Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS March 7, 2016
Josh Billings (the 19th Century humorist) put it so clearly: “It ain’t so much the things we don’t know that get us into trouble. It’s the things we know that just ain’t so.”
As a periodontist, I have been treating patients now for 42 years. That is a long time. You would think that I should know everything that there is to know about gum disease – its causes, its treatment, and its prevention. If any medical doctor or dentist or any other professional told you that he or she knew everything that there was to know about a subject, run as fast as you could to the nearest exit.
I live and breathe “outside of the box.” I have an open mind about almost everything. It is exciting for me to learn new things and even change the way I currently do things if a better method or newer knowledge were proved. I am still aware that these newer and better ideas may still be changed or disproved in the future. I will continue to learn until I die. This invigorates me.
So, with that said, here are seven hard and true dental facts that I have learned in the past during my professional career that no longer are valid or accurate. I have included peer-reviewed research LINKs:
- Brushing and flossing are all that is necessary to prevent gum disease and tooth decay: Disease-producing dental plaque is clearly unhealthy. Brushing and flossing properly will remove it. But, eating processed foods is actually the more important culprit of increasing harmful bacteria in the gut and in the mouth. LINK.
- Killing all the bacteria in the mouth is the goal for a healthy mouth: Healthy plaque actually is made up of numerous microbes that benefit one another. If they were to be destroyed, or if their delicate balance were to be altered, tooth decay and gum disease would ensue. LINK. LINK.
- Antibiotics should be used to treat infections in the mouth: While some acute infections must be brought under control through the use of systemic antibiotics, the indiscriminate use of antibiotics will damage good bacteria in the gut as well as in the mouth. LINK.
- Traditional gum surgery (including cutting open the gum tissues, cutting the damaged jawbone, and using sutures) is the treatment of choice for treating advanced periodontal disease: Research has shown that a specific type of laser can kill the virulent bacteria that cause periodontitis and increase the potential for some of your own damaged jawbone to regrow. LINK . This procedure is called Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure (LANAP), and does not require scalpels or sutures. You probably would be able to return to your regular routine the next day.
- Mercury fillings are the best way to treat a decayed tooth: The science is out there. Today, dental fillings incorporating biologically compatible materials are excellent choices to repair decayed teeth. Mercury fillings are not one of them. Mercury is a toxic heavy metal that can interfere with numerous biological pathways in the human body. LINK.
- Fluoride is necessary to remineralize a tooth and prevent tooth decay: While locally-applied fluoride preparations can harden susceptible tooth surfaces, diet is more important. Nutrient-dense foods that also are anti-inflammatory can provide the building blocks to strengthen and remineralize tooth surfaces. LINK.
- Mouth problems are independent from what is going on in the rest of the body: P. gingivalis (an aggressive bacterium causing periodontitis) can invade other tissues and potentially may cause other systemic diseases. LINK. LINK.
I will be the first to declare that what I am doing is no longer valid when science demonstrates that it is no longer effective. Is your health professional open to new knowledge? He or she should be!