Tag Archives: root canals

The Holistic Dentist Year in Review, 2012

As we enter the new year and approach our blog’s third anniversary, we take a quick look back at 2012 – a year in which our audience continued to grow. In fact, it nearly doubled over that time! And while most visits came from the US and other English-speaking countries, this blog was viewed from 156 different countries total.

Thanks to each of you for reading, commenting and sharing! All of us in Dr. Erwin’s office are grateful for your interest and support.

Here’s a snapshot of The Holistic Dentist‘s 2012 via the year’s most popular posts:

Top 10 New Posts of 2012

  1. A Mouth Full of Bacteria, a Tablespoon of Oil
  2. Should You Be Concerned About Aluminum Oxide in Dental Restorations?
  3. Ozone & Root Canals
  4. Raspberries, Piercings & Smoking – Oh, My!
  5. All Dental X-rays Are NOT Created Equal
  6. Hearing What the Body Is Saying
  7. HPV, Oral Cancer & Gum Disease
  8. Fighting Gum Disease with Food
  9. Mercury Amalgam Studies Were “Crime Against Humanity,” Says DAMS
  10. How to Save Money on Dental Care

Top 10 Overall Posts of 2012

  1. Why Tongue Piercings Aren’t So Cool for Your Teeth & Gums
  2. Root Canal Myths
  3. Why Doesn’t Everyone with Mercury Fillings Get Sick?
  4. Nutrition & Your Amazing, Self-Healing Teeth
  5. Does Fluoride Really Prevent Cavities?
  6. How to Get Rid of Bad Breath Naturally
  7. Do Natural Mouthwashes Work?
  8. Get the Most Out of Tooth Whitening
  9. What’s Ozone Therapy & How Is It Used in Dentistry?
  10. A Nanosilver Bullet Against Tooth Decay?

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Health & Illness: More Than “If A and if B, then C”

One of this blog’s most popular posts is an article I originally wrote for my office website, “Why Doesn’t Everyone with Mercury Fillings Get Sick?”. The short answer – which I also discuss in the video “Silver Fillings, Toxic Teeth” – is that how a person fares with amalgams

tells us nothing about the fillings and everything about that individual’s constitution, immune response and ability to excrete toxins. Consider: if you have a healthy, robust immune system, you can be exposed to many pathogens without getting sick. It’s why not everyone gets the flu each year – or gets the same kind. Likewise, a person in good health and with few other risk factors may be able to bear the burden of mercury…for a time. But if they become ill or take up bad habits (e.g., eating junk food, taking drugs, smoking), their body becomes less and less able to rid itself of the mercury. That’s when you begin to see symptoms of Dental Amalgam Syndrome.

And the same can be said for most any kind of dental toxicity issue.

Several weeks ago, a reader expressed fear and concern in comments on an earlier post about root canals:

I am currently pregnant and have had to get 4 root canals during this pregnancy. I now have 6 total, at the age of 30. After doing research, I am now extremely scared and depressed. I would ideally like to have all of my root canals extracted, but am not sure that I can afford ths, after paying for the root canals themselves. Am I now destined for heart disease and/or cancer?

Strictly speaking, no one is destined for any disease. Yes, we may be genetically predisposed to certain illnesses or conditions. We may be at higher or lower risk due to factors such as lifestyle choices (e.g., diet, drug use) or environmental exposures. We may be constitutionally better or worse at eliminating the various toxins we’re exposed to.

Complex, chronic, multifactorial conditions such as heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disorders and “enigmatic” illnesses such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and multiple chemical sensitivities arise from a dynamic of forces and factors that we’re still just beginning to really grasp. But we do know that the body is a self-regulating organism whose health and healing can be supported through proper detoxification, nutrition and an active, balanced lifestyle. While living healthy is likewise no guarantee that a person will never get sick – we’ve all heard about people who lived as healthfully as possible yet still died young – it’s the best insurance policy we have.

The conventional view of medicine most of us grow up with is, to be blunt, pretty simplistic: For every illness, there’s a single cause; stopping symptoms is the same thing as curing disease. Our socialization into this model is so strong that even when we begin to understand its limitations and the benefits of a holistic, biological approach to health and well-being, we may still find our thinking stuck in its habitual ways. Here, fear becomes easy. We may assume that because we’re sick and have amalgam fillings and mercury is toxic, our illness must be due to the fillings. (Actually, only thorough, proper testing and evaluation can tell us that.) Or we may worry that the presence of root canal teeth is a one-way ticket to cancer.

Yes, there are strong, demonstrated links between health problems and dental foci – and a research record of more than 100 years – but there are no absolutes. There are too many variables.

Let’s go back to an example I used in passing in the mercury article we started with today: the flu. Why doesn’t everyone exposed to the virus get the flu – and why do some who “protect” themselves via vaccination get sick anyway? Because, as authors of a study published last year in PLoS Genetics put it, “Exposure to influenza viruses is necessary, but not sufficient, for healthy human hosts to develop symptomatic illness.” As MSNBC reported,

“Many people might conclude that if you are exposed to a virus and you don’t get sick, it’s because the virus didn’t stick or it was so weak, it just passed right through your system and your system didn’t notice. That’s not a correct notion,” says Alfred Hero, professor at the University of Michigan College of Engineering and author of the study….

He continues, “There is an active immune response which accounts for the resistance of certain people getting sick, and that response is just as active as the response we all know and hate, which is being sick with the sniffles, fever, coughing and sneezing. It’s just that the responses are different.”

And this is the case with all manner of exposures, whether to pathogenic microbes or other toxins: There’s always a response, but that response varies according to the individual. Is their immune system robust? Are they good excretors of mercury and other heavy metals? Do they practice good health habits to keep the body’s self-regulatory mechanisms in good working order?

This is why it’s so vital to look at each person’s situation and tailor treatment to their unique dynamic of factors – likewise, to always keep the big picture in mind: How does the dental situation fit in with and relate to the other health factors in a person’s life? Healing depends on a holistic, individualized approach.

Image by Lumiago, via Flickr

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Ozone & Root Canals

The trouble with root canal treated teeth is simple: Complete and lasting disinfection is impossible. Even after the most thorough cleaning, some pathogenic bacteria – “bad bugs” – remain within the approximately three miles of microscopic tubules that make up a tooth’s dentin (the tissue between the enamel and pulp). They’re then sealed in with gutta percha or similar material and a crown. The tooth itself is dead, all its living tissues having been removed. Yet because the tooth remains connected to the general circulation at the root, the microbes are free to migrate throughout the body, where they can – and do – spur a wide variety of illness.

Scientists at ALTCorp found that 99% of all root canal teeth they analyzed contained pathogenic microbes – even those that had been considered root canal “successes.”

In his important book Cancer: A Second Opinion, Dr. Joseph Issels reported that 98% of cancer patients in his clinic had “between two and ten dead teeth, each one a dangerous toxin producing ‘factory.'” Other problems that have been linked to root canal teeth include autoimmune disorders and enigmatic illnesses such as MCS, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.

Consequently, root canal therapy is becoming a “non-option” for increasing numbers of dentists, even if it means sacrificing an “unsavable” tooth and replacing it with a bridge or other appropriate restoration.

But What About Ozone?

When we looked at dental uses of ozone before, I noted its potential

as a disinfectant before a root canal or restorative dentistry is done. Ozonated water and gas can get through the walls of the tiny dentinal tubules, killing harmful bacteria that have taken up residence in these hard-to-reach, hard-to-clean places.

Does this mean it’s possible to do a “biological root canal”? For there are many fine, highly trained and skilled biological dentists who will do “ozonated” root canals at least once in a while. But there’s a vital fact to keep in mind: the results may be short term only. As Dr. Marvin has noted,

Studies have shown that ozone (and laser therapy in dentistry) can disinfect canals and keep them clean for about a year. But after that first year, bacteria finds a way back into the tubes. These bacteria can change from aerobic to anaerobic bacteria. Since there’s no blood flow after filling the root canal space, there’s no way for the body to fight these bacteria. They produce toxins and can release these toxins out of the root (although not through the root canal).

And while there are some cases in which root canal therapy might be a compelling and effective treatment, those tend to be the exception, not the rule. Again, Dr. Marvin:

The only incidence where I’d routinely use ozone or lasers for root canal therapy is when the immune system is working 100% efficiently, the tooth can’t easily be replaced, there’s no infections around the root or if it is a front tooth (central incisor). Even then, I’d still recommend an extraction for long term health reasons.

Indeed, we should always keep the long-term, big picture in mind…

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Root Canals: Literally Sickening

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Oral Blocks to Systemic Health: Root Canals & Cavitations

The state of your teeth, gums and other oral tissues can have a direct effect on other organs in your body and thus your overall physical health. Microbes involved in periodontal disease and other oral infections can travel through the bloodstream to distant organs such as the heart. Mercury vapor released from amalgam fillings enters the circulation, potentially toxicating other organs such as the liver and brain. Different metals placed together in the mouth can create galvanic currents and energetic disturbances that can interfere with the function of other organs on the same meridian.

In short, local conditions can have distant effects – a concept known as focal infection theory. Over the years, dental foci have been linked to many forms of illness and dysfunction, including chronic fatigue (CFS), fibromyalgia, multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), MS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cancer.

Two common sources of focal infection that are of particular concern to the biological dentist are root canal teeth and cavitations – conditions well explained in a wonderful video presentation by Dr. Dawn Ewing, a naturopath who currently serves as Executive Director of the International Academy of Biological Dentistry and Medicine. I ask all my new patients to view it before we proceed with any dental work, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand how their oral health may be affecting their systemic health.




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Root Canal Myths

Not all dentists are alike. Just as in physical medicine, there are different specialties. For instance, periodontists are dentists who specialize in the supporting structures of the teeth: the gums, jawbone and such. Orthodontists are concerned with the bite: how teeth come together. Endodontists specialize in the dental pulp – the living tissue within each tooth – and tissues surrounding the roots of the teeth.

An endodontist is the kind of specialist you might be referred to for root canal therapy – the conventional treatment for a badly decayed or damaged tooth threatened by infection. The pulp tissue is removed and the canal is cleaned out and filled. A crown or other restoration may then be placed over the tooth.

Endodontists and other establishment dentists often describe root canal therapy as “saving” a tooth – by which they can only mean keeping it in the mouth, preventing it from needing to be extracted. For despite their attempts at mythbusting, they wind up subscribing to a quite harmful myth: the idea that it makes good sense to keep a dead organ inside a living human body.

And that’s what a root canal treated tooth is: a dead organ. Once the tooth was alive and “vital,” and now is not. As such, it can – and often does – become a harbor for pathogenic (“bad,” disease-causing) microbes that can then move into the general circulation, where they can wreak havoc elsewhere in the body.

The root canal tooth becomes a site of “focal infection.”

The American Association of Endodontists (AAE) and others invested in maintaining the status quo refer to focal infection as one of the “myths” many people have about root canal therapy. They say that it’s based solely on the research of Weston Price, which they claim is simply “outdated.” Besides, they say, we all have “bacteria” in our mouths all the time. Why get freaked out over the idea that some remain within the pulp chamber even after it’s been sealed with gutta percha? (Of course we all have microbes of all sorts throughout our bodies at all times, and the vast majority are harmless or beneficial. The AAE “myth” page says nothing of the particular types of microbe commonly found in root canal treated teeth.)

But research has been done by many others besides Price. Founding AAE member George Meinig was one of the key figures in bringing Price’s and others’ research to light, leading him to renounce his former faith in root canals. T.P. Stortebecker’s extensive research of dental foci is also highly compelling. And, of course, Boyd Haley’s research into dental toxins has been crucial to our growing understanding of the problems with root canal teeth.

Also eye-opening are the observations of cancer specialist Joseph Issels, who has written on the strong associations he has seen between dental conditions and cancer. In Cancer: A Second Opinion, he writes,

A survey conducted at my clinic found that, on admission, ninety-eight percent of the adult cancer patients had between two and ten dead teeth, each one a dangerous toxin producing ‘factory.'” The clear implication is that no dentist had carefully evaluated those people for dental foci – oral sources of infection that affect other areas of and organs in the body.

* * *

Only total, thorough dental treatment will really succeed in giving the body’s defense a chance. The growth of the tumor itself is very often distinctly slowed down by focus treatment. Now and then tumor development stops altogether, and sometimes even regresses. The head foci therefore seem not only to contribute to the development of secondary lesions, to the origin of cancer disease, but also to exert a direct influence on tumor growth by stimulating it. Many tumors seem to respond to immunological therapy only when foci have been removed.

The above passage is cited by my colleague Dr. Gary Verigin in an article on dental foci and cancer (Note: follow the link and scroll down to the second article) that is well worth a read…especially if you want to push past the real myths of root canal treatment and get to the truth: Root canals have the potential to cause more problems than they may “cure.”

Learn more about root canals and other dental situations that can impact your overall health and well being at Dr. Erwin’s office website.

Images by wellcome images and SuperFantastic, via Flickr

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Why You Want to Avoid Root Canals


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Root Canals, Cavitations & Focal Infections

When people go to school to become physicians, they are taught relatively little about dental concerns. After all, what are dentists for, right? Likewise, dentists are little trained in matters of systemic or total body health. Those are considered the natural concern of physicians.

On one level, this is appropriate, as specialization can lead to better care. But on another, it intensifies the illusion that the mouth is an entirely separate organ from the rest of the body and that anything that happens in the mouth has local effects only.

How could this be? The oral structures are directly connected with the sinuses and upper respiratory tract. They are connected by nerves, blood and lymph vessels and so on, through which information or material can be passed along to and from every cell in the body. There are numerous routes for bacteria and other pathogens to migrate from the friendly confines of the oral cavity to anywhere they please, infecting and causing disease and dysfunction in any number of organs, depending on the type of bacteria and the condition of the immune system and biological terrain – your body’s internal environment, the state of which largely determines whether and how you’ll get sick.

Fortunately, conventional physicians and dentists both are beginning to understand and accept that there are strong relationships between dental and oral conditions and systemic health. It’s most accepted with respect to the strongly established link between periodontitis (gum disease) and heart disease. Diabetes and a range of inflammatory conditions also have been linked.

Periodontitis is an inflammatory disease process. It most commonly arises when bacterial biofilms (plaque) are not regularly or sufficiently disturbed by brushing, flossing and other oral hygiene practices. They multiply and colonize. As they begin to destroy the periodontal ligament and adjacent structures, pockets form around the teeth, giving the microbes an ideal environment for further colonization and growth: dark, moist and lacking oxygen (the microbes involved are anaerobic, thriving only when oxygen is not present). As their numbers continue to grow, some move into the general circulation via the blood and lymph systems. From here, they may be carried to any organ or area of the body. The heart has proven to be one of the most vulnerable sites for the colonization of pathogenic oral flora.

This sort of situation, in which local conditions have distant effects, is part of a body of knowledge known as focal infection theory. Periodontal disease can be one type of focal infection. Two other dental conditions have proven likewise: the presence of root canal teeth and cavitations.

Infected Root Canals

Root canals can be thought of as very deep fillings that are most often placed when decay has penetrated deeply into the core of a tooth – an area known as the pulpal complex. The tooth becomes a site of infection. To “save” it, an endodontist – a dentist who specializes in root canal therapy – drills into this sensitive area full of nerves and blood vessels, scrapes out the infected pulp, then fills and seals the narrow opening. The tooth is still there but now dead. What had made it vital – the nerves, vessels and other structures – is gone.

And the tooth is still likely infected.

Although mainstream dentists assure us that each root canal tooth is cleaned out and sterilized completely before the filling material is placed, doing so is a physical impossibility. Even if the pulpal chamber could be thoroughly cleaned out – something difficult enough to do, owing to its size and anatomical structure – bacteria and their metabolic waste cannot be removed from the miles of tiny dentinal tubules packed into each tooth, surrounding the pulp. Sealing the tooth provides these pathogens with that dark, moist, anaerobic environment in which they thrive – just as in a periodontal pocket. In fact, from the bacterial standpoint, it’s even better, as the seal effectively protects the microbes as they colonize, multiply and become more virulent through a process known as pleomorphism (literally meaning “many shapes”).

