that it actually becomes difficult to give them good care because they are so in thrall to their terrible doctor.

All of which is to say that until you have a situation that really puts your relationship with your dentist in the crucible, it's easy to have a good relationship over years, and I would not hesitate to throw it away over something like this.
posted by telegraph at 8:58 AM on February 10 [4 favorites]

Agree with all the "talk to the dentist about it" sentiments, and will throw out another. In the case of a mouth rinse, flavor can make the difference between someone using it and not. It's possible that this is something that doesn't taste too bad, and as a result they're recommending it because they know people are more likely to use it.
It might be profitable woo, or there might be real reasons they're selling it to you, and there's no way to know without asking them.
posted by Runes at 9:17 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]

Mod note: One comment removed. Please avoid getting into debate or commenting about others thoughts on homeopathy, thanks!
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 9:25 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]

When I was a young adult I went to a dentist next to my current employer, and when I asked him about pain control during drilling he said it was HIS job to make sure I didn't feel any pain. I was young, he was an unprofessional idiot. It was agonizing. Just one true story for you to consider.
posted by forthright at 9:27 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]

If I liked and trusted my dentist, this would be a nothingburger for me -- although I would have declined the wash. There are people who would prefer that to the prescription one, which IIRC made everything taste terrible, too, but might feel like a salt water rinse isn't "enough". I'm not sure I'd have even classified this as woo, to be honest.
posted by sm1tten at 10:58 AM on February 10 [2 favorites]

Stellalife is awesome.

I started using it after periodontal surgery and it's great. I still use it and recommend it.

I understand the whole anxiety about homeopathic stuff, but I'd say if you have a good relationship with your dentist, give it a try.
posted by jasper411 at 8:12 PM on February 10

Not an overreaction, IMO. I'd get a new dentist immediately, because A) woo pisses me off, AND B) they took $50 of your dang money for water!

And at that point, after being sold imaginary medicine for a real extraction, I wouldn't even care if they believe in it or are just money grubbing.
posted by goblinbox at 8:53 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]

Just FYI, here's an article from journal Oral Health and Preventive Dentistry that compares Stellalife to CHX on variables of pain management and healing
posted by jasper411 at 9:51 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


A doctor who prescribes homeopathic medicines, whether accidentally or intentionally, is not a careful doctor.
posted by pracowity at 7:44 AM on February 11

FWIW, I dumped a long used vet over homeopathy. Plus when I called her on it, she said not to believe everything I read on the internet. I would ask him point blank why is he prescribing it and see what he says.
posted by kathrynm at 5:23 PM on February 11

Lots of sceptics here - take a look at this insightful resource
posted by jallypeeno at 8:28 AM on February 14

« Older Songs about love, protest, and revolution   |   Going to couples with SO who (I consider) needs... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments