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Category Archives: Biological Dentistry
There was good news from Geneva recently: 140 countries have now agreed to the global mercury treaty, several years in the making. Once ratified by 50 nations, it will become legally-binding. Its main goal is to reduce mercury emissions, and to that end, it includes steps toward a phase-out of dental amalgam.
Similarly good news came from Sacramento this week: the state Environmental Protection Agency, Cal/EPA, announced their intent to declare BPA a reproductive hazard. This means it would become subject to Prop. 65 requirements – the same rules that require dental offices to display warnings about the presence of mercury in amalgam.
Public comments will be accepted for the usual 30 days before BPA can be officially added to the Prop. 65 list. (Want to submit your own? Details here.)
No, it’s not a ban, but it is a step in the right direction – just as the mercury treaty is a step in the right direction. Yes, the treaty could be stronger. Still, it’s the broadest acknowledgement yet of the hazards posed by “silver” fillings and does require some action.
Of course, many dentists, biological and conventional alike, have already stopped filling teeth with amalgam, opting for composite instead – the stuff used for sealants and “white” or “tooth-colored” fillings. Unfortunately, some brands of composite contain BPA. So now you sometimes hear mercury’s defenders say that since BPA is a toxin, too, what does it matter? Why not just keep placing amalgam?
Yes, BPA is a toxin – a known endocrine disruptor that’s been linked to conditions like cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes and erectile dysfunction. Its ability to alter reproductive hormones endangers fetuses and infants, and a leading cause of the recent spike in cases of early onset puberty, especially for girls.
But with respect to dental products, there’s a catch. In the words of my colleague Dr. Gary Verigin,
…while all amalgam fillings contain mercury, not all composites contain BPA…
Indeed, we – and you – have options. The new generation nontoxic alternatives, as we mentioned before, are
strong and durable, less prone to fail and certainly more aesthetic. Placing composite is also a less invasive procedure than placing amalgam, letting you retain more natural tooth structure.
More natural structure means a stronger tooth, as well.
We also have the help of compatibility testing. Through blood serum, electrodermal screening and other methods, we can identify materials best suited for any particular patient – meaning, also, the healthiest.
Always, the health of the patient comes first.
Through the past decade, Swedish residents whose ill health appears to stem from amalgam fillings have been able to ask their local county council for help in paying to have them replaced. But with costs an ongoing concern even in nations with universal healthcare coverage, the question gets raised: Does amalgam replacement help?
This was the focus of a study published earlier this month in Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology.
The aim of the study was to investigate symptoms, perceived health changes over time and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) in this population, comprising subjects with subjective health impairment, allegedly because of dental materials. A further aim was to compare their HRQoL with that of the general population.
The most common health complaints attributed to amalgams were musculoskeletal pain (67.5%), sleep disturbance (60.0%) and fatigue (58.6%). Their quality of life scores were also “significantly lower” than that of the general population.
And the result of having their amalgams out?
Not much improvement at all.
Subjects who had undergone subsidized dental restoration replacement reported persistent subjective symptoms and low HRQoL. The results indicate that replacement of restorative materials alone is insufficient to achieve improved health in patients with symptoms allegedly attributable to dental restorations. [emphasis added]
That last sentence is vital for understanding what’s going on.
Simply put: If you are suffering symptoms of mercury toxicity or have been diagnosed with a chronic illness fueled by mercury, simply having them replaced is not enough. For one, if they’re not removed safely, the result can be a worsening of illness. It’s why we make a distinction between “mercury-free” and “mercury-safe” dentistry. The IAOMT guidelines for safe mercury removal explain exactly what the latter involves.
But more, you also must deal with all the mercury that’s built up and been stored in the various tissues of the body. A healthy body has mechanisms for clearing mercury and other heavy metals and toxins; in illness, those systems are compromised. So first, the body must be prepared to heal by opening the channels of elimination; otherwise, those stored metals will stay put. Likewise, post-treatment detox supports the clearing of mercury and other toxins.
Then, we see results more like those published last year in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation: significant reductions in health complaints. They’re the kind of results we’ve seen in our practice for years.
