Creative Diagnoses in Dentistry

Reading stuff like this I wonder how much oil changes would cost if they were covered by your car insurance.

“In recent years, I have been seeing more and more creative diagnosis,” Camm told me when I called him at his practice in Washington state. A dentist, he said, might think, “‘Well, the insurance covers this crown, so I’m not hurting this patient, so why don’t I just do it?’ That’s the absolutely wrong approach.”

You and your friends are freaks

Fight Over Fluoridated Water Splits Portland’s Left – WSJ.com

Many “No” activists say they oppose fluoridation because it represents lack of choice. “The government does not have the right to make a major medical decision for the public at large. That decision flies in the face of everything it means to be a Portlander,” said Tacee Webb, who runs what she calls “an all-Gluten-Free Preschool.

Emphasis mine.

Nearly every article and argument I’ve read on this thing tries to dismiss the position of the anti-fluoride side and counters with “Well, you all are freaks and you don’t know what’s good for you, so we should just do it anyway because you are weird.”

Why I Don’t Get Amalgam Fillings

I don’t have many tooth fillings, but when I do need them I ask for porcelain fillings.

You may have seen episodes of Real Time where Maher talks about getting his amalgam fillings removed. The idea is that these amalgams leach mercury into your body, almost directly into your brain, and as it builds up it causes neurological disorders.

It’s not so simple as just yanking the filling out, because doing so could subject you to mercury exposure. Doctors who perform these procedures wear something that looks like a hazmat suit. They have a separate oxygen supply. They have to prep their patients in a similar way, adding sorts of dental guards and things that prevent them from ingesting what’s being removed.

But the dental establishment claims that these kinds of fillings are safe.

Whatever the truth is about amalgam fillings, the public opinion is so varied that it’s hard to figure out what’s the truth and what’s propaganda. Some doctors claim that amalgam fillings are a 19th century practice that should be abandoned. Others say that the amount of exposure is so small it may as well be nonexistent.

Figuring out who has more to gain by misleading me1 is part of why I decide on porcelain fillings. I think both the dental establishment and the holistic approach have something to gain. But the dental establishment has more to lose.

Mercury is known as a toxic element that, in a certain dose, can damage the human body. To move away from that would result in a huge gutting of the tools and processes that dentists currently use. It would be an admission that the practice that they’ve been performing for years is incorrect and deadly. It’s a controversy in vaccinations, and while the debate is claimed to be nonexistent by authorities you can’t blame people for being skeptical.2

Meanwhile, I haven’t read anything about porcelain poisoning. As far as I know there is no debate, other than doctors saying that doctors who perform them are quacks.


  1. I know this is flawed. I know this isn’t a good way to figure out what’s true and what’s false. I expect that this could be a good subject on You Are Not So Smart. But I know no better way. 

  2. This is something that Lawrence Lessig has talked about for years and it even affects dentistry. When you read something about how a practice is considered safe (like amalgam fillings or fluoride in the water supply), then think of how there’s government lobbying behind it, it tends to sway one’s opinion. It begins to look like propaganda, which leads to distrust. 

“Silver” Fillings

Amalgam fillings are typically called “silver fillings” by dentists, but the only thing silver about them is the color. They also expose your body to mercury.

This article about amalgam fillings quotes Charlie Brown of World Alliance for Mercury Free Dentistry:

“Amalgam is a primitive, polluting, 19th century product that began when physicians were sawing off legs. Medicine has since moved forward.”