Category Archives: Dentistry

Raspberries, Piercings & Smoking – Oh, My!

So back to blogging, following up on a few older posts with more recent items I ran across during the hiatus…

Nontoxic Oral Cancer Treatments

We’ve looked at causes and early detection of oral cancer, but then what? Well, if a pair of recent studies holds up, we just might wind up treating precancerous lesions with raspberries.

“Part of the biggest clinical challenge,” says Dr. Susan Mallery in DrBicuspid’s report on her work, “is that we cannot currently identify which lesions will progress to oral cancer. Having nontoxic and effective treatment options available would be a great benefit to both patients and healthcare practitioners.”

In a 2010 study in Pharmaceutical Research, Dr. Mallery’s team found that applying a black raspberry gel directly to the lesions kept precancerous cells from becoming cancerous.

Based on the known mechanisms by which berry compounds function at the cellular levels, researchers speculate that the promising gel trial results reflect activation of two related pathways – apoptosis and terminal differentiation – in the premalignant cells. The ultimate benefit is that damaged cells don’t continue to divide and are therefore not retained.

A new study by the team, published in Molecular Pharmaceutics, showed similar efficacy of patch-delivered fenretinide, a synthetic vitamin A compound. The authors suggest that these “chemopreventives” could be used alone or in rotation, though the raspberry gel was enough for many.

“We’re getting a pretty good handle on what enzymes you need and how you metabolize the compounds, which will give a predictive indicator if you’re going to be a good responder to the raspberry gel alone,” Dr. Mallery said.

How Body Piercing Can Go Wrong

A while back, we looked at a few of the problems oral piercings can cause for your teeth and gums – from infection to pushing teeth out of alignment. But there are others.

Last month, the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology published a comprehensive review of “the medical consequences of body piercing.” First, there are those that can crop up regardless of where the piercing is.

Localized infections are common. Systemic infections such as viral hepatitis and toxic shock syndrome and distant infections such as endocarditis and brain abscesses have been reported. Other general complications include allergic contact dermatitis (e.g. from nickel or latex), bleeding, scarring and keloid formation, nerve damage, and interference with medical procedures such as intubation and blood/organ donation.

Then there are “site-specific” problems. Of concern to dentists:

Oral piercings may lead to difficulty speaking and eating, excessive salivation, and dental problems. Oral and nasal piercings may be aspirated or become embedded, requiring surgical removal.

What the report doesn’t go into, though, are concerns of biological, holistic or integrative practitioners over punching through acupuncture points and housing metal in the body. These can block and disturb energy along the meridians, which can damage health over time. You can learn more about the issue in this helpful overview.

Smokers Avoid the Dentist

Not long after we looked at why smokers need to kick their habit before getting treatment for gum disease – a disease that affects tobacco-users disproportionately – the CDC released some new and sad data on smokers, dental problems and dental care.

The CDC looked at 2008 survey responses from more than 16,000 adults ages 18 through 64.

More than a third of smokers reported having three or more dental problems, ranging from stained teeth to jaw pain, toothaches or infected gums. That was more than twice as much as people who never smoked.

But 20 percent of the smokers said they had not been to a dentist in at least five years. Only 10 percent of non-smokers and former smokers had stayed away that long, the study found.

Smokers seem to be aware their dental health is worse “but they’re not doing anything about it,” said Robin Cohen, a CDC statistician who co-authored the new report.

Why not?

Half said they couldn’t afford it, which makes sense: Smoking rates are higher among lower income groups, it’s an expensive habit and the amount and type of damage it causes can quickly inflate a dental bill. I suspect fear plays a role, too – fear of The Lecture, as noted before, and fear of finding out just how bad the problems are.

Unfortunately, the avoidance tactic usually ends up costing much more. According to a study in the Journal of Periodontology, patients with gum disease who did without periodontal treatment could only replace 4 teeth before they were spending more than they would have for a lifetime of periodontal care.

A lifetime!

“Feasible”?

Last, a headline – from a story about recent UK debates on the use of mercury amalgam in dentistry:

Well, amalgam fillings are sure as heck not feasible in any term!

Images by Lottery Monkey, jpmatth and Savannah Roberts, via Flickr

Comments Off on Raspberries, Piercings & Smoking – Oh, My!

Filed under Biological Dentistry, Dental Health, Dentistry, Periodontal health

How to Save Money on Dental Care

What keeps people from getting the dental care they need? Fear is a major factor. Another is concern with cost.

