I frequently am asked about what to do in specific instances of decayed teeth. My answer is very simple. Do the best you can with nutrition. And then evaluate with your dentist if your tooth needs further cosmetic or surgical treatments. It never hurts to improve your diet in any case.
What to do about your tooth decay depends on how severe it is. The severity is determined by how much pain you experience, if there is a large visible cavity in the tooth, and if the tooth has been drilled or traumatized in the past. Understanding the past condition of the tooth will guide you to what type of treatments your tooth needs under a diet that promotes tooth remineralization such as described on this website. The advice here is meaningless for those who neglect to carefully ensure that they have enough fat-soluble vitamins in their diet while avoiding many of the tooth-decay-promoting foods.
Dental problems in teeth that have been drilled by dentists usually need to be repaired in some way by a good dentist. The model of drilling large holes guided by the “extension for prevention” premise traumatizes teeth. The tooth with a moderate to large mercury filling has lost its structural strength from the large hole drilled in it. Some older composite fillings may also exhibit this loss of structural integrity if they are weakly bonded to the tooth. An analogy for these sorts of teeth is a house without a roof. Without a sound roof, any kind of foul weather will be able to enter the house.
The house will be hard to clean, and likely will be damaged from the weather. Likewise, your tooth that has been drilled is like a house without a roof. Your body has to work tremendously hard to clean, repair, and maintain the damaged tooth because it has little protection from the environment of your mouth. If your house did not have a roof, would it make sense to continue to try to clean it up after every rain or snow? No. It would make sense to fix the roof to prevent the problem in the first place. Likewise, bad dentistry needs to be fixed with good dentistry. Teeth that have mercury fillings, toxic crowns, or conventional root canals are like houses without roofs.
With teeth that have already been subject to the dentist’s drill, no matter what the condition of the tooth, be it painful, temperature sensitive, cracked, or infected your treatment path will require the work of the tooth handyman, the dentist. Great dentists can bond teeth, save inflamed nerves, and restore the structural integrity of your tooth with carefully bonded ceramics or composites. Once the tooth is safe and not being traumatized it can heal faster. The tricky part is that if you go to a dentist with a large amount of tooth decay, then he usually will want to remove all of the decayed part of the tooth, even part of the tooth that can remineralize. How long you wait to remineralize the tooth, how much the dentist needs to drill, if at all, and if you should have a temporary or permanent filling placed while the tooth heals is all entirely up to you to decide along with, one hopes, the supportive advice from your dentist.
Teeth that have never been drilled usually respond very well to dietary intervention. You should notice significant improvement in tooth pain or sensitivity within a few days. Once the tooth has hardened then you can decide with your dentist if the tooth needs extra structural support from a filling. In this case you could do a no-drill filling if there was a large hole that needed to be sealed up. I do not recommend leaving large holes untreated, although some people make this choice for personal reasons. Tiny cavities, the kind most people have, do not really need any type of drilling or filling once they remineralize. All that is there will usually be a tiny but very hard discolored or black spot on the tooth. Sometimes even the discoloration of a cavity disappears completely on an excellent diet.
With your excellent diet your tooth will now be constantly trying to heal itself. If your dental condition has been going on for years and years, it could take many weeks or even many months to fully remineralize the damaged tooth. If your tooth is constantly getting aggravated such as from night time tooth clenching, tooth grinding, a poor bite, or dental work that is falling apart then the healing process is going to be very slow if it progresses at all. Meanwhile if your tooth is in a lot of pain, it may be difficult or impossible to wait for weeks and months for your body to heal the tooth nutritionally to the point where it stops hurting. The only way to know is to implement as much as you can of the tooth infection program explained earlier in this post. If your painful, inflamed tooth does not radically improve in 24-48 hours, then this tooth likely needs a dental treatment.
Specific Examples of How to Treat Tooth Decay
Assuming you have changed your diet for the better, your teeth will be getting hard and strong. There may still be holes and these will become covered over with hard new enamel, but will not usually fill in. The general treatment theory on teeth is that less is more. You want to do the least traumatizing and least invasive treatment as is reasonable for your tooth. The best holistically oriented dentists will be able to support this process.
What the least invasive treatment looks like exactly in your case you will need to decide for yourself. When people ask me what they should do with their tooth condition, I always simply ask them what they want to do. Beyond the structure of health I provide on this website, I cannot tell you or advise you what to do with your teeth. I cannot replace your own wisdom and inner knowing of what is right for you. Here I will try to give you some guidelines to help you make a good decision.
Soft leathery decay probably cannot be remineralized, but all of the other types of tooth decay can be remineralized. Your dentist will advise a specific filling or treatment for your tooth based upon his observation of how damaged the tooth is. If the decay is very hard, then the dentist should not need to drill much or at all. All cavity treatments and outcomes will be enhanced when you make steps to correct your bite and to relieve pressure on the central cranial nerve in your jaw, the trigeminal nerve. This will be discussed in the next post. Healing teeth nutritionally is enhanced by topical treatments including herbs, homeopathy, sea salt rinses, gum cleaning and oil pulling (see the gum disease post).
