Drilling & filling teeth: an unwise choice?
On risks, damages & dangers - reasons for avoiding invasive dental treatment
Does dental treatment kill teeth? Ironically, conventional dentistry practices rather than healing can seriously damage the teeth and gums, and by extension, potentially wreak serious harm on the entire body. In other words, work done in your mouth can often equate to personal injury.
There are a number of fundamental flaws and problems with the dental paradigm of drilling and filling as shown in the following (not necessarily exhaustive) list of the damage potentially done by these apparently self-evident everyday acts (and yes, such damage can include ... death).
Welcome to one of the most important pages of Healing Teeth Naturally!
Note: Further risks and damages specific to individual filling materials and restoration types are treated separately (see On the dangers of dental amalgam (mercury) "silver" fillings, Root canal treatment: on potential health dangers, Dental bridges and crowns: dentistry's 'crowning' glory, and Other health risks related to the practices of conventional dentistry).
1. Drilling and filling teeth: general considerations and objections
Nothing (or next to nothing) a dentist does may ever truly heal your tooth. Much more likely, it will in fact increase the damage to your tooth since the tooth is weakened by drilling and subsequent filling with artificial materials (see below for the numerous reasons).
A filling typically doesn't stop the tooth's decay, and once filled, more fillings and treatments will appear to be required (unless you decide to no longer submit to dental treatment and fare by yourself).
Amalgam and composite resins only "repair" the tooth for a certain time since there is no restorative material capable of protecting a tooth from further cavities for its entire life.
The daily act of chewing applies great pressure on the tooth and the filling, either of which may develop (micro)cracks under the pressure.
In sum: in great likelihood, having a tooth filled is the first step towards eventually losing the tooth. (And that this statement is indeed true to fact has been confirmed by a dentistry professor at King's College London Dental Institute.)
2. Drilling damages/possibly kills teeth and produces fractures in the bone.
For tooth damage, see Pulp (inner nerve) damage, pulp irritation, pulp inflammation/infection and pulp death.
Drilling invariably produces cracks in the bone, thus providing a perfect place for bacteria to hide and breed in and eventually leading to cavitation infections (see cavitations).
3. Preparing a tooth for a filling removes healthy tooth structure.
To place a filling so it is securely fixated, the dentist drills out some of the sound tooth structure to allow proper anchoring. When a filling is renewed (see next point), more sound tooth structure is sacrificed during cavity preparation.
4. Fillings typically have a finite lifespan.
In fact, a 1993 study by author Monika Sinha analyzing the treatment records of some 18,000 patients and several hundred dentists determined that one in three fillings was being re-treated three years after the original placement at the latest, either by placing a new restoration, crowning or even extracting the tooth. Dental fillings fail due to changes in the restoration, tooth or the bond between them.
No filling reportedly lasts indefinitely.* Gold cast fillings when carefully prepared are said to be able to potentially last 30 years/a lifetime (in contrast for instance with Class II gold inlays, 50% of which according to one study will fail within seven years).
As mentioned under 3) above, when the filling is replaced, more healthy tooth substance will be removed, until after several such "merry rounds", the tooth is gone. (Refer again to this confirmation from the mouth of a professor of dentistry.)
* though there will be exceptions - although reputedly among the least stable fillings, I know someone who has carried the same composite fillings for 30 years (and counting) - and in her wisdom teeth at that. And I've seen another person report that he has had the same composite fillings for some 20 years without them showing any sign of wear.
5 Bacterial contamination adjacent to and underneath fillings causes new tooth decay ("secondary caries").
At the junction between the filling (incl. the "best" of them) and the remaining natural tooth/existing dentin, a residual micro-gap is unavoidable. This gap or missing seal can be colonized by streptococcus mutans bacteria which are impossible to remove by brushing*.
These cavity-causing bacteria will increase the risk of cavity formation and possibly decay the tooth underneath. The infiltratation process is further aided by the normal expansion or contraction of the filling (see number 6 below).
Tooth decay at the margin of an existing restoration or crown is so commonly diagnosed that it has been given its own name: "secondary caries" (or recurrent decay). Secondary caries is the most commonly encountered cause of restoration failure and subsequent replacement and can be considered the biggest problem of the filling paradigm.
Similarly, many a filling has to be replaced due to bacterial contamination left under the filling. In fact, the primary reason for root canals (which deal the death blow to the tooth by removing the pulp) is recurrence of bacteria underneath the filling.
This is a known fact but for some reason many/most dentists will fill the tooth anyway. When food for these cavity-causing bacteria manages to reach them (see the first paragraph of this section for how this is possible), this will kill the tooth.
6 Fillings expand or contract.
"Silver" fillings expand with age. In fact, amalgams are able to crack the tooth. Drs. Graeme and Lilian Munro-Hall write that "all amalgam-filled teeth are cracked; no exception". For other possible consequences, see below under Badly adjusted fillings/crowns.
Composite fillings shrink. Gaps created by shrinkage invite bacterial contamination (see number 5 above). Composites can provoke hairline cracks in the tooth as early as during the initial hardening process. (A reader told me that one of her teeth with a resin filling cracked in half after some time, front to back to the base.)
Generally: different coefficients of thermal expansion of tooth vs. filling
The coefficient of thermal expansion is a number showing the change of size of an object when subjected to a change in temperature (typically, materials will expand with heat and contract with cold). Foodstuffs introduced into the mouth can vary in temperature by some 70° Celsius (158° Fahrenheit).
While natural teeth have specific "natural" thermal expansion coefficients depending on temperature, the same coefficient varies widely with artificial materials brought into or onto the tooth. In other words, when you eat hot or cold food, both tooth and filling will expand or contract, but to varying and (possibly widely) differing degrees.
This (again) furthers the formation of microcracks in the remaining tooth and likely filling.
Any kind of crack invites seepage and further decay in the tooth.
7 Fillings corrode, abrade, dissolve and outgas, leading to the release of extraneous products & substances with sometimes toxic effects
It's not just food but all materials undergo changes in the harsh conditions of the oral cavity, releasing some of their components to be absorbed into the body.
There are more than one thousand different dental alloys* in use (none of which have been safety-tested). Faraday's Law states that "dissimilar metals in a moist environment will release the least precious metal". In other words, these dental alloys will corrode and release metal ions into your mouth (where they can be found deposited in the teeth and gums) and body (swallowing).
This is considered particularly dangerous in the case of amalgam fillings (mercury release). Others such as nickel (from non-precious metals such as stainless steel) can be antigenic (i.e. stimulate the production of an antibody).
In fact, a long list of potential health effects (incl. death) likely attributable to nickel can be found under Potential risks of orthodontic treatment (scroll to "Metal poisoning from orthodontic brackets / retainers").
Generally, damage inflicted by dental metals and their oxides can range from organ damage such as Bechterev's disease to nerve damage and "clouding of consciousness".
Some specific examples of how metals used in dentistry can negatively affect your health:
Iridium contained in most gold alloys reduces the oxygen-binding capacity of erythrocytes (red blood cells), i.e. can/will reduce the oxygen available to your body.
Similarly, toxic gallium in alloys made from non-precious metals can cause depression via oxygen blockage of the red blood cells.
Palladium can cause many ailments, particularly damage to the mucosa of the upper respiratory and urogenital tract, and similar effects have been observed from titanium.
One example of palladium's health effects has been furnished by Erika Herbst (author of the book Die Heilkunst von Morgen) who intensely suffered for many years from undiagnosed palladium poisoning from gold fillings. Among other things, her symptoms included constant sneezing and intense unrelenting itching of the skin of her upper body - her body's attempts at trying to throw off the toxin.
Additionally, saliva constitutes a "salt bath" so that any array of metallic fillings will generate a measurable voltage / electricity (like in a battery - known as dental galvanism or the "mouth battery") and form an artificial electromagnetic structure affecting the body's meridian (energy) system.
Few dentists will perform a safety test such as the MELISA test to see if the mixture of metals they plan to use is likely to have a negative impact on the patient's health.
* An alloy is a substance composed of two or more metals intimately mixed (Webster's).
Composite resin fillings are particularly non-resistant to wear and by outgassing, dissolving and/or abrading acrylic resins, will/may release many potential allergens/possibly toxic substances/possible carcinogens, incl. estrogenic compounds (BPA or bisphenol A) into patients' saliva (the same can apply to denture bases).
8. Dental cements can be toxic and damage the tooth (acidity, leakage and tooth decay and death)
Cements which come in a variety of types (zinc cements, polycarbonate cements, composite cements and many others) are used for a number of dental applications (such as cavity-lining, insulation under metal or ceramic fillings) and help in fixing fillings to enamel and/or dentin.
All dental permanent cements release (toxic) fluoride. For instance Viviglass Cement states that their product "continuously releases fluoride." Fugi Triage Cement boasts that their cement "releases 6 times the amount of fluoride than any other glass ionomer cement."
Additionally, most temporary cements are flavoured and scented with added ester odorants. These flavours are genetically modified and made to last, as are the fluoride-releasing cements. (A site visitor wrote that the least toxic permanent cement material which also has the least fluoride release seemed to be RelyX Unicem. "If there may be others that are low in fluoride, I couldn't find them.")
Dental cements also release either bisphenol A glycidyl methacrylate (BIS-GMA) or other chemical substances, or they are acidic.
According to dentists Drs. Munro-Hall, older types of cement generally "cause less problems of a systemic nature than newer types, but the older types of cements are more acidic and can cause teeth to become sensitive or even die."
Additionally, cements can gradually dissolve (a property which is less pronounced with composite cements, however), with subsequent leakage of the restoration and new tooth decay beginning to form underneath.
This secondary caries process which can happen very fast under composite fillings often seems to be slowed, however, in the case of metal fillings and is most likely due to the toxic nature of the metal alloys used in the fillings which at least temporarily inhibit bacterial growth.
Since teeth are also nourished from the inside and via the saliva, a person's diet will influence how quickly cavities will form underneath as well.
9. The pulp (inner nerve) can be damaged and irritated: pulp inflammation/infection (incl. bone infection) and pulp death can result.
During drilling and filling, the tooth is subjected to multiple mechanical and chemical traumata which may first inflame and eventually spell the death of the pulp and thus the tooth. Damage to the pulp of the tooth and its eventual death can occur by a number of pathways.
a) High-speed drilling
High-speed drilling creates microscopic fractures and damages the tubules in the dentin. When enamel is removed and microcracks are created in the dentine, the inner nerve frequently is damaged, often killing the tooth in the longer term via nerve death. (If you look at the high-magnification picture of dentin, you will better see how drilling at high speed can indeed damage these filigrane structures.)
b) Drilling too fast
"Going over the speed limit" (eg during the preparatory work for a bridge or crown*) will create too much heat. (Dentist and book author Dr. Rosemarie Mieg writes that for placing a crown, teeth need to be filed for 20 minutes to avoid overheating and resultant pulp death.)
c) Removing too much enamel
Dentist Dr. Graeme Munro-Hall writes, "Removing the enamel and making the micro-cracks in the dentine quite often, but not always, damages the inner nerve. The damage can cause the nerve to die slowly over years allowing infection to take hold. This infection can spread from the tooth to the bone and cause acute conditions, pain and abscesses as well as chronic pain-free infections in the tooth and bone. Overheating the tooth during drilling can create the same conditions as well for the nerve or pulp. All infections create toxic load... the greater the amount of enamel left behind after a tooth is prepared for a crown or bridge, the greater the chance of survival for that tooth ... Crowning should be the last choice ... not the first choice."
