The People's Perspective on Medicine

Tooth Decay Arrested Without a Dental Drill

Using a comprehensive preventive approach to tooth decay can dramatically reduce the number of fillings that a person needs.
CC0 from

Lots of people dread going to the dentist because they are afraid of the drill. Modern dentistry techniques may finally be able to banish this pervasive fear. Research now shows that many cases of tooth decay can be treated without fillings.

The research was conducted in Australia and included more than 1,000 patients over the course of seven years. Half the patients got the usual drill and fill treatment, while the other half were treated with a preventive approach called the Caries Management System.

Caries Management System for Tooth Decay:

In this approach, dentists who detected decay but no hole in the tooth applied a high-concentration fluoride solution to the area. In addition, patients were given instruction on effective tooth brushing technique and advice to avoid between-meal snacks and beverages, especially those containing sugar. The progress of the tooth was monitored periodically.

The patients getting this preventive care needed 30 to 50 percent fewer fillings during the study, on average, and those who were at particularly high risk saw an 80 percent drop in the number of fillings they needed. The authors conclude that a lot of tooth decay could be prevented and even reversed with non-invasive dental hygiene techniques.

Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, online, December 7, 2015

Once a cavity has appeared, the hole needs to be filled. There is considerable controversy over the merits of amalgam (silver-looking fillings that contain mercury) versus composite (a hard synthetic material) in creating the filling. Being able to avoid the need for a filling completely by preventing the cavity would definitely have advantages.

Rate this article
4.6- 30 ratings
About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
Tired of the ads on our website?

Now you can browse our website completely ad-free for just $5 / month. Stay up to date on breaking health news and support our work without the distraction of advertisements.

Browse our website ad-free
Join over 150,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

We're empowering you to make wise decisions about your own health, by providing you with essential health information about both medical and alternative treatment options.

Showing 3 comments
Add your comment

I’ve been blessed with good teeth…or not, I guess.
I visit the dentist ~ every 3 years and the hygienist is in and out of my mouth in 10 minutes with no deep pockets found.
I attribute my good “fortune” to –
1. Sonicare tooth brush
2. tooth picks
3. occasionally chewing a CaMg pill.

You couldn’t have been more “dead on” than your #11 article on the coughing initiated by any hypertension medication ending in -pril. I experienced the violent coughing of your previous writer and the medication changed gave me immediate relief. Thank you for this one.


As a child, my dentist filled every groove in the tooth, plus cavities with silver fillings. I had them taken out about 20 years ago because the nerves in my face would twitch sporadically -and that did go away after about 6 months. Now at 65, I still have 2x the acceptable level of mercury in my body and am going thru heavy metal toxicity treatments. Those silver/mercury fillings are very harmful and should be banned.

* Be nice, and don't over share. View comment policy^