Natural cure for "root decay?"
August 6, 2007 5:35 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I have both been diagnosed with "root decay" as we both have many crowned teeth and as you get older a gap develops between the gum and the crown and decay seeps in to the space. Its very expensive to have perfectly good crowns ripped out and replaced in order to have this problem resolved, until the next time gaps develop between the gum and crown. The only thing the dentist recommends is leaving fluoride toothpaste on our teeth all night, every night, but we are "health nuts" and are, therefore fluoride avoiders. Any natural aids for this problem? How about rinsing with hydrogen peroxide solution every night? Thanks!
posted by Tullyogallaghan to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Listerine. Decay can't happen in the absence of bacteria, so a good solid swishing every night will minimize the amount of bacteria available to cause decay.
posted by selfmedicating at 5:52 PM on August 6, 2007

Even better - use a Waterpik to send listerine into these gaps.
posted by extrabox at 6:03 PM on August 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Tom's of Maine makes "natural" toothpastes including fluoride toothpaste. They call it natural because the fluoride comes from "natural ores". Chemically, it is indistinguishable from the fluoride they put in non-"natural" toothpastes, but that's a different discussion. And in fact, fluoride is a naturally occurring compound, which occurs naturally in many water supplies that are not artifically fluoridated as well as in tea and seawater (the latter at about 100 times the concentration used in public water supplies). In other words, it's about as natural as, say, salt.
posted by beagle at 6:04 PM on August 6, 2007

Just fill me in here - why would a health nut avoid fluoride? I understand that it can have negative consequences for developing fetuses and small children, but not adults, right?

I love fluoride. 36 years with not the slightest hint of a cavity, crack, toothache or gum disease - I grew up in an area with fluoride added to the water supply. Not to be snarky, but if you had avoided fluoride a bit less, you might not have this problem now.
posted by luriete at 6:17 PM on August 6, 2007 [3 favorites]

It might help if you could elaborate on why you'd be opposed to using fluoride, but okay with hydrogen peroxide. Are there specific side effects of fluoride you're concerned about?
posted by 0xFCAF at 6:20 PM on August 6, 2007

If you're avoiding all fluoride, then this isn't a great answer. If you're not comfortable with constant slatherings of toothpaste but could tolerate a single treatment, then it may be helpful.

There is a product called Duraphat that your dentist can apply. It's a fluoride varnish that can be applied over exposed roots or sensitive spots on your teeth. The protection lasts for months, but you aren't swallowing so much of it.
posted by 26.2 at 7:08 PM on August 6, 2007

This stuff
posted by hortense at 7:08 PM on August 6, 2007

I have extensive remarks on fluoride avoidance, but I'm going to spare you my ranting.

Setting that aside, try the waterpik.

If the risks associated with the plastic in the waterpik assembly are deemed excessive, you could try brushing and rinsing with a very strong salt solution. Very very strong -- almost a slurry. It's nasty, but it seemed to work when I was stuck without toothpaste for a while.

The trick will be to not rinse your mouth out thoroughly afterward.
posted by aramaic at 7:28 PM on August 6, 2007

Xylitol has been shown in some studies to be beneficial in decay prevention, though the journal of the American Dental Association says there should be further study, and so far there is no approved product language that permits this claim to be made overtly on products containing it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:08 PM on August 6, 2007

So you don't want to poison your precious bodily fluids... You don't drink the city tap water, you avoid fluride in toothpaste, and you have rotton teeth. Wah! Just suck it up and admit that better living through chemistry could apply here. A direct flouride application by your dentist is short term, You'll need to use a flouride rinse daily.
posted by Gungho at 8:20 PM on August 6, 2007

There are a number of possibilities, each one I found being distinctly inferior to fluoride, the best of the crop, I thought, being Tom's of Maine Fluoride-Free. I'd seriously consider having work done ASAP...