Veneers not infrequently trigger pulp death (veneering removes more than half of the tooth enamel). If for cosmetic reasons, a veneer "has to be" replaced because part of it fell off or changed colour, each renewal removes more of what remains of the sound enamel. The eventual death of the tooth is only a matter of time.
d) Placing inlays or crowns
may cause nerve inflammation leading to the dentist devitalizing the nerve. In fact, crowning not infrequently triggers pulp death. Death of the pulp after crowning is the main reason for later extractions. Compare b) and c) above and badly adjusted fillings or crowns further down.
e) Etching teeth with acids
Teeth are etched with acids to allow the filling to bond with the sound tooth structure. This also allows bacteria to penetrate into the tooth's interior where they can trigger serious inflammation.
Bonding systems used to attach the filling to the teeth can damage the pulp and lead to pulp death.
g) Restorative materials
such as dental composites can irritate/damage the nerve (pulp). When the work isn't done carefully, the acid plus restorative material used can have a toxic effect leading to the death of the tooth.
h) Vibrations of the drill / handling dental instruments
The pulp of the tooth can be killed by the vibrations of the drill. Even other tools wielded by dentists can inflict such damage to the pulp that pulpal necrosis ensues.
10 a Drilling helps cariogenic bacteria to quickly penetrate deeply into the tooth
...much quicker than they could penetrate on their own to destroy the tooth (assuming that no proactive action is taken by you and your body to stop them in the first place).
According to author Dr. Lars Hendrickson (a medical doctor and dentist), even if no personal action is taken to strengthen the tooth against the decay's progression, you would never lose a tooth as quickly as you would by appealing to a dentist's "help". Cavities in adults tend to spread extremely slowly so that generally, there is no danger to speak of.
10 b After extractions, drilling helps to transmit dangerous germs to the next patients
A German researcher discovered germs from a pus-filled tooth that had been extracted in the 10+ patients treated thereafter by the same dentist using the same drills and instruments (which had been "disinfected"). Details at Tooth extractions are open-bone surgery.
According to specialist Barrie Trower all metal fillings, be it amalgam, gold, or titanium implants in the mouth (in fact any metal inside the body) will absorb microwaves and re-emit them into the body, typically at a slightly different wavelength, which can result in quite a serious internal heating effect. Suffering from pins-and-needles sensations is most likely caused by this.
12 Dental composites and bonding systems can damage the gums.
13 Dental composites ingredients encourage bacteria.
Composite resins contain ingredients that facilitate bacterial attachment to the tooth and gingival margin. The above-cited secondary caries developing at the margin of the tooth is particularly prevalent in composite restorations. Some earlier resin-based composites made from TEGMA apparently encourage microbial growth, i.e. further tooth decay underneath the filling.
14 Restorative materials and cements can emit low-intensity radioactivity.
Certain types of fillings (eg dental ceramics [aka porcelain] used in crowns, bridges and veneers) as well as cements emit low-intensity radioactivity. As an example, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) permits a maximum value of 1.0 Bq/g for ceramic materials used in dental restorations (see ISO 6872).
15 Miscellaneous observed risks and dangers of drilling and/or filling treatment (incl. death in the dentist's chair)
Injecting a local anaesthetic has caused permanent nerve injury/irreparable nerve damage (such as to the lingual nerve and the inferior alveolar nerve incl. numbness and loss of taste), trigeminal neuralgias, and even permanent facial paralysis.
Dental injections can start a dangerous cavitation infection in your jawbone.
Side effects of anaesthetics include allergic reactions (even allergic shock), hoarseness, chronic difficulties in swallowing, nausea and emesis (vomiting), and death in the dentist's chair (yes, do an internet search, as an example, the number of people dying yearly in a dentist's chair within Germany is estimated at 1000). A recent US case involved a 14 months old baby girl - when children's teeth are so comparatively easy to heal naturally without subjecting them to the danger and trauma of dental surgery.