Image by foshydog, via Flickr
A wonderful video by English dentist and naturopath Dr. Alison Adams on the basics of biological dental medicine:
The whole playlist this comes from – Root Canals & Infection – is excellent, giving a good overview of many important concerns in biological dentistry. Topics include mercury and other heavy metal toxicity, cavitations, fluoride, oral galvanism and more. Check it out!
More than 20 years ago, Norway began to actively phase out the use of dental amalgam. In 2008, it banned mercury outright, with limited exemptions for dental use for another two years. Since the end of 2010, mercury-free dentistry has been the norm.
And how has it gone?
That’s the subject of a report commissioned by the Norwegian Climate and Pollution Agency, issued earlier this year. It reviews “the experiences from the phase-out of the use of dental amalgam as tooth filling material in Norway, and make[s] an assessment of the costs to the society from the actions taken to limit the release of mercury.” And its conclusions?
- Use and release of mercury are substantially reduced.
- Experiences with the alternatives to dental amalgam are generally positive.
- Abatement “end-of-pipe” costs lower than dental amalgam phase-out costs.
That is, they found it does cost more to phase-out mercury than merely to contain emissions. But this, the report urges, is no deal-breaker. Why not? Because the long-term goal is to eliminate mercury pollution. As less amalgam is used and more replaced with nontoxic materials, those “end-pipe” costs will gradually dwindle to zero. The phase-out costs are thus an investment.
And if you’re not familiar with the site, it’s definitely one worth bookmarking. Its admins are amassing a fine library of mercury and amalgam research done over the years. A sample of references you may find worthwhile:
- Characterization of Health Complaints Before & After Removal of Amalgam Fillings
- A Systematic Review of Mercury Toxicity
- Significant Mercury Deposits in Internal Organs Following the Removal of Dental Amalgam
- Migration of Mercury from Dental Amalgam through Human Teeth
Image by Froskeland, via Flickr
Is it possible anyone missed the news yesterday that the US Supreme Court upheld most of the “Affordable Care Act,” a/k/a “Obamacare”?
Reading about this and response to the ruling, I thought it might be good to repost what I wrote just after the bill was passed…
Biological Dentistry as Real Health Care Reform
It’s interesting how so many people keep refering to the new health insurance bill as “health care reform.” For all the good things it does, it doesn’t reform health care so much as it reinforces profit-driven medicine.
Like many other holistic health professionals, I believe that any real health care reform must begin with broadening our understanding of health itself. For health is much more than the absence of sickness. It is a process – a way of being, if you will.
If we, as a society, made a real commitment to preventive care and the active pursuit of healthy, positive lifestyles, I think we’d go a very long way toward reducing the amount of money we spend on “sick care.” As Deepak Chopra noted in one of his excellent commentaries prior to passage of the health insurance bill,
To borrow a phrase from [former Health, Education and Welfare] Secretary Califano, we’ve become a “sick-care system” that puts all its efforts in developing newer drugs and offering more surgery once a person is ill. Doctors are not trained to keep people healthy. They are also strongly tempted to perform needless procedures that do not extend life span, such as hysterectomies, lower back surgery, heart bypass, and balloon angioplasty.
We are addicted to the sick-care system, and no money is being allocated in any of the reform bills in Congress to breaking this addiction. Massive public education was successful, over a long period of time, in getting people to quit smoking. Now we need the same massive public education to get them to adopt prevention. Will doctors, insurance companies, and big pharma do the job for us? Well, did big tobacco do the job of ending smoking? Without government action, the private sector will push drugs and surgery because prevention doesn’t show up as profit on their bottom line.
He adds, “Right now, health-care reform has been couched in terms of economics first and morality second, with little thought to what should really come first: turning sickness into wellness.”