Root decay can have very severe consequences. I say this having personally seen multiple otherwise healthy people develop very severe antibiotic resistant infections from root decay. If you don't like your current dentist, see another one, but be careful not to sit on this.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 8:40 PM on August 6, 2007

Xylitol has been shown in some studies to be beneficial in decay prevention, though the journal of the American Dental Association says there should be further study, and so far there is no approved product language that permits this claim to be made overtly on products containing it.

This has nothing to do with your question or your teeth, but if you choose to go this route, keep it away from your dogs (if applicable).
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:01 PM on August 6, 2007

If you don't want to use fluoride, please consider removal of the tooth. That's nature's solution for you.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:01 PM on August 6, 2007 [4 favorites]

Tullyogallaghan, it's going to be difficult to give you a good answer to this question unless you can explain exactly what sorts of substitutes would be acceptable to you. You say you are a "health nut" but avoiding fluoride is probably one of the most unhealthy things you can do in your situation. You say you want something "natural" but fluoride is natural as beagle points out, and is even available in products marketed as "natural." Hydrogen peroxide is certainly no more natural under any definition of "natural" I have ever seen.

So please just tell us exactly what you want and you might get a more useful answer.
posted by grouse at 1:16 AM on August 7, 2007

Tullyogallaghan, I sympathize. Fluoride is something that the government puts in the water, and that's weird and creepy no matter how you look at it. Who knows what else they put in there that they don't tell us about?

But that said, fluoride in therapeutic doses really is good for your teeth. The Tom's of Maine stuff that beagle recommended is probably what will benefit you the most.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:18 AM on August 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

I don't mean to troll, but my teeth are in a *terrible* state, despite brushing with fluoride toothpaste 2x a day and drinking fluorinated water for my entire life. I wish it was as good as folk make out. :(

WRT the original question, try mouthwash, as selfmedicating suggested. Fewer bacteria = less acid = less decay.
posted by Rabulah at 4:58 AM on August 7, 2007

Who knows what else they put in there that they don't tell us about?

Actually, it's not hard to find out what's in your tap water. Routine tests are done on your municipal water to make sure it's not contaminated. Bottled water, on the other hand...
posted by jmd82 at 6:13 AM on August 7, 2007

The addition of fluoride to public water supplies is one of the greatest public health advances of the 20th century. The risks have been so greatly exaggerated by the "health nuts" (and before that, the anti-communist nuts) that a lot of nonsense and pseudoscience is circulating that just isn't true. Amusingly, if shockingly, the passion for bottled "natural" water among the rich is causing wealthy kids to develop dental problems in adolescence and early adulthood that are not seen in poor children, and haven't been seen on a wide scale in the US in generations. Those people are "health nuts" too, thinking they are doing right by their babies by giving them Evian instead of tap water.

Listen up: dental health is a key to general health. Your mouth is not isolated. Concentrations of bacteria in your gums easily find their way into your bloodstream, and may be implicated in heart disease and other chronic life-shortening conditions. Dental health is also a *sign* of overall health so the fact that you and your spouse both have poor dental health (and how odd that you would both receive the same diagnosis, are you sure your dentist is legit?) indicates that for all your "health nut" intentions, something may be seriously amiss at a deeper and broader level with your diet, exercise regimen, etc.

None of this is controversial from an epidemiological or pathogenetic point of view. The fluoride controversy is dead, and its last adherents are living in denial of the facts. There are a lot of things in the water and the food supply to concern us, but fluoride in minute trace amounts is not one of them.

I've never heard of leaving toothpaste of any kind on your teeth overnight. That seems an odd way to address advanced decay, and somewhat quackish. There are fluoride rinses that provide a measured dosage that should have the same effect, but you are closing a barn door after the horse has fled, and you probably should consider more aggressive strategies, including periodontal surgery and root canal surgery on the worst areas unless you want to lose your teeth young. I'd find a much better dentist in your shoes than one who throws up his hands and recommends something both silly and likely to be ineffective.

But if you had been using fluoride toothpaste and drinking fluoridated water from childhood, there's a good chance you would not have severe problems with your teeth now, assuming you practiced recommended dental hygeine.