More below under "Death in the dentist's chair".
Dental x-rays and cancer
Dental x-rays have a contributory role in thyroid and other cancers (more at Ionising radiation from dental X-rays and increased thyroid cancer risk).
Possibly more common than assumed, badly adjusted fillings or ill-fitting crowns will lead to problems with the bite (malocclusion), make the teeth sensitive to pain, can trigger neck and back pain, tinnitus (one tinnitus case I've read about involving a French man was healed after years of intense suffering when his teeth's malocclusion due to wrongly placed metal fillings was finally resolved), as well as migraine and inability to sleep (waking up from pain again and again as the mouth involuntarily closes).
(Re crowns, also compare b), c) and d) above as well as the page specifically dedicated to the Risks & complications of dental crown placement.)
Effects on adjacent tissues
Neighbouring teeth/gums can be damaged, drilling can injure mucous membranes, tongue and bone tissue (see number 2: "Bone fractures" above).
Allergies, infections, sepsis
Allergies or hypersensitivity in response to chemicals used by the dentist (such as disinfectants) can occur. An inflammatory state of the whole body can be triggered.
Gum problems and disease incl. loss of teeth can be triggered.
Death in the dentist's chair
The fact that some people incl. children die in the dentist's chair (such as upon receiving anesthesia, see above) is also "helped" by the fact that many/most offices appear to lack the required equipment, medications and emergency guides to deal with medical emergencies (such as automated external defibrillators, vital sign monitors, emergency drug kits and portable oxygen) and/or the skills and training to handle emergencies and machinery and are thus unable to provide basic life support, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and whatever else may be required to save a life.
It is deplorable that many dentists choose not to invest in such "incidentals".
Update April 2013: One of the more recent (publicised) cases involves a 24 year old US-American who died after undergoing "routine" dental surgery to remove his wisdom teeth (see www.dentistrytoday.info/content/25-year-old-dies-due-complications-during-third-molar-surgery - yes, he was 24, not 25 as the article says).
16 Last but far from least - dentists' diagnoses far more often than not are wrong
See "Ten dentists - ten diagnoses": studies into misdiagnoses or the quality, honesty & reproducibility of dentists' treatment plans, and Your dentist's treatment plan and diagnosis...honest and reproducible or influenced by financial interests? Further research into honesty & quality of dentists' treatment decisions.
3 More dental procedures which have led to the death of patients are discussed at Pulling teeth: possible health dangers (incl. death), Root canal treatment: potential (short-term) complications incl. irreversible brain damage and death and Potential risks of dental implant surgery: from implant failure to irreparable nerve damage.
4 Compare Potential risks of dental implant surgery.
5 Background on the MELISA test under Dr. Klinghardt on dental toxicity.
6 "The way we treat teeth today is not ideal. When we repair a tooth by putting in a filling, that tooth enters a cycle of drilling and refilling as, ultimately, each 'repair' fails." ~Professor Nigel Pitts, King's College London Dental Institute
7 A particularly tragic case showing just what permanent nerve damage (in this case sustained during a "routine" endodontic procedure) can entail can be read under Testimonial: botched root canal destroys life: permanent pain and nerve damage after dental and other surgery.
8 The girl died on 29 March 2016 during what is considered a "routine" dental procedure (putting stainless steel crowns in a baby's mouth!), see www.yahoo.com/news/14-month-old-girl-dies-215747687.html . Her autopsy report released in July by the Travis County medical examiner's office stated that her teeth showed no indication of dental disease that would have required treatment.
10 One of several reasons contributing to this bacterial contamination may be the lack of sterility in dental practices, see Tooth extractions are open-bone surgery.
11 Tubules run throughout the dentin, see the picture under High-magnification images of enamel and dentine.