According to a new Consumer Reports reader survey on oral health, 43% delayed care due to financial concerns. But the survey also found that those who delayed dental treatment were also less satisfied with the care they got. The why is simple:

Because not going to your dental appointments may lead to more extensive and more costly dental treatment in the long run.

Whether money is tight or you’re a committed saver, the best way to minimize dental costs is the same: Take a proactive, preventive approach. This means

  • Brushing after meals, flossing daily and regularly using a proxy brush, perio-aid or oral irrigator to clean the necks of teeth and at the gumline.
  • Eating a varied, balanced diet based on whole foods, low in sugars and refined carbs.
  • Regularly exercising.
  • Getting enough quality sleep and rest.
  • Managing stress and maintaining a balanced lifestyle.
  • Seeing your dentist every 6 months for a cleaning and exam.

Any money you spend pursuing the above is nothing compared with the cost of dental surgery and restorations!

Funny. You know the entertainment discount books full of coupons? We don’t usually think twice about buying things like those, justifying the cost by thinking of the money we’ll save. Sure, there’s more fun potential there, and a quicker payoff to the investment. It takes years for our lifestyle choices to catch up with us, but when they do…! Of course, writes one dentist,

It is easy to rationalize buying something you want like shoes, a car, diamond ring, etc. On the other hand, it is even easier to rationalize not doing something like dieting or going to the dentist, right? I mean who wants to have someone stick their hand in your mouth, poke around it, mumble a few things and then tell you the bad news?

The catch: It doesn’t have to be bad news.

The challenge: Start backing up our words with action. Most everyone agrees that good dental hygiene is important, yet according to the CR survey, only 1/3 of readers brush and floss as much as they should. Changing that behavior alone would do much to cut down on dental bills.

Here are CR‘s tips for dealing with the cost factor:

  • Shop around and bargain. Look up typical insurance paid rates in your area at FairHealthConsumer.org and HealthCareBlueBook.com, then ask providers to accept that amount, or less, as a cash payment. [Of the two, the first seems better – more specific, targeted and accessible to the layperson.]
  • Consider Free and low-cost clinics and health centers. Some community health centers offer dental care with fees based on the ability to pay. Consumers should call their local health department to find one nearby. But they should expect to encounter waiting lists in some locations.
  • Look into dental and dental-hygienist schools. Consumers who are willing to be treated by supervised students can avail themselves of schools that offer free or discontinued care to the public. A list of schools is available at http://www.ada.org/267.aspx.
  • Investigate dental discount plans. For an annual membership fee of around $50 to $100, one can get access to a network of dentists who have agreed to discounted rates. But Consumer Reports recommends that consumers watch out for pricey add-ons and extra procedures they don’t need.

One caveat: Most low-cost clinics and dental schools are not holistically focused. Things like mercury amalgam fillings, root canals and insufficient cleaning of the socket after tooth extraction can have long term health effects that vastly outweigh the short term bargain of low-cost care. As my colleague Dr. Gary Verigin writes,

In short, “cheaper now” usually means “more expensive later.” In the best case, you wind up replacing work sooner and more often. In the worst case, cutting corners causes more extensive and expensive problems down the road.

The smart consumer looks at the big picture.

Or as a small plaque hanging in our office has it, “Beware of bargains in parachutes, brain surgery and dental care.”

Consider: If you needed surgery on any other living organ – and each of your teeth is a vital organ, just as your heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and such are – would you opt for the cheapest surgeon or the most qualified surgeon whose services fit within your budget?

So also keep in mind that some dental offices will work with you to develop a payment plan for costly procedures. It’s worth asking about when you first call. There are also options such as CareCredit for financing over time.

But again – and as ever – your best bet is to make your oral (and physical) health a priority and minimize the risk of pricey problems arising in the first place.

Image by Danielle Moler, via Flickr

2 Comments

Filed under Dental Health, Dentistry

Some Weird & Funny & Surprising Holiday Gifts for the Dental-Minded

You know how important it is for kids to get an early start when it comes to learning about their teeth and how to take care of them.

So do the toy companies.

There are play sets

dolls

board games….

That “patient” looks none too confident, though. Maybe it’s because he’s seen his “dentist” practicing with this:

Interestingly, a different – perhaps earlier – version of this play set includes gold Play-Doh, not mercury amalgam gray.

Make-believe toxic dentistry – the perfect gift this holiday season, right?

At least it’s a little more exciting than the flavored dental floss and “fun” toothbrushes that Delta Dental is suggesting as “teeth-friendly stocking stuffers”.

But why limit dental-themed gifts to the kids?

For instance, how about a lovely, silver dental charm, such as these dentures?

Or better yet, jewelry made with teeth?

