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.
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