Can Oil “Cure” a Cavity?

NOTE: Read the follow-up/update of this post

That appears to be the claim of a post we recently saw over at The Healthy Home Economist, which describes healing a child’s “cavity” with butter oil capsules and a switch from tahini to raw butter at breakfast. While it’s true that decay can be arrested with good diet and hygiene, this isn’t the same thing as “healed.”

Unfortunately, we don’t have a dentist’s observation of what was going on with the child’s tooth before the butter oil regimen. We have the mother’s description:

My oldest child recently developed a cavity in his top right lateral incisor. It was behind the tooth right on the gumline. My husband noticed it one night as he was checking his teeth to see if he was doing a good job brushing and flossing (he’s way too old for nightly brushing by Mom or Dad).

There was a definite hole in the tooth and not a small one either. My husband called me over to take a look and I was alarmed to see the hole and I used a rubber tipped tooth probe that we have on hand to check how deep it was. The tip of the probe went way into the hole. There was no doubt that this was a cavity, and we both agreed that we needed to get it filled pronto.

But “pronto” turned out to be a “few weeks” away – hence, the decision to use oil supplements in hope of helping the cavity “heal.” When she checked again, “NO CAVITY!”

From a dental standpoint, we question this interpretation.

To begin with, behind the upper right lateral incisor is a very unusual place for a cavity to develop. “I could examine 100 to 200 children,” says Dr. Verigin, “and never see a cavity where she described it.” It’s also a very difficult area to accurately observe without bright, focused light. How much harder by the beam of a flashlight!

More, there is simply no known mechanism by which selected fats would heal a tooth with a cavity as big and deep as described. After all, a cavity isn’t just an empty hole. It’s a site of mushy, spongy, leathery decay – what a dentist cleans out before filling the tooth. Nor can a tooth remineralize so extensively, let alone so quickly.

These facts make the story seem highly unlikely – more the tale of an honest mistake and wishful thinking. Perhaps a misaligned probe “confirmed” a shadow or stain or natural dark spot as a “cavity.” After all, the tooth went without further observation for a few weeks and then appeared “healed” to the mother. When a dentist finally looked at the area, the only thing he could confirm was that there was “no cavity to be found anywhere.”

What’s unfortunate is that many people accept such accounts uncritically out of an understandable desire not to buy into toxic dentistry or the “sick care” industry. And who can blame anyone for wanting to take a more natural path to healing? All the more reason to be sure correct information gets out there.

Previously

NOTE: Read the follow-up/update of this post

Image by Jennuine Captures, via Flickr

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About The Verigin Dental Health Team

A humanistic, holistic dental practice in Northern California, providing integrative, biological, mercury-free dentistry
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12 Responses to Can Oil “Cure” a Cavity?

  1. Amy says:

    I don’t see anything wrong with approaching a child’s cavity the way this woman did. She recognized the possibility of medical/dental intervention, but did all she could to also promote natural healing. I don’t think you should be so quick to say that butter oil/fermented cod liver oil “won’t” heal a cavity. Don’t broken bones heal? Why can’t teeth? I am all for medical procedures when absolutely necessary, but I get angry when the medical field is so quick to dismiss natural remedies when they really have little to no research to back that claim up. On a side note, I personally know a mother whose child had a cavity (confirmed by the dentist) and she used butter oil every day, and when he went back several weeks later to have the cavity filled, it was gone. I would love to have studies done on this, but unfortunately there is no money to be made in studying supplements or food as healing agents.

    • Thanks for your thoughts on this issue, Amy. We, too, dislike it when people dismiss natural healing out of hand – one of the reasons it’s so important to have solid, scientific support for it and why we sometimes discuss claims like this one, where evidence is lacking or doesn’t quite add up. (If you browse our archives, you’ll see that ours is a holistic, biological dental practice and, like you, we’re quite critical of the medical establishment!)

      As Dr. Price describes thoroughly in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, certain oils/fats can certainly help teeth remineralize. But even he doesn’t claim that they can completely repair the enamel or dentin. Unlike a broken bone, a carious tooth involves a disease process. Here’s the relevant passage from his book (pg. 286):

      When a tooth has a deep cavity of decay, the decalcified dentine has about the density of rotten wood. With an adequate improvement in nutrition, tooth decay will generally be checked provided two conditions are present: in the first place, there must be enough improvement in the quality of the saliva; and in the second, the saliva must have free access to the cavity. Of course, if the decay is removed and a filling placed in the cavity, the bacteria will be mechanically shut out. One of the most severe tests of a nutritional program, accordingly, is the test of its power to check tooth decay completely, even without fillings. There are, however, two further tests of the sufficiency of improvement of the chemical content of the saliva. If it has been sufficiently improved, bacterial growth will not only be inhibited, but the leathery decayed dentine will become mineralized from the saliva by a process similar to petrification. Note that this mineralized dentine is not vital, nor does it increase in volume and fill the cavity.

      (The full chapter that passage is taken from is available here: http://www.journeytoforever.org/farm_library/price/price16.html)

      The most you can say is, as Dr. Price says, the decay process has been “checked,” arrested. But this isn’t the same thing as “healing” or “cure.”