While the top and much of the tooth’s interior are sealed, the tooth is not completely blocked off from the rest of the body. There is an escape route through the vessels that extend into the tip of the tooth’s root. While nutrients via the blood don’t get in – indeed, why should they need to? there’s nothing to keep alive within the tooth – the microbes can and do get out and into the general circulation.

Even the cleanest, most “sterile” root canal tooth can remain infected. Scientists at ALT Corp have found that 99% of all root canal teeth contain pathogenic microbes. Where they go, what organs they affect and how depend on the specific type of bacteria involved. This has been known since the days of the great dental researcher Dr. Weston Price. Price found that if he extracted a root canal tooth from a person with a particular illness and then sewed that tooth under the skin of a rabbit, the rabbit would almost always develop the same type of illness experienced by the tooth donor. This not only shows that infection remains in the teeth but that the pathogens involved can affect other organs in the body.


The same sort of disease process is at work when it comes to the matter of cavitations, a condition very few dentists even know about.

In simplest terms, a cavitation is a hole in the jaw bone that has not healed correctly. There are many causes, including dental trauma, gum disease and toxic assault, but they most commonly occur when a socket is not cleaned thoroughly after tooth extraction. Bacteria remain. And once healthy tissue grows over the surgical site, the hole is effectively sealed off. Again, conditions are ripe for increased infection. Locally, the infection continues to destroy the tissues within, and the waste from the dead and decaying tissues exacerbates the infection.

As in the other cases, the infection does not remain localized. The pathogens have access to the general circulation via blood and lymph vessels. And again, where they go, what organs they affect and how depend on their type. Notably, mercury and other heavy toxic metals may also be distributed through the body via cavitations, as evidence suggests they can act as holding tanks of sorts for the vapor released by mercury fillings in the mouth. It is, in short, another route of access for systemic mercury poisoning.

Treating Focal Infections

Infected root canal teeth can be removed. Cavitational surgery can remove the source of infection and facilitate proper healing. The patient’s recovery can be supported through nutritional and homeopathic detox protocols or other complementary therapies.

Should you pursue these therapies? When cavitations exist, it is almost always recommended to have them properly treated. But what if you have root canals that don’t seem to be causing problems? Some people choose to remove them as a preventive measure. Others decide to play wait-and-see. As ever, it all boils down to how much risk you’re willing to take.

As with any sort of procedure, we cannot say that such treatments can or will cure all, especially when it comes to chronic, systemic illnesses. Be that as it may, removing toxins from your body must always be considered a positive thing. It gives your body a fighting chance to heal, be whole and thrive.

Learn more about cavitations

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Root canal image via Wikimedia Commons. Cavitation image via healthcarealternatives.net.


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Total Dentistry

By P. Vernon Erwin, DDS

Biological dentistry is total dentistry.

A conventional dentist is trained to look at your teeth, gums and oral tissues mainly in isolation. This sort of dentist is a kind of “mouth mechanic.” Every so often, he or she will check the state of things and provide preventive maintenance such as regular cleanings. If something goes wrong – a cavity develops, a tooth breaks – he or she will fix it. For such dentists can be superb technicians. But they are limited in what they can do – precisely because they look at the mouth in isolation.

I’ve always been amazed by otherwise well-trained dentists who can look at a mouth without seeing the person around the mouth. The intricate relationships between the teeth, gums and oral tissues with the rest of the human body, and among the body, mind and soul – these lie at the heart of biological dentistry.

For a simple example, consider what happens to you physically when you’re feeling stressed out. Your jaw, neck and upper body may tighten as your breathing becomes shallow and your body’s hardwiring activates the fight-or-flight response. Here, we see the body following the mind. Similarly, by strengthening the body through exercise or feeding it a nutritionally sound diet, you may find that you feel better mentally – sharper, more alert; calmer, more in control.

In treating the mouth, a biological dentist is acutely aware of how the work may affect other parts of the body, mind and soul. So he or she will do all possible to reduce the risk of creating illness or dysfunction elsewhere in the body. Biological dentists strive to provide the least intrusive, least toxic treatments possible. Biocompatibility of dental materials is a must.