Maybe some art?

You could even go a little crazy and give a tattoo

– if not on the skin, on the skin of your teeth:

This kind is supposedly very popular in Japan:

But maybe you prefer something practical – like a $295 toothpaste squeezer.

Want something more high tech? How about a USB-powered toothbrush? Or a toothbrush cam, so you can see your teeth all up-close-and-personal while you brush, just as they look to a dentist?

Or maybe not.

 

Happy holidays, everyone!

1 Comment

Filed under Dentistry

The Persistent Defense of Mercury Fillings

It’s kind of a weird passage to find on a site that promises to “improve your world” by covering “the broadest scope of environmental and social responsibility issues on the internet.” (Then again, the corporate-sponsored site – Mother Nature Network – gets funding from the likes of environmental polluter Georgia-Pacific, so maybe some cognitive dissonance is to be expected.)

From “6 Signs You Need a New Dentist,” originally published in Woman’s Day:

If your dentist recommends that you replace all of your silver fillings with tooth-colored versions, you may want to get a second opinion. While there are some theories that the mercury content in silver fillings can be harmful to your health, none of them has been proven to be true, says Dr. Gross. According to Shelley Seidel, DDS, MD, who practices at Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons of Houston and is the director of the Institute for Dental Implant Awareness, as long as you don’t have cavities below your fillings — which can be detected by examination or x-ray — or the fillings aren’t broken or fractured, there is no need to replace them. “If your dentist wants to take them out simply because silver fillings are passé, you’re asking for trouble because you don’t know how your teeth will react,” explains Dr. Gross. “They may react in an unfavorable way, becoming more sensitive or in need of a root canal or crown.” (emphasis added)

Amalgam being “passé” is hardly the issue.

As regular readers know, “silver” describes only the color of these fillings, which mostly consist of mercury, a potent neurotoxin. Though more and more dentists have quit using mercury amalgam, US dentists alone place about 70 million of these fillings every year, using 34 tons of mercury. But not all that mercury goes into patients’ mouths. Tons of it are released into the water system each year, as well. As Dr. Bicuspid has reported,

Approximately 50% of mercury entering local waste treatment plants comes from dental amalgam waste – about 3.7 tons of mercury annually, according to the EPA. Once deposited, certain microorganisms can change elemental mercury into methylmercury, a highly toxic form that builds up in fish, shellfish, and animals that eat fish. Fish and shellfish are the main sources of methylmercury exposure to humans, and the EPA is concerned that methylmercury can damage children’s developing brains and nervous systems even before they are born.

And it doesn’t even take that much mercury to cause contamination: As little as one teaspoonful (PDF) can render a 22 acre lake toxic.

Yet it’s considered okay to put mercury in a person’s mouth, mere inches from the brain?

Contrary to Dr. Gross’s claim, there is a substantial scientific record of amalgam’s power to harm human health. (For a sample, see this and this and this.) There has also been work along the lines of a study published just this month in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation which demonstrated long-lasting reduction of health complaints after mercury removal.

That said, no conscientious dentist would make a the kind of generalizing statement like the one used in the MNN/Woman’s Day article: “You need to replace all of your silver fillings with white ones.” You can’t just assume that if a person has amalgams, they must be removed. Our bodies have excretory mechanisms to remove any toxins that enter. Some people have healthier, more robust systems than others. Some carry a heavier toxic load due to multiple and/or ongoing exposures, not just mercury.

You have to ask, Is the person experiencing symptoms? Are amalgams the primary cause?

Always, you need to look at each individual’s health situation and do the appropriate exams and evaluations to determine the presence and impact of any oral obstacles to systemic health. If you find any – mercury fillings or otherwise (e.g., infected root canal teeth or cavitations) – you then map out a systematic, patient-specific plan for treatment and healing. And if amalgam removal is involved, it must be done safely (PDF). You also need to be sure that the new restorations are biocompatible, which is determined beforehand through blood serum analysis and other tests.

So, yes: The caution against rushing into amalgam removal (or any other treatment) is sound. You just don’t need to justify it by insisting against evidence that amalgam is risk-free.

Note: There’ll be no post next week, due to the Veteran’s Day holiday.

Mouth image by brillenschlange, via Flickr

Comments Off on The Persistent Defense of Mercury Fillings

Filed under Dentistry, Mercury

Painful Tooth? Why Pointing at It Isn’t Enough for a Dentist to Help You

For most Americans – 80%, according to a 2009 survey by the American Association of Endodontists – going to the dentist is a scary thing. Over half say it keeps them from seeing getting dental care, despite the fact that regular visits for exams and cleanings help them avoid the things they fear: pain and procedures like root canals.