Side Cavities and Regular Cavities. These respond well to nutritional adjustments. After the small cavity has healed, you will need to decide if you want or need any additional drill-free dental treatments to restore the structure or look of the particular tooth.
Large cavity. Make dietary changes and then get the cavity filled with a no-drill filling, or a filling that requires only a small amount of drilling. This can only be done when the cavity is remineralized. Alternatively, the cavity can be scraped carefully without using a drill and then a temporary or permanent filling can be placed while you improve your diet. Teeth can remineralize under the fillings. Parts of the teeth that are drilled are a far larger obstacle to tooth remineralization than a filling sitting in a tooth.
Cavities under fillings. Sometimes these respond well to nutrition, and other times they do not. It depends on how stressed the tooth is, and how severe the decay. First you need to determine if your current filling is allowing food and saliva to enter deeply into the tooth. If so, you want to get the filling cleaned, and then sealed with either a temporary or a permanent filling. If the filling on the tooth is already sound, then the first thing to consider is if this is a misdiagnosis.
If it is not a misdiagnosis, many of these teeth will respond well to nutritional treatments. Make sure to avoid biting on the tooth as best as you can for 1-14 days depending on your desires, and perhaps even wear a night guard to relieve the nighttime stress on the tooth. Expect significant improvement in these deep cavities in 1-2 weeks. If the filling is damaged, once the interior of the tooth heals, then consider getting a new non-toxic filling to strengthen the structure of your tooth.
Cracked or chipped teeth. Cracking teeth is almost always a sign of a significant dietary sin or health imbalance. Teeth are not supposed to crack, even in the elderly. Whole grains and high intensity sweeteners top the list of dietary mistakes that cause cracking or chipping. Cracked teeth can usually be bonded by a good dentist. You will need to reduce the biting stress on the tooth and give it ample time to heal. To reduce biting stress a night guard, chewing on the opposite side, and alternative body work treatments on your jaw or head will help. Just as a reminder, a cracked or chipped tooth does not usually need a root canal.
Teeth with temporary fillings. You will want to find a permanent safe filling solution and not keep temporary fillings in your mouth very long.
Leaving big cavities without fillings. A few daring people want to have no filling materials in their mouths even if their teeth have large holes. I do not recommend this option if you are doing it to save money.
A mouth full of cavities, or you do not know what to do about your cavities. What I always say to people who feel unsure is to make your best effort to improve your diet. No matter what dental treatment course you pursue, you will always be benefited by improving your diet. It does not hurt to try.
Sensitivity on sides of teeth with gum line ridges. This is called abfraction and is due to biting forces. An improved diet will strengthen the tooth against the loss or damage to the tooth caused by biting forces. The complete healing of this condition may require additional treatments to adjust how you bite.
Still not Sure? Talk to Your Tooth
While this suggestion may sound ridiculous, I assure you that I have not gone off the deep end! I want you to know that I am sharing this suggestion with you because many people truly have difficulty in deciding how to take care of a painful tooth, and this process really can bring clarity.
Even after considering all of this information, you still might feel clueless about what to do for your painful tooth. You may wonder if there is any hope. Many times in these situations you have a variety of choices. And it requires relaxing the judgmental mind to know which choice is best for you.
Consider beginning an inner dialog with your tooth. This is very similar to talking with a child. Here are some examples. “How are you, tooth?” “What will make you feel better?” “Do you want to visit a dentist?” “Do you want a root canal?” “Do you want to try herbs?” “Do you want a special food?” “Do you want to be pulled?” You will be amazed at how your body can actually communicate what it needs to you. People will receive some kind of response to these questions, as a feeling, an inner knowing or voice, or as a desire to do something. If you get no response, do not worry.
A response will appear in some way when your mind is relaxed. Keep asking clearly. A treatment option can also elicit a feeling of stress or tension (implying it is a bad choice), and a feeling of lightness and ease in response to another treatment (implying this is a good choice). If this exercise is too abstract, place an object near you to represent your hurting tooth. Then talk to the object as if it is your tooth. This can be therapeutic and help you to discern what is best to do. For example, you could express some anger, sadness, disappointment or frustration at your tooth, or at yourself, for hurting. If you can let yourself have some fun here, then you might get an insight on how to proceed.
Dental Mystery—Missing Adult Teeth
About 3% of the population exhibits a condition in which some of the primary or permanent teeth are missing. This condition is called hypodontia, and is associated with genetic or environmental factors. Problems with primary and adult teeth not erupting have been shown in cases of rickets, syphilis, and in laboratory animal experiments with a very high sugar diet. Congenital syphilis is linked to missing teeth. Its symptoms on the skeletal system are very similar to that of scurvy and rickets. Scurvy in children was treated with raw minced beef, fresh cow’s milk, and orange juice. Perhaps missing teeth is related to a lack of vitamin C or a lack of fat-soluble vitamin D in the diet during important times of growth including in the womb. The exact cause of missing teeth still remains a mystery.