Joe Graedon, a respected pharmacologist and author of The People's Pharmacy, expressed concern about amalgam feelings, stating, "How can the mercury get loose? Corrosion is the culprit. While a hunk of metal in your tooth looks impervious, it may be subject to corrosion. In addition to the chemical environment of your mouth, which includes a constant saliva bath which tends to dissolve tin, amalgam in contact with other metals (such as a good bridge) creates a minature electrochemical cell which is hellbent on dissolving itself out of existence, freeing mercury in the process." (20)
Until very recently, the ADA has rebutted the anti-amalgam dentists noting that there is no evidence that the amalgams release any mercury or other metals into the body. New technology however has been able to detect this leeching. Studies have shown that people with amalgam fillings have detectable levels of mercury vapors in their breath. (21) The ADA responded to this research by stating that mercury vapors in the mouth did not prove the presence of increased mercury in the blood. Newer studies however have shown that blood mercury concentration in patients with amalgam filling were signficantly higher than those without such fillings. (22) Although it is not yet conclusive what symptoms this leeching may cause, some research has shown that people with amalgam fillings had a significant decrease in T-cells* after insertion of fillings than before their insertion or after their removal. (23)
[* T-cells are important components of the immune system.]
Counter to those who have asserted that amalgam fillings release toxic amounts of metals into the body, the Medical Letter, one of the most respected medical newsletters in the U.S., has doubted if the leeching causes any medical problems, except in a very small number of people allergic to the amalgam. (24) The Medical Letter, however, did not address the concerns of acupuncturists and others familiar with Chinese medicine who do not simply worry about toxic exposure, but also about how the fillings affect acupuncture points under the teeth. Acupuncturists note that the metalic fillings have the potential of acting as batteries and capacitors which can generate current and store electrical charges. Since every tooth is situated on an acupuncture meridian, the filling may provide additional stress which may create acute and/or chronic symptoms in susceptible individuals.
The fact that acupuncture points reside under the teeth may be one possible explanation that homeopaths sometimes observe that the action of homeopathic medicines are antidoted by some dental work, including getting teeth cleaned or getting new fillings. It has been conjectured that some dental work stimulates so many acupuncture points in a short period of time that it may "short circuit" the action of the homeopathic medicines. More research on this phenomena would certainly be worthwhile.
Although most homeopaths are unfamiliar with the controversies surrounding amalgam fillings, there have always been certain ones who have noted the health effects of these fillings. As far back as the late 1800s, Dr. Charles Taft, professor of dental surgery at a homeopathic medical college in Chicago, claimed that amalgam fillings were responsible for the fact that some patients with chronic disease were not responding to homeopathic medicines. Once these fillings were removed, he found that the medicines worked, and the person's chronic condition disappeared or was significantly reduced. (25)
As with fluoridation, homeopaths find that some people are more sensitive to certain metals. Since dentists generally recognize this fact also, the most practical way to deal with it is for dentists to test the bio-compatibility of various types of fillings before placing them in a person's mouth. Certain recognized immunological tests can be used, though they are expensive. Some dentists have found that new electroacupuncture machines are able to assess subtle but measurable changes in the meridian energy which acupuncturists feel can determine hypersensitivity. (26) Although this new technology may hold promise, its accuracy is presently undetermined.
Homeopaths are also concerned about the inevitable long-term exposure to metals in the fillings. Some homeopaths have found that potentized doses of Mercury has helped some people, but most homeopaths recognize the importance of strict individualization of the person in order to provide help to people suffering from their fillings. Homeopaths also have observed, as did homeopathic dentist Taft, that fillings sometimes have to be removed before improvement in health is possible.
Homeopathic Medicines for Dental Problems
"For there was never yet a philosopher that could endure the toothache patiently."
--Much Ado About Nothing, Act V, Scene I, William Shakespeare
Besides offering a different perspective on fluoridation and amalgam fillings, homeopathy also offers specific medicines that can be invaluable in reducing dental pain and alleviating dental disease.
It should first be mentioned that homeopathic medicines do not replace good dental care but complement it. Also, the medicines may be effective in relieving dental pain, but it is often necessary to discover what the source of the pain is in order to cure the underlying problem. If pain is occurring due to an abscess, it is not enough simply to reduce the pain. The abscess must be treated.
One dental problem that homeopaths report treating effectively is fear, anxiety, and anticipation of the dental visit. Whether these emotions be "rational" or not, homeopaths have found three medicines to be most commonly effective. Aconite (monkshood) is a common medicine given to patients, usually children, for their fear of dentists. These people become furious, restless and angry (children tend to stamp their feet and kick), and tend to express extreme sensitivity to touch. Gelsemium (yellow jasmine) is indicated in those people who experience trepidation, feeling of weakness (especially a weak feeling in the stomach), drowsiness, loss of memory, and diarrhea. Those who need Gelsemium tend to be hypokinetic, whereas those who need Argenicum nitricum (silver nitrate) tend to be hyperkinetic. Argenticum nitricum is useful for patients who experience tremor and trembling of the whole body, who tend to be particularly talkative and hurried in their actions, and who have an inner nervousness which affects the bladder and intestines.