  2. Susan says:

    We have a 22 month old with ECC. It has been a frightful and rapid experience and we’re trying alternative approaches to healing. He also has a lip tie. Most of the decay is on his top teeth where the saliva is prevented from flowing freely from his frenum. But, he had a large cavity in the center of both of his lower molars. Both cavities were a caramel color and in the center and both were confirmed by our dentist on 3/20/12. I had been so focused on the decay on his top teeth. I did not check his bottom molars for almost 2 months. When I did check I was shocked. Decay gone, new hard white enamel. The molars are half as tall as they should be and very jagged. I was also told this wasn’t possible by our biological dentist. I still don’t know how it’s possible. I couldn’t believe my eyes. My husband and I took him into direct sunlight to get a better look to make sure. One half of my brain is telling it just can’t be possible. But, it’s right in front of me. And we didn’t use butter oil. We have used fermented cod liver oil, cell salts, cut out all grains and gluten, and balanced his gut. We’re also positive his lip tie is prevented remineralization of his top teeth, so we’re having a laser revision done in NY shortly.

    • Thanks much for sharing your experience – and we hope all goes well with the frenum treatment and ongoing control of the ECC. Again, as Dr. Price wrote, dietary changes can spur some remineralization. (You’ll find another good discussion of relevant research here.) But as he also noted – and as dental research supports – that new tissue isn’t the same as what it replaces. Most crucially, it’s not vital and doesn’t totally fill the cavity. Thus, to a dentist, the tooth can’t be considered “healed” or “cured,” even if it may look like it to the naked eye. What you can say is that the decay process has been stopped and remineralization has occurred. And, as you know, nutrition plays a key role.

      • Susan says:

        Just wanted to touch base with you and let you know how my son’s dental check up went today. In March he was diagnosed with 7 cavities and 2-3 additional teeth with decalcification. Today they said no decalcification and only 4 cavities. She put 4 teeth on the “watch” list. Two were the bottom molars I previously mentioned. Prior to this they had the decay I mentioned above. Her confirmation of remineralization ( they still have some faint yellowish spots ) is wonderful. His two front teeth also had cavities that are no longer visible to the naked eye. Very pleased. I’ve done a lot of research about vitamins that play a crucial role and tooth and bone health and specifically what type of calcium ( since they’re all not the same ) is best and we’ve been supplementing at a higher calcifying level. I’ve literally spent hours online pouring over studies that showed results. We’ve also used a fluoride-free MI Paste.

        I do wish more pediatricians, nurses, and midwives would let moms know how important proper diet and supplementation is during pregnancy. I found out when I was 15 weeks pregnant that I was very d3 deficient, by then most of his teeth had calcified. More needs to be done to educate moms about ECC risks and to let them know that diet and hygiene sometimes aren’t enough when a child has a high risk of ECC. My research has show that children born via c-section are at a higher risk as are children with colic/reflux/leaky gut. Antibiotic use during pregnancy increases risk, frequent illness during infancy increases risk as do high fevers. The interesting fact is that babies born via c-section are at a higher risk of colic/reflux/leaky gut and this in fact creates the opportunity for many childhood illnesses. So it’s the chicken or the egg. Either way, it can be a devastating disease and it’s extremely important that parents are informed.

        • Excellent news! Thanks for thinking to share it here, too! Here’s hoping all continues to go so well. And absolutely on the impact of diet and other choices on children’s health before birth. It sets the stage – dentally & systemically. Dr. Verigin discusses a few of the issues here , as well as from time to time on this blog.

  3. Kendra Blair says:

    Way to go ladies 🙂 I’m proud to see more women finally catching on to how powerful natural alternatives are. The pharmaceutical companies don’t want everyone knowing that we can be in control of their own health. They won’t make any money that way 😉

  4. Kendra Blair says:

    our own health*

  5. Andi Akers says:

    I am a little confused here. If the dentist says that the cavity is no longer there, how is that not cured? What would have to take place for you to consider it cured?

    • As mentioned, tooth decay is a disease process. As Dr. Price showed, that process can be stopped and dentin (not the enamel, though), remineralized. But that new tissue, he noted, is neither living nor able to fill the cavity completely. The tooth may look repaired, but it’s not quite the same as before.

      This definition from the Wikipedia entry on “healing” may be helpful:

      With respect to physical damage or disease suffered by an organism, healing involves the repair of living tissue, organs and the biological system as a whole and resumption of normal functioning. It is the process by which the cells in the body regenerate and repair to reduce the size of a damaged or necrotic area and replace it with new living tissue.

      This is different from the “petrification”-like process that Dr. Price described in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. (See our first comment above for a link to the full text of the passage in question.)

  6. Jan says:

    Your dead wrong! I took the supplements suggested in the Healthy Home Economist and within two weeks and the hole that I had in one of my molars filled completely in all on its own. Saved me a trip to the dentist…awesome!!

    • Glad to hear it.

      Again, there’s no doubt that the decay process can be stopped, and of course dentin can remineralize. As we mention in our comments above, that’s what Dr. Price’s research showed. But while the tooth may look perfectly fine to the naked eye, the new tissue isn’t living and the lost enamel is gone for good. Dr. Price described the process as similar to “petrification.”

      We understand this may seem like nitpicking. Still, we feel accuracy matters – that it’s important to understand clearly what’s going on in that repair process, even if it doesn’t seem to matter much on a practical basis. For as Dr. Verigin says in his practice philosophy:

      The more that people understand their bodies and the mechanisms that cause illness and wellness, the more committed they become to pursuing and embracing wellness.

      We understand that learning is motivated by the personal need for fulfillment.

      We understand that effective learning is more than just getting information. It happens when the information hits home intellectually, emotionally and spiritually – when it takes on personal meaning.

      We understand that learners need ongoing opportunities for two-way conversations that are personally relevant to their own experiences. They need to challenge new paradigms and relate the new concepts to old ones. This is how they incorporate the concepts into their own lives.

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