What do homeopathic dentists do?
13 December 2017 (online)
Modern dentistry is an exciting and rapidly changing science. Minimum intervention and applying a natural approach to general dental practice are the catchphrases of the moment.
For many years a few individual dentists have used homeopathy; in the early 1990s they came together to form the British Homeopathic Dental Association. The objectives of the association were to promote the use of homeopathy in dentistry to the public and to advance the professional understanding of the subject through the creation of educational programs. The Association helped develop a Dental Diploma from The Faculty of Homeopathy. The first examination was held in October 1994 and nine candidates passed. It is the first ever qualification in Dental Homeopathy and helps the public discern qualified practitioners. The Faculty now has an Intermediate Course in Dental Homeopathy and many dental members all over the UK. Interest in dental homeopathy and membership is growing.
The use of homeopathy in dentistry is more limited than in medicine. Homeopathy cannot replace the mechanical arts of dentistry and there is no homeopathic remedy that will selectively numb a tooth. However homeopathy is a useful adjunct to conventional dentistry and may be used effectively in the place of orthodox treatments which may have unpleasant side effects. There are useful homeopathic medicines for common oral problems such as ulcers and teething in children. But what do homeopathic dentists actually do? In the past 25 years a few articles on dental homeopathy have been published[ 1–5 ]. However this issue of Homeopathy features two studies demonstrating the range of conditions treated by homeopathic dentists.
The study by Mathie and Farrer[ 6 ] collected the clinical data from 14 homeopathic dentists in the UK over a 6-month period. It is difficult in general dental practice not to undertake interventional treatment when a patient is in pain, and in this study it is unclear whether or not interventional treatment was undertaken at the same time as the homeopathic medicines were prescribed. Medical practitioners spend most of their time prescribing medicines and giving advice. Dental practitioners spend most of their time as surgeons doing physical intervention supported by prescribed medicine. If two treatments (physical intervention and prescribed medicine) are carried out at the same time it is difficult to analyse the true meaning of the results. This is a pilot study and a future larger scale study should note whether dental treatment was undertaken in addition to the remedy and if so how this affected the results. It was reported that 20% of patients were prescribed conventional medications. Similarly, in future studies these cases should be analysed separately. Prescribing antibiotics for an abscess could certainly mask any effects from the homeopathic remedy.
The third most frequently treated condition was ‘anxiety’. The results from this area are interesting as it is a medical rather than surgically based treatment. There is of course the placebo factor. The very act of offering a pill for their anxiety implies a caring nature which can in itself relieve some of the anxiety. The 7-point Likert scale was a simple tool to assess the improvement or deterioration of the dental condition treated.
The second study by Mojaver et al.[ 7 ] is from Iran. The first paper that Homeopathy/British Homeopathic Journal has published from that country, it illustrates the wide and growing geographical spread of the practice of homeopathy. It is a case series of classical homeopathic treatment of trigeminal neuralgia. Although not commonly treated in general dental practice it often presents in oral medicine departments of hospitals. The results show general successful outcomes, similar to orthodox medicine. Although it was considered unethical to use a placebo it was reassuring that conventional treatment was stopped for those patients in the study.
Classical homeopathic treatment requires the selection of a single homeopathic medicine at a time for a given individual. The selection is based on many factors and is open to interpretation. This study minimized this risk by using two experienced medical homeopaths to interview every patient at each visit. They were required to agree on the remedy selected with a 70% confidence rating. This consensus of the correct remedy may be an important factor in the successful results obtained.
Whereas classical homeopathy was used in the trigeminal neuralgia paper Mathie and Farrer used a pick list of 61 remedies to which the dentists could add as required. There were several clear matches: Aconite was used for anxiety, Arnica for tooth extraction and Hepar sulph for an abscess. This is what many dentists do—use a specific medicine such as Arnica for a particular condition, eg tooth extraction—as opposed to the classical homeopathic approach described above.
There is a lack of homeopathic dentists in academic institutions. The work of Mathie and Farrer and the 14 dentists who undertook the study will, I hope, encourage more homeopathic dentists to publish what they actually do. I look forward to the proposed larger scale dental data collection project.
- 1 Bhat S.S., Sargod S.S., George D. Dentistry and homeopathy: an overview. Dent Update 2005; 32: 486-491.
- 2 Albertini H., Goldberg W., Sanguy B.B., Toulza C. Homeopathic treatment of dental neuralgia using Arnica and Hypericum: a summary of 60 observations. J Am Inst Hom 1985; 78: 126-128.
- 3 Kaziro G. Metronidazole (Flagyl) and Arnica montana in the prevention of post-surgical complications, a comparative placebo controlled clinical trial. Br J Oral Maxillofac Surg 1984; 22: 42-49.
- 4 Lökken P., Straumsheim P.A., Tveiten D., Skjelbred P., Borchgrevink C.F. Effect of homeopathy on pain and other events after acute trauma; placebo controlled trial with bilateral oral surgery. Br Med J 1995; 310: 1439-1442.
- 5 Haila S., Koskinen A., Tenovuo J. Effects of homeopathic treatment on salivary flow rate and subjective symptoms in patients with oral dryness: a randomized trial. Homeopathy 2005; 94: 175-181.
- 6 Mathie R.T., Farrer S. Outcomes from homeopathic prescribing in dental practice: a prospective, research-targeted pilot study. Homp 2007; 96: 74-81.
- 7 Mojaver Y.N., Mosavi F., Mazaherinezhad A., Shahrdar A., Manshaee K. Individualised homeopathic treatment of trigeminal neuralgia: an observational study. Homp 2007; 96: 82-86.