The world of healthcare is full of options for patients and professionals alike. After all, we all know that there are various treatments for the same problem, and similar can be said for drugs and the multiple remedies that can be successfully prescribed for certain ailments. Basically, there are different paths that people can take in order to provide care and still achieve a successful outcome.
That’s why, when I recently read an article about a dentist in Germany who has teamed up with a homeopath in practice, I got to thinking about what this could mean if this arrangement became commonplace. In the article, the working relationship between the dental professional and the homeopath is described as one based on support. Effectively, the homeopath is there as an adjunct to the care that the dentist provides, supporting the hard science with natural remedies in place of certain aspects of care, such as painkillers and antibiotics.
While unconventional, this, in many ways, could be an interesting avenue for professionals and the UK dental industry as a whole to consider.
The increasing interest in natural medicine
In the last few years, interest in homeopathy and alternative medicines has spiked. Although use of alternative remedies remains low in countries such as the UK and Sweden at this time, in France, Germany and other European nations, this approach has become a viable choice for large swathes of the population. In fact, research suggests that in a vast array of European nations, homeopathy is the healthcare route of choice for over 10% of the population.[i]
But why do people turn towards alternative therapies and medicines? One reason could be that the general image of these types of treatments and solutions is changing. Where once homeopathy would conjure images of people using crystals instead of deodorant and brewing potions with herbs in the woods, now the word instead fits more with the growing appreciation of the environment and the natural way of being. Today it is an industry built on understanding the planet, using nature’s powers to heal and less about mysticism and hippie feelings – basically, it has become a polished, professional industry in its own right. Where once these therapies would be labelled as “alternative” now they are viewed as “integrative” and are now forming part of a new, holistic approach to care.
Another reason that homeopathy is becoming more popular is undoubtedly that a lot of people are losing faith in conventional medicine. We only need to look at the response to the Covid-19 vaccine to see that millions of people across the globe are mistrustful of medicines and remedies made in pharmacies,[ii] but on a smaller scale it’s becoming clear that people are much more likely to question the medicines provided for them and look for alternatives that they can better understand. That’s not even to mention the impact that popular conspiracy theories have had, such as the idea that “Big Pharma” is actively working against public interest.[iii]
The spectre behind this shift in behaviour is likely to be the misinformation that people are faced with every day. Facebook groups, website threads and all sorts of other dubious sources have continually spread misinformation about vaccines and other conventional medicines, and this is causing a lot of doubt. With influencers touting the benefits of homeopathy and other alternative choices to huge audiences on their various platforms, this too could be driving the interest for these therapies. Effectively, whether for better or for worse, people are now questioning their medicines more and visibly seeking alternatives, which for dental practices could open opportunities.
How could homeopathy be implemented in dentistry?
Much like the earlier relationship that I read about in the article, I think if homeopathy were to become a mainstay in modern dentistry, it would have to be in a supportive capacity. Obviously, with a field as complex as dentistry, a full homeopathic approach is unlikely to be the way forward. But with the window for alternative remedies widening and interest in these increasing, exploring these possibilities isn’t off the table.
Certainly, homeopathic pain treatments and anti-bacterial remedies could have their place in the future of the industry, and proven methods could potentially replace antibiotics and other current approaches, or, at the very least, provide another option for patients. It’s important that if we do look into these avenues that we consider a mixed approach too – every patient will respond differently to care, so for all those where homeopathy could provide better results, there will equally be those where conventional approaches are still the correct route.
With healthcare evolving and the steady shift towards a more holistic approach creeping into the industry, there is no reason why, in the future, homeopathy can’t be part of our profession. Whether this will come to pass as it has in certain places in Europe time will tell, but it’s definitely an interesting niche that we shouldn’t entirely discount moving forward.
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[i] Cukaci, C. et al. Against All Odds – The Persistent Popularity of Homeopathy. Wiener klinische Wochenschrift volume 132, pages 232–242 (2020).
[ii] STAT. Pharma’s tarnished reputation helps fuel the anti-vaccine movement. Link: https://www.statnews.com/2019/02/26/anti-vaccine-movement-pharma-tarnished-reputation/ [Last accessed August 21].
[iii] Medical Writing. The Big Pharma Conspiracy Theory. Link: https://journal.emwa.org/good-pharma/the-big-pharma-conspiracy-theory/ [Last accessed August 21].