Sad to say, but mainstream dentistry has a pretty bad track record when it comes to privileging sick care over preventive care. I suspect that much of it stems from the long-standing idea that dentists are little more than “glorified mouth mechanics,” as biological dentist Gary Verigin once put it. They see the mouth in isolation from the rest of the body and serve mainly to fix things when they go wrong: filling cavities, performing root canal procedures, repairing broken teeth and so on. This view has made it easy for some to accept many practices that we now know to be harmful yet still continue to be done. They put mercury fillings into decayed teeth. They soak the teeth and gums in fluoride. They do root canals in a misguided effort to “save” dead teeth (Would you keep any other organ in your body if it were dead?) and in the process create harbors for infection that even just the normal pressures of chewing can push into the body’s circulation where it can wreak havoc elsewhere.
The first step in dental health care reform is to stop these practices that put individuals at risk of illness, just as holistic and biological dentists have done. Deeply understanding the relationships amongst the teeth, gums, soft oral tissues and the rest of the body, they can provide nontoxic, health-enhancing care – whether it’s undoing problems caused by profit-driven dentistry or supporting individual patients in their quest for optimal health and wellness.
The concerns of biological dentistry are spelled out concisely in a [then] new book  by longtime biological dentist Douglas. L. Cook, Rescued by My Dentist: New Solutions to a Health Crisis.
Much of it deals with the typical concerns of mercury, root canals and cavitations, but he also addresses several important issues often glossed or ignored in other accessible books on the subject – issues such as oral galvanism and the potential health effects of implants. He also provides much needed discussion on the damage that high speed drilling can do to the complex and delicate structures within the human tooth, as Dr. Ralph Turk, amongst others, showed in his research. (A translation of Dr. Turk’s important paper on “Iatrogenic Damage Due to High Speed Drilling” is reprinted in this book, but for a quick overview of the topic, see Dr. Verigin’s article “10 Reasons Why Your Teeth Might Hurt – and 7 Things You Can Do about It.”)
Cook also spends a good deal of time outlining the concepts of energy medicine as it pertains to the teeth, especially focusing on the tooth-meridian relationships so vital to the understanding of how problems that begin in the mouth can cause or influence problems elsewhere in the body. (According to the great Dr. Voll, cited by Cook, 80 to 90 percent of all systemic health problems can be traced to the oral cavity.) In short, it offers a solid, general introduction to what biological dental medicine is all about, and the strength of that information is what makes this book valuable.
It’s not entirely clear who this book is intended for, though. While the cover, title and much of the information suggests that it’s written mainly for the layperson, a fair amount of material is directed to dentists interested in learning procedures and protocols, such as electrodermal screening for the detection of dental problems (imbalances) and evaluation of dental materials. For those readers, the more general information may be too general, while for the layperson, such specifics may be distracting or at times create the impression that these are the only valid practices. (For instance, many excellent biological dentists prefer serum testing such as that done by Clifford Consulting & Research to evaluate dental materials – an option Dr. Cook doesn’t mention. In my practice, we strongly recommend it for those with autoimmune disorders, multiple chemical sensitivities or other environmentally- aggravated illness, as it gives the surest and most thorough results.)
One aspect of the book that may be extremely interesting and useful to the lay reader is the collection of case histories Dr. Cook has included. These amply illustrate the range of physical problems and health conditions that can be cured through proper attention to dental conditions. And while some might object to this being little more than more authoritative anecdotal evidence, the doctor does back up that evidence with reference to key scientific literature.
In reading the case histories, though, it’s important to remember that cure is seldom instant, especially when health problems have been chronic for years. Yet the overwhelming majority of histories here suggest that cure came fast, typically reporting a remission of symptoms within a few days at most. While such “miracles” do happen – I have seen them myself – it must be stressed that they are “miracles” precisely because they are not the norm. Just as it takes years of negative health influences to damage one’s health, it takes time to heal, and it’s important for every person who seeks biological dental care to understand this before proceeding with treatment. Great things can and do happen, but more often than not, over time.
Though the book could benefit from a really good edit – there’s a fair amount of repetition here, and sometimes the organization is less than clear – as mentioned, the information is valuable, and the main points, put across powerfully and memorably. I would not hesitate to recommend the book to patients – or potential patients – who are just beginning to investigate the possible connections between their health complaints and their dental health, as well as practitioners who want to understand what the biological approach to dentistry is all about. If they then want to know more, they can turn to the many excellent sources Dr. Cook cites, as well those I list on my practice’s website (scroll to the bottom of the page to the section “For Further Reading”).