But tell that to a person who’s just heard their best friend describe a bad dental experience or read one of the strange and/or horrific dental stories that crop up in the news from time to time – even as these stories can just as much be a source of motivation to take good care of your teeth and gums, and reduce the chance you’ll need extensive, intensive (and expensive!) treatment down the road.

And they can cast light on important concepts. For instance, consider this story that made the news a couple weeks ago:

A dentist who pulled the wrong tooth from a patient had it retrieved from a medical waste bin and replanted it two hours later.

Kim Green, who was in agony from a root canal infection, did not know that her healthy tooth had lain among bloodied tissues, saliva wipes and needles used on other patients.

Dentist Justin George sewed it back in, left her rotten one in place and suggested she take painkillers until another appointment was arranged.

According to the Mail, Mrs. Green eventually went to the hospital. A surgeon removed both teeth and then reported the Dr. George to the General Dental Council. Mrs. Green alleges that the dentist didn’t consult her x-rays before pulling the tooth: “Instead, he relied on her pointing to the throbbing tooth.”

Problem: As research published last year in the journal Pain demonstrated, when a tooth hurts, our brains have a really hard time figuring out exactly which one it is.

In the study, researchers led by Clemens Forster of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany analyzed brain activity in healthy — and brave — volunteers as they experienced tooth pain. The researchers delivered short electrical pulses to either the upper left canine tooth (the pointy one) or the lower left canine tooth in the subjects. These bursts of electrical stimulation produced a painful sensation similar to that felt when biting into an ice cube, Forster says, and were tuned such that the subject always rated the pain to be about 60 percent, with 100 percent being the worst pain imaginable.

To see how the brain responds to pain emanating from different teeth, the researchers used fMRI to monitor changes in activity when the upper tooth or the lower tooth was zapped. “At the beginning, we expected a good difference, but that was not the case,” Forster says.

Many brain regions responded to top and bottom tooth pain — carried by signals from two distinct branches of a fiber called the trigeminal nerve — in the same way. The V2 branch carries pain signals from the upper jaw, and the V3 branch carries pain signals from the lower jaw.

* * *

Because the same regions were active in both toothaches, the brain — and the person — couldn’t tell where the pain was coming from. “Dentists should be aware that patients aren’t always able to locate the pain,” Forster says. “There are physiological and anatomical reasons for that.”

And this brings us back to the matter of x-rays. While there’s growing concern about over-exposure to x-ray radiation, they remain a vital diagnostic tool. The key is in using them wisely – for instance, not “routinely” but when clinical need demands it. Digital imaging, which I’ve used for years, helps reduce risk, as well, since it requires less radiation than film does.

So why didn’t Dr. George refer to Mrs. Green’s x-ray before going ahead with the extraction?

When The Mail on Sunday spoke to Dr George at his home in Taunton he admitted responsibility but claimed there was ‘pandemonium’ at the surgery. ‘It was a really weird day,’ he said. ‘We didn’t have our regular nurse, there was pandemonium in the practice, and then the nurse left the X-ray in the machine.

‘People are all coming in with pain and I’m the only dentist in the surgery trying to see everybody, and yes, in the pandemonium, the wrong tooth was pulled out. It was an accident but everything was failing around me. I’m a new dentist. I was very stressed-out that day . . . I could hear people grumbling downstairs.

‘The nurse said the tooth was still in the surgery and so I thought she had not disposed of it. I didn’t know it was in the bin.’

You have to wonder about the role of inexperience here. It’s not hard to imagine a young dentist feeling the need to prove himself capable of working through “pandemonium” instead of acknowledging that he’s having trouble coping and it’s interfering with his work. Of course, there’s still the weird matter of how he “fixed” his mistake: calling back the patient and “sewing in” the tooth that had been fetched from medical waste, yet still doing nothing for the infected tooth.

Unsurprisingly, Dr. George has been suspended and awaits his GDC hearing.

Stories like this catch our attention precisely because they’re so off the norm and seldom jibe with our own experience. In fact, dentists provide a wide variety of methods to minimize pain. And where anxiety is an issue, we can provide things like nitrous oxide or oral conscious sedation to help you stay calm and relaxed. I make both methods available to my patients. And for those who prefer more natural sedation remedies, there are calming botanicals, homeopathics and other options we can recommend.

Learn more about dealing with dental fear.

