Back in the days of cowboys and the American West, when a tooth got inflamed, people pulled it out – often with pliers. The source of irritation was gone, the abscess drained, and the mouth healed.
But modern dentists will perform a “root canal” – removal of the tooth’s pulp which contains nerve fibers, arteries, veins, lymph vessels, and connective tissue. The dead tooth is left in the mouth. The emptied root cavity is filled, but over time, root canals leak and can be a source of constant “toxic drip” that feeds chronic diseases.
That infectious mechanism was documented a century ago by Dr. Weston A. Price, chairman of the Research Section of the American Dental Association (ADA) from 1914-1923. Dr. Price observed that when teeth which had been given a root canal treatment were removed from patients with kidney or heart disease, the patients almost always got better. He documented that when a removed root canal tooth was inserted under the skin of a rabbit, the rabbit would die within two days; when normal teeth were inserted, there was no adverse health effect and the rabbit survived. History tells us the ADA, however, wanted to promote root canals as a new service and turned a deaf ear to Dr. Price’s research.
Hirudotherapy – the formal name for leech therapy – can often spare you the unfortunate legacy of a root canal.
A tooth’s nerve and pulp can become irritated, inflamed, and infected due to deep decay, repeated dental procedures on a tooth such as fillings and crowns, a crack or chip in the tooth, or trauma to the face. When a tooth becomes infected, an abscess often forms. And that is your warning bell – with the abscess, comes pain. Your body is trying to get your attention because it needs help.
Leeches can be applied to the site of the abscess where they will drain the inflammation. Anticoagulation agents increase blood flow in the gums, helping to eliminate toxins and allow delivery of nutrients to the affected area. These anti-coagulation agents also dissolve the blood clots that could be developed in the gums. The saliva in leech also contains antibacterial components that assist in reducing bacterial growth.
Using hirudotherapy instead of a root canal procedure provides an invaluable service. In the short-term, you are spared an expensive procedure in the dentist’s office with needles of Novocain and a round of pharmaceutical antibiotics. In the long term, you will have saved a tooth and spared yourself the inadvertent creation of a toxic drip site.
The anti-inflammatory, immunostimulant, and analgesic effects of hirudotherapy have been used to treat various inflammatory processes in the oral cavity including periodontitis (chronic inflammatory process affecting the tissues surrounding the tooth), gingivitis (inflammation of the gums, abscess), and inflammation of the periosteum (covering of the tooth’s bony socket).