It’s funny how people tend to make a distinction between dentists and “regular doctors.” Physicians are, by and large, all considered doctors even if they specialize in some isolated body part – ophthalmologists for eyes, say, or dermatologists for skin, podiatrists for feet – except for the mouth. When you do that, you’re not a doctor but a dentist.
Yet what is a dentist but a physician who specializes in the mouth, teeth and other oral structures?
Currently, 9 dental specializations are officially recognized:
- Dental public health, which focuses on dental epidemiology and public health policy
- Endodontics, which focuses on the inside of the tooth, or dental pulp (If you’ve ever had a root canal, you may have been referred to an endodontist – a dentist who specializes in this procedure .)
- Oral and maxillofacial pathology, which is concerned with diseases of the mouth and jaw
- Oral and maxillofacial radiology, which is concerned with x-ray and other imaging of mouth and jaw diseases and conditions
- Oral and maxillofacial surgery, which treats diseases, injuries and defects of the mouth and jaw
- Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics, which focuses on tooth and jaw alignment
- Pediatric dentistry, which focuses on the dental health of children
- Periodontics, which is concerned with the health and treatment of the gums and related oral structures
- Prosthodontics, which involves the replacement of missing teeth
And biological dentistry?
Even as more dentists are pursuing the extra education and training to specialize in biological dental medicine, it remains an unofficial specialty. But considering our ever-deepening understanding of the oral-systemic health connection, its a specialty on the leading edge.
This is because biological dentistry is most intently concerned with that connection. Sometimes called “holistic,” “whole-body” or “integrative” dentistry, it combines the best clinical practices of Western dentistry with the wisdom of other traditions, including Traditional Chinese Medicine. Knowing that local causes can have distant effects, the biological dentist always keeps the big picture in mind: the effect of dental conditions and treatment on the body, and vice versa. Thus, issues of biocompatibility loom large. So, too, issues of toxins such as mercury and fluoride: Their effects go far beyond the teeth.
Acknowledging that treating symptoms is not the same as treating – let alone preventing – disease, biological dentistry prefers therapies that support the body’s self-healing abilities. It favors nontoxic, nature-based remedies and a conservative approach to treating the teeth. As one colleague of mine likes to say, “The best dentistry is the least dentistry.”
Operatory image by Dr. Alper, via Flickr
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
“Information overload” isn’t a new concept or phenomenon, but it is a more common one in our hyper-connected world.
As the world moves into a new era of globalization, an increasing number of people are connecting to the Internet to conduct their own research and are given the ability to produce as well as consume the data accessed on an increasing number of websites….This flow has created a new life where we are now in danger of becoming dependent on this method of access to information. Therefore we see an information overload from the access to so much information, almost instantaneously, without knowing the validity of the content and the risk of misinformation.
Another consequence is greater competition for attention. It’s one reason why we see the kinds of headlines we do – sometimes promising practical, helpful content to come, but more often striving to shock, surprise or otherwise arouse curiosity. More than ever, it’s important that we read beyond them and really grasp what’s being said.
Consider, for instance, this post on Dr. Mercola’s site yesterday:
Now, if you were to just read the headline and first bit of content, you couldn’t be faulted for thinking that dental x-rays are horrible, dangerous and something to avoid at all costs. But that’s not what the article actually says. The risk suggested by the research discussed involved only routine and conventional x-rays. It also has significant limitations, which Dr. Mercola points out. And his ultimate recommendation?
My personal recommendation is to find a dentist that uses digital X-ray equipment that does not use film but a sensor to capture the image. This type of equipment typically generates 90 percent less radiation and is far safer. The dentist I see uses this type of X-ray equipment.
It’s the type of equipment I use, as well (as do many other dentists, conventional and holistic alike). For x-rays remain an important diagnostic tool, not something that should be “routine.” Taking digital x-rays – and then, only when needed – keeps risk as low as possible. (Another benefit to digital imaging: You don’t need to have all those chemicals – a potential source of toxic exposure – to process the film. No chemicals, no fumes to permeate the office environment!)