In order to determine the appropriate homeopathic medicine for toothaches, it is helpful to learn what the source of the problem is. If it is the result of a dental abscess, the common medicines are Belladonna (deadly nightshade), Mercurius (mercury), Hepar sulph (Hahnemann's calcium sulphur), and Silicea (silica). Belladonna is indicated at the initial formative stages where there isn't much swelling, though there is much throbbing and redness. Mercurius is helpful when the person is salivating excessively, has foul breath, and experiences a pulsating pain which tends to be worse at night or from exposure to anything extremely hot or cold. Hepar sulph is valuable in the later stages of abscess when pus has formed. The tooth affected is hypersensitive to touch and to cold, and the gums bleed easily. Homeopaths have reported that this medicine helps drain pus from the abscess. Silicea is indicated after the pus has discharged; at this stage it hastens the resolution of the abscess.
Although these medicines may be helpful in alleviating the pain and in some instances in curing, it is often necessary for the abscess to be drained and either a root canal established or the tooth removed.
For pain and inflammation around wisdom teeth, homeopaths and dentists have found that Belladonna is often given for throbbing pains and Hepar sulph to promote expulsion of pus. Mercurius is helpful in treating the pulsating pains that extend to the ears, especially at night. People who need Mercurius also tend to have noticeably increased salivation. Locally, mouthwashes with tincture of Salvia (sage) are sometimes helpful.
Neuralgic toothaches often yield to Chamomilla when the person is in such pain they can't take it any more. People who need Chamomilla tend to be particularly sensitive to warm food and drink (especially coffee), and their symptoms are worse at night. For those who are so frantic with pain that they cannot sleep, whose pains are also relieved by holding cold water or ice in the mouth, and who are not relieved by Chamomilla, Coffea is indicated. Plantago (plantain) is one of the more common medicines indicated when there is a toothache with radiating pains to the ears. Accompanying these pains generally are salivation, facial neuralgia, and headache. Homeopaths usually use the tincture or low potencies for the best results from this medicine. Other medicines that homeopaths consider when dental pain extends to the ears are Mercurius and Sulphur, the prescription of which is determined by the totality of the person's symptoms (these medicines however are never given in tincture).
Hypericum (St. John's wort--the herb) is the prominent medicine given to people for neuralgic pains after tooth extractions. Recent double-blind research has confirmed its effectiveness. (27) This study showed that when Hypericum was given in alternation with Arnica (mountain daisy) to people after tooth extraction, they experienced significantly less dental pain as compared to those given a placebo.
Dr. George Baldwin, an Oakland, California dentist, Dr. Philip Parsons, a Keystone Heights, Florida dentist, and Dr. Richard Fischer, an Annandale, Virginia dentist, have allreported impressive results using Ruta (rue) for people who have pain after dental surgery. Ruta is known in homeopathy as a great medicine for injuries to the bone and periosteum (the bone covering)[see Chapter 10 on Sports Medicine for more detail]. Since teeth are actually considered by anatomists to be joints,* it is certainly understandable that Ruta would be useful for traumas or injuries to them.
[* It is surprising to realize that teeth are considered ball and socket joints.]
Homeopaths have also reported success in treating hemorrhage after extraction, surgery, or accidental dental trauma. Some homeopaths give Arnica to prevent hemorrhage or give it in the very initial stages of bleeding. If bleeding persists and is bright red, Phosphorus is commonly effective. In the rare instances when Phosphorus doesn't act rapidly, Ipecacuanha (ipecac) is often indicated. Lachesis (venom of the bushmaster snake) is valuable if the blood is dark. And if a person commonly has bleeding problems, it is recommended they receive constitutional homeopathic care.
If a puncture wound in the gum is incurred from surgery is causing pain, Ledum (marsh tea) can relieve the pain and help it heal. If infection has already set in, Pyrogen (artificial sepsin) is indicated. Calendula (marigolds) in its tincture form is also helpful in conjunction with either of these medicines.
The tincture of Calendula is not only useful in speeding the healing of punctures, it is also valuable in healing trauma from injuries to the oral cavity. It is of use for kids whose braces irritate their gums or mouth and for the elderly whose dentures do not fit well (ultimately getting the braces or dentures adjusted will also be necessary). Burns from ingesting extremely hot food or drinks or from aspirin burns are alleviated byCalendula tincture as well. If the tincture isn't readily available, making a tea of marigolds is as effective.
A "dry socket" is the source of many people's dental pain. This condition occurs after an extraction when the blood doesn't clot well, and the bone and its nerve endings are exposed. Mouthwashes of Salvia (sage) infusions several times a day diminish some of the pain. Other medicines for this pain are: Belladonna for redness around the gums and throbbing pains that come and go rapidly; Coffea for unbearableble pains that cause the person to be very restless and that are temporarily relieved by cold water or ice in the mouth; Hepar sulph for pain that is hypersensitive to touch and to cold; and Silicea to help in the final stages when clot around the tooth ultimately needs to be detached. If none of the above medicines seems indicated or is working, Ruta should be given.