"Health nut" is a cultural affiliation, not an objective stance. I'm no health nut, but I know fluoride is good for my health and it takes no effort to get it; just drink tap water. Saying you're a health nut, or subscribing to the myths of the anti-science "alt med" crowd (the last true believers in the fluoride myths, other than a few remaining John Birchers) doesn't make you healthy. And it can make you sick if you believe the nonsense that passes for "science" in such circles.

Some people, on the other hand, just have bad teeth due to genetics. But even those people have better teeth on fluoride than they would otherwise have. Rabulah, you might well have no teeth left if not for fluoride.
posted by spitbull at 6:29 AM on August 7, 2007 [5 favorites]

If you are worried about ingesting fluoride, perhaps there is some way you could leave it on your teeth and then rinse it out? I am not certain what you think hydrogen peroxide would do, but I can tell you that it will not act in the same way fluoride will.

This is, perhaps, not the forum for a discussion about 'natural' and health, but let me add that just because something is 'natural' does not mean it will be good for your teeth -- I have a number of cavities resulting from a tryst with a high fruit diet. Remember that it used to be 'natural' to lose all of your teeth and wear dentures, too.

It may be that you may have to choose between your philosophy and having teeth.
posted by Comrade_robot at 6:52 AM on August 7, 2007

spitbull writes "Your mouth is not isolated. Concentrations of bacteria in your gums easily find their way into your bloodstream, and may be implicated in heart disease and other chronic life-shortening conditions."

This bears repeating. I currently work in a dental school, with many, many people who are studying heart disease, HIV, and a lot of other nasty things - all under the auspices of a dental research program - because poor oral hygiene means stuff that enters your mouth has a direct route to the rest of you.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:10 AM on August 7, 2007

The benefits of fluoride were discovered because people who live in areas where fluoride naturally occurs in the water had better teeth than people who live in places with little or no naturally occurring fluoride.

Do you take vitamins? Use Flower remedies or homeopathic drops? You might want to think of Fluoride as Vitamin F. It forms a nifty chemical bond with the enamel in your teeth, making them stronger. It is used in a pretty tiny dose. The health benefits are, as described above, really significant.

Part of being a 'health nut' is doing good research and making good decisions for your health. There are plenty of corporations with 'new age' marketing who will sell you poorly made, contaminated supplements. I wouldn't trust health claims from most corporations at all. Our current government has sold itself to the highest bidders. There's far too little in the way of regulation and inspection of Food & Drugs.

But public health advocates, especially at the state and local level, are really quite trustworthy, and genuinely advocating for the public good. They recommend fluoride.
posted by theora55 at 9:30 AM on August 7, 2007

I've never heard of leaving toothpaste of any kind on your teeth overnight. That seems an odd way to address advanced decay, and somewhat quackish.

My dentist (who is no quack) has also suggested this. He stays very up to date and is very honest about what works, what doesn't and what might. That said, as others have mentioned, the fluoride debate is over, it's safe, it's effective, and don't you think it's a little odd that you and your husband both eschew fluoride and you both now have the same serious decay problem?
posted by biscotti at 11:45 AM on August 7, 2007

My dentist, who is meticulous gave me a fluoride gel (not toothpaste) that I would put on my teeth at night.
posted by la petite marie at 3:05 PM on August 7, 2007

Indeed, toothpaste is not likely to *stay* on anyone's teeth for more than an hour or two, and it is likely to be ingested if painted on the teeth before sleep. Well, you are advised specifically *not* to ingest toothpaste, and certainly not on a regular basis. So I am very surprised to hear that dentists are recommending this.

On top of that, can you imagine how disgusting it would be to go to bed with toothpaste gumming up your mouth? Yuck.
posted by spitbull at 7:20 PM on August 7, 2007

Dental tourism may be an affordable way to get your hardware fixed up. Pick a country you wanted to travel to anyway, and you may find the savings pays for the flights and more.
posted by Listener at 1:01 AM on September 10, 2007

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