Images by westpark, via Flickr, and Michael Ottenbruch, via Wikimedia Commons

Comments Off on Painful Tooth? Why Pointing at It Isn’t Enough for a Dentist to Help You

Filed under Dentistry

One Mercury Filling Is Too Many

Every so often, the Wealthy Dentist surveys dentists on their use of mercury amalgam. In their latest poll, 67% of dentists said they place amalgam fillings at least some of the time: 40% regularly, 27% “in only [sic] special circumstances.” This is quite a change from past results, in which 53% of dentists said they don’t place amalgam – though the difference may be due to there being no “sometimes” option in past polls, and that dentists decide if they want to participate or not. These are hardly scientific polls.

But research published earlier this year in JADA suggests that higher rates of use are more accurate. Amalgam is still more common than composite (tooth-colored filling material) and especially favored by younger dentists and those who work in large group practices:

Dentists who graduated in the past 5 years placed amalgam on 61% of the lesions they treated. One explanation may be that younger dentists are more likely to be in large group practices where they work on salary, rather than fee-for-service, said [study author] Dr. Sonia K. Makhija. The type of material might be dictated by managers of the group practice. In large group practices (4 dentists or more), 79% of the restorations were amalgam (P < .001). "It's quicker, it's easier and it's cheaper to use amalgam," Dr. Makhija said. [emphasis added]

And that, as they say, is the gist and sum of it.

However many are being placed, the simple fact of the matter is that one mercury filling is too many. We know now that there is no longer a place for mercury amalgam in dentistry. While the FDA has flip-flopped and currently holds that mercury fillings are safe, just this year, one of its own scientific panels said otherwise:

According to the panel, FDA’s amalgam risk assessments were not adequate to protect hypersensitive adults, children and unborn babies. Repeatedly, panel members expressed their concern about amalgam use in children. Pediatric neurologist Dr. Suresh Kotagal of the Mayo Clinic summed it up for the entire panel: “There is really no place for mercury in children.” Other panelists went on to explain that dental mercury is like lead. The panel urged FDA to quickly contraindicate amalgam for these vulnerable populations and insisted that FDA provide consumers with labeling containing clear warnings.

Dental amalgam is more than 50% mercury, a known neurotoxin. There is no safe level of exposure. It is considered “toxic waste” outside the mouth but somehow magically inert and harmless when packed into living human teeth.

Mercury fillings have been linked to neurological, autoimmune and cardiovascular disorders, as well as enigmatic chronic illnesses such as CFS, fibromyalgia and MCS. It is continually released from the fillings into the general circulation just under the normal pressures of chewing and swallowing. Indeed, up to 95% of the mercury may be “lost” over time. But it doesn’t just disappear. That which isn’t excreted turns up in other tissues, including the brain. And while videos such as “Smoking Teeth = Poison Gas” have brought a lot of attention to the reality of “outgassing,” this isn’t the only way mercury may enter the general circulation. Some research has shown that mercury may travel through the teeth themselves.

There are many nontoxic alternatives that 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. All things considered, there just is no good reason for a dentist to place mercury fillings.

 

 

So why do so many dentists keep using it? Here’s a sample of responses to that Wealthy Dentist poll:

  • “I don’t understand what the big hoopla is about banning it entirely. Health concerns? Unproven. Mercury in environment? Don’t blame the dentists.” [Fact: Dentistry is the largest source of wastewater mercury pollution.]
  • “The greatest posterior restoration ever!”
  • “They are the most technically forgiving, economical workable restorative still.”
  • “There is nothing wrong with amalgam restorations — they are efficient and cost effective for the patient!”
  • “They last much longer, less sensitivity and there is no credible evidence they have killed anyone. [A straw man. The issue is harm, for which there is certainly evidence. (PDF)] Remember composites contain Bis-Phenol and I still place many more composites, GI’s, then amalgams. [Fact: Not all composites contain BPA. All amalgams, however, do contain mercury.] Because of their proven longevity, it is unethical to not offer amalgam to your dental patients.” [Fact: This “longevity” claim is a canard. Many new generation restorative materials are reported to be as strong and durable as metal.]
  • “I still love amalgams. I am also tired of all the amalgam-bashing. I believe most of it is profit-driven. I had great gold and amalgams placed years ago in my mouth. No one ever notices.”[Fact: Placing different metals next to each other in the mouth can create galvanic currents, which can also contribute to illness.]

This coming week, September 4 – 9, Consumers for Dental Choice will be teaming up with Dr. Mercola to promote Mercury-Free Dentistry Week. Each day, Dr. Mercola will run an article in honor of mercury-free dentistry – and the people who have worked so hard to stop this toxin from contaminating our bodies