And truth be told, most biological dentists use digital imaging for the exact same reasons. It’s safe and lets us see below the surface so we can correctly diagnose your dental situation. It helps us provide you with the best biological dental care, fixing any problems early – and biocompatibly.
That level of care and safety is one thing that should be routine. X-rays? No, and especially if they’re conventional film.
Image by a440, via Flickr
A couple Septembers ago, I wrote about how,
if we begin to listen to the body, we begin to get a deeper appreciation for its intricate workings and an understanding of how our actions affect it – what makes it feel better and work more effectively; what strains and stresses it. We are then in a position to be much more pro-active about our health. We gain more control of it…and our physical destiny.
Yet many people aren’t and don’t, often acting as though health and illness are always and only matters of chance, not choice. Maybe the familiar and sad statistic isn’t all that surprising, then: 70% of all deaths each year are due to chronic disease. Nearly half of all Americans have at least one, and 75% of all health care dollars spent each year goes to treating them. (And we wonder why “health care” costs are so high?!) Most all of them are totally preventable – not through drugs, surgery or other conventional treatment but the lifestyle choices we make.
Two of the most common blocks to good health – dental/oral and systemic – are poor diet and chronic stress. Both keep the body from getting and assimilating all the nutrients it needs to function well. Stress – mental and physical – keeps the body constantly on “high alert,” which interferes with normal metabolic activity and weakens the immune system, making us more vulnerable to disease. It can also aggravate poor food choices, even as poor nutrition can increase stress. (Talk about a vicious cycle!)
Dentally, under these conditions, we may see more gum disease and tooth decay. Where stress-induced clenching and grinding are issues, we see TMJ and other pain problems, as well as damaged teeth and recessed gums, accompanied by tooth sensitivity. (And despite what some ads say, toothpaste for sensitive teeth does not “cure” the problem, which is exposed root or dentin. It just lets you brush sensitive teeth more comfortably.)
Thus, providing comprehensive holistic dental care often means dealing with these related matters of nutrition and stress. We regularly provide testing and consultation to patients – both those undergoing intensive treatment to remove oral blocks to optimal health (e.g., mercury fillings, root canals, cavitations) and those simply wanting to do all they can to support their health and well-being. Previously, I told you about ART for nutritional testing. This week, I’d like to tell you about a couple of other tools that help us provide a higher level of care to the patients we see.
The first is a device called Nano SRT. This bioelectric assessment and therapeutic tool first identifies physical stressors – chemical, biological and environmental – that may be a drag on health. It provides a report showing the substances and substance groups identified, severity levels and the likelihood of negative health effects stemming from the stressors. It can then be used to help correct the body’s response to them by recalibrating the body’s response via frequencies developed as a result of the biofeedback test. Unique to each individual, they’re transmitted by LED light to various meridian points on the body. Nutritional support and supplementation are also used to help restore balance.
The process is safe, non-invasive, fast and painless. Typically, treatment takes from 6 to 8 visits – one for the initial evaluation and then several follow-up visits to monitor changes and make adjustments as needed.
You can learn more about the device here.
The other new scanning tool we use is ZYTO, which gives us a glimpse of the body’s internal communications. Focusing on this gives us another way work with you to develop a proper protocol of nutrition, supplementation and other lifestyle adjustments to improve physical function and overall health and wellness. As the manufacturer explains,
By interacting energetically with your body the ZYTO software will essentially ‘ask your body questions’ and record your body’s responses or ‘answers’. Information gathered in this way can help you be more proactive about your health and help you and your healthcare provider make better decisions regarding your healthcare.
The ZYTO scan is safe, easy and, most importantly, accurate. One pilot study (PDF) showed an 87% “congruity in the disease assessment” between scan results and those from conventional diagnostic workups. The study’s authors include Dr. William Tiller, esteemed researcher and author of Science and Human Transformation, an exploration of the effects of subtle energies on human consciousness.
You can learn more about ZYTO here.