The surge of interest in alternative and complementary medicine has also reached dental practices. Approaches such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, hypnosis and homeopathy have made it into the dental research arena and have been implemented in certain areas of oral care.
Recent high level evidence published in the British Dental Journal found laser acupuncture and acupressure to be effective in controlling severe gagging during dental procedures. Acupuncture has also been shown to be effective in the treatment of jaw joint disorders, facial pain, and in stimulating salivary flow in cases of dry mouth.
Another research conducted in a laboratory and published in the Journal of the American Dental Association found an herbal mouthrinse – The Natural Dentist Healthy Gums Daily Oral Rinse – to be more effective in inhibiting the growth of oral bacteria than other over-the-counter mouthrinses, but concluded that clinical testing is essential to confirm these laboratory results.
Hypnosis has been shown to be effective in managing dental anxiety, along with other relaxation methods such as audio-visual eyeglass systems and relaxation-oriented therapies like tense-release, deep breathing, and instant vacation.
Reported clinical experience has also shown that some homeopathic remedies may be useful in dealing with dental problems. In a study where data was collected from patients who received homeopathic dental treatment, 90.1% of these patients reported positive outcome in treating infections, sensitivity and toothache. Another observational study found that homeopathic treatment is effective and safe in the treatment of facial nerve pain of unknown origin.
Many of these approaches have been used for hundreds of years, but historical use should not be the only measure of their effectiveness and safety. Some have high level scientific evidence such as clinical trials supporting them, while others rely only on clinical experience, observations and testimonials.
The use of these alternative and complementary therapies in oral care is still limited due to the mechanical aspects of dentistry. The preventive mechanical removal of plaque by brushing and flossing and the mechanical intervention of cleaning and filling irreversible tooth cavities by dental professionals seem to remain the standard of care in the foreseeable future. However, more of these approaches could be considered options as emerging scientific evidence supports their use.
— Samer Alassaad, DDS, is in private dental practice in Davis. Contact him at [email protected]