This philosophy is the most complete expression of the first statement in the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm.

The Mouth as a Possible Source of Bodily Disease and Dysfunction

Many who seek the services of a biological dentist suffer from chronic or degenerative illnesses that conventional medicine has failed to diagnose, let alone treat, properly – precisely because that kind of medicine ignores the direct link between dental conditions and systemic illness. A biological dentist not only acknowledges the link but is expert in treating those dental conditions that give rise to such illness and paving the way to true healing and real cure.

Over the past century in particular, research has proven repeatedly the relationship between dental conditions and physical illness, which often results from a focal infection – an infection that creates illness or dysfunction far away from its source, much as a stone thrown in a pond will make ripples that extend all the way to the pond’s furthest edge.

One common yet overlooked cause of focal infections is the presence of cavitations. These are literally holes in the jawbone surrounded by dead, decaying tissue. They occur when a tooth has been extracted but the periodontal ligament hasn’t been removed completely or the socket cleaned out thoroughly. This creates a nice, isolated spot for bacteria to multiply and become virulent. But though these microbes are isolated, they are not restricted. They can and do move out to other parts of the body where they may colonize, thrive, wreak havoc and ultimately create illness throughout the body.

Similar situations can arise with broken or infected root canal teeth, as well as periodontal (gum) disease. Indeed, the latter has been linked quite definitively with heart disease, diabetes and other conditions.

In short, local conditions can – and do – have distant effects.

By the same token, whatever is done to or placed in the mouth doesn’t affect just the mouth and oral tissues. This is especially important when it comes to dental materials. Since the 19th century, dentists have placed mercury amalgam fillings in people’s mouths on the mistaken belief that mercury – a poison – becomes inert once placed. In truth, the friction from chewing, clenching and grinding causes mercury vapor to be released and circulated throughout the body, potentially poisoning the whole. The brain is especially vulnerable, due to its being so close to the mouth. The types of illness that can result from mercury poisoning include an array of chronic, degenerative and auto-immune disorders.

Investigate, Teach, Prepare, Treat

Even when toxic dental materials or foci are found, a conscientious biological dentist won’t just rip out the offending substances or naively try to clean out areas of infection. Information-gathering comes first. Through a combination of extensive patient interviews, clinical exams and laboratory testing, a biological dentist aims to get the fullest understanding of the situation as possible. The goal is always to see through the patient’s symptoms – the root meaning of the word “diagnosis” – to their actual cause. Symptoms are never the illness but signs that the body is doing its best to heal itself. For the human body is a self-regulating organism, always striving for the state of balance called homeostasis.

Conventional medicine largely ignores this, too, in part because its practitioners habitually equate the absence of symptoms with health. They act as though to suppress the symptoms is to cure the illness, when in reality it just pushes the symptoms more deeply into the body, priming it for later insult and greater pathology down the road.

In diagnosing root causes, a biological dentist also serves as a teacher. He or she will spend time with you, showing and explaining to you what’s going on and why, entering a dialogue with you about your needs, values and all of your treatment options. For a biological dentist refuses to impose his or her own viewpoint but gives you the information you need to make informed health choices and become the agent of your own wellbeing.

Should you choose to have a biological dentist treat any specific dental or oral conditions that have been found to be interfering with your overall health, he or she will first work with you to help prepare your body to heal. Typically, this involves a combination of nutritional and lifestyle change, supplementation and the use of homeopathics to promote detoxification and drainage. Only then will dental procedures such as materials replacement or cavitational surgery be of maximum benefit to the patient.

Total Health from Total Dentistry

Biological dentistry is a form of holistic medicine. It treats the whole body through natural, nontoxic means. Its practitioners work in conjunction with other holistically-minded practitioners, consulting, sharing information, providing coordinated treatments and the like. They strive to create optimal conditions in the mouth.

In this way, the biological dentist is a key figure in nurturing your complete health and wellbeing – supporting total health through total dentistry.

For more articles like this one, visit our article library at drerwin.com.

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