Avoid Big Dental Bills with Safe and Inexpensive Products
Dental care is one of those big expenses that hits us in the pocketbook when we least expect it. Most people pay at least some of their dental bills out-of-pocket. Some people go in for a routine cleaning and come out with a schedule of appointments for thousands of dollars worth of restorative work. Traditional dentistry focuses on repairing the damage done by plaque-causing bacteria, but does little to address the underlying cause of decay and gum disease. A new trend called minimally invasive dentistry views these bacteria not as normal and unavoidable body flora, but as an aggressive bacterial infection that can be eliminated using a rational cleaning regimen.
Ellie Phillips is a Rochester, New York dentist and author of the dental advice blog Ask Dr. Ellie. In her blog (and in a forthcoming book), Dr. Ellie describes how she first became interested in minimally invasive dentistry (as it's now called). Her husband owned a restaurant, and the restaurant employees could not afford dental care. Out of a desire to provide some kind of inexpensive tools for preventive dental care, they installed a candy dispenser at the restaurant that contained xylitol candies. Xylitol is a natural sugar derived from birch trees. (If that sounds strange, think about how much maple syrup you've consumed. Same thing, except birch.)
It turns out that the bad bacteria attempt to metabolize xylitol, but get “stuck” in mid-process and starve to death. Xylitol is, in effect, a mild, selective antibiotic that eliminates plaque-forming bacteria and encourages the growth of harmless probiotic strains (which we all need for good health). The bad bacteria form clumps and strings on teeth. This is what the dentist scrapes off at those biannual cleanings. The good bacteria form an invisible slippery film on the teeth.
What Dr. Ellie found was that when the employees started eating a hand full of xylitol mints each day, their teeth and gums became naturally healthier. (The scientific literature backs up her observations.) Given time, and freedom from harmful bacteria, says Dr. Ellie, your body can even repair small cavities. This is called remineralization.
Since that time, Dr. Ellie has developed an oral hygiene system that encourages good bacteria and eliminates bad bacteria. The system (“Clean White Teeth”) involves eating a minimum dose of xylitol each day, brushing with a scrupulously clean toothbrush, and using four specific products : Closys rinse, Listerine, ACT fluoride rinse, and plain Crest toothpaste. She has many testimonials from happy patients and blog readers whose dental problems have been completely reversed by this regimen. Dr. Ellie is very clear that she does not receive any payment from Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer, or any other corporation for endorsing these products.
The xylitol candies and all of the mouth rinses are not cheap. They cost more than the average person's oral hygeine routine. However, they are much cheaper than root canals, gingival surgery, and tooth implants.
In fact, I decided to try this system myself. First I have to give you some background. I never had a cavity in my life, but as of about three years ago, I did have some gingivitis, with a few periodontal pockets that my dentist was watching. We had many conversations about flossing. The problem: I was flossing regularly and doing everything recommended by the dentist, but my gums were not improving. My dentist, whom I do like very much, didn't have any new recommendations to offer, except to continue flossing.
Some time later, I decided to begin taking fish oil supplements, because I had been impressed by new research showing the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for your overall health. Within about a month, I noticed my gums were a strange color. They were light pink! This is the color of healthy gums. Sure enough, when I went to the dentist, they couldn't get over what an improvement there had been in my gums. So that's my personal recommendation. The science on this is somewhat fuzzy (omega-3's are known to be beneficial for cardiovascular health, and cardio and gingival health have been shown to be linked). It's worth a try.
So when I started using Dr. Ellie's system, I already had pretty good teeth and gums. But like most everyone, I would have some sensitivity and bleeding during cleanings, and the hygienist spent some time scraping tartar. I usually got a lecture about flossing more.
I was eager to see if there would be any difference after I started the system. To my surprise, the hygienist found almost no tartar to scrape, and my gums had zero bleeding, except in one place where I had suffered bone loss from previous decades of simmering gingivitis. Again, they were very happy and impressed with my progress. I believe my largest periodontal pocket even measured a millimeter smaller.
So that's my personal testimonial. I am very happy to share this resource with Wise Bread readers. I would encourage you to go read through the Dr. Ellie blog archives. It's well worth the investment of time. She gives advice for many situations, including young children, cancer patients, and more. Medical science is just beginning to really explore the impact that microflora has on human health. So much is unknown. But after more than thirty years of being blamed for my own poor oral health, I am very happy to know that I just had an infection and was able to cure it naturally.