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Conservative Dentistry: Why Less Is More in Tooth Repair

Sep 30, 2022 09:30AM ● By Linda Sechrist
Three conservative dentistry patients smiling

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Whether dentistry is described as being conservative, biological or biomimetic, the description that precedes such health care is extremely important. That 10- or 12-letter term signifies a specific type of dentistry that’s the best option for both our teeth and the rest of our bodies, as Ann Lee found out when the pieces to her dental puzzle fell together in just the right order.

Lee, a naturopathic doctor and licensed acupuncturist who owns the Health for Life Clinic, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, had been experiencing problems with her sinuses for years. She had been alerted to a potential problem with one of her teeth via a preventive tool known as medical infrared thermograph screening. But it wasn’t until after she read an interview with dentist Blanche Grube in a naturopathic magazine about conservative dentistry that she made the connection. She bought Grube’s book, Chew on This But Don’t Swallow: A Must-Read Before Your Next Dental Visit, and read it from cover to cover. Grube drew upon 46 years of clinical observation, continuing education conferences and thousands of hours of study to analyze how the whole body functions and what part teeth play in overall health.

Says Lee, “I had a capped tooth with metal underneath. Once I got it removed, all the things connected to it resolved. My sinus issues, post-nasal drippage, coughing, and even my trigeminal neuralgia that I had for 10 years resolved.” Trigeminal neuralgia affects the nerves running from the face to the brain, causing electrical shock sensations to the jaw and face that can be triggered by stress or certain movements.

Today, when Lee suspects a correlation between the physical problems a patient has with the amount of metal in their mouth such as fillings, crowns and permanent retainers, she relates their physical problems to metal oxidation and inflammation that can manifest in numerous ways, and suggests that the patient read Grube’s book and consider any of the non-metal options now available.

Person grinning and pointing to healthy teeth with index finger

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Bernice Teplitsky, DDS, owner of Wrigleyville Dental, in Chicago, interprets biological dentistry as dealing with the whole person. “Both biological and conservative dentistry deal with biocompatible materials, making sure that each is right for the individual. Determining the compatibility of dental materials is important for those who have existing allergies, because their immune systems have already been compromised, and having to deal with new allergies to dental materials may only worsen their condition,” she says.

Conservative dentistry involves removing a minimum of healthy tooth structure during the restorative process. By conserving natural enamel and dentin, many of the complications caused by excessive tooth shaving and drilling are avoided. “Students who went to dental school 15 years ago weren’t taught biological, biomimetic or conservative dentistry, and they didn’t have the superior materials that we have today,” says Teplitsky. “Unless they took continuing education units that taught these things, they didn’t learn that traditional approaches require unnecessary removal of tooth structure and fail to replicate the properties of natural teeth, leading to major complications including root canals, fractures and extractions. They also didn’t learn that what is going in the mouth with the teeth and gums relates to the overall condition of a person’s health.”

According to studies reported in Science Direct, which offers the latest peer-reviewed research papers, teeth naturally have the optimal properties and structure to withstand the many challenges of the oral environment. Conservative dentistry, with its innovative materials,  efficiently preserves this natural tooth structure, particularly when combined with early detection.


Linda Sechrist is Natural Awakenings’ senior staff writer.


Graphic of three teeth illustrating different types of dentistry practices

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Conservative Dentistry

A dentistry branch whose goal is to conserve the teeth in the mouth, using operative practices,  as well as endodontics. It also involves various types of direct and indirect restorations of the individual teeth.

Biological Dentistry 

Dental practices that utilize mercury-free and mercury-safe dentistry, the impact of dental conditions, devices  and treatments on oral and systemic health, including the biocompatibility of dental materials and techniques.

Biomimetic Dentistry

A type of tooth-conserving dentistry, treats weak, fractured and decayed teeth in a way that keeps them strong and seals them from bacterial invasion; eliminates cutting teeth down for crowns and destructive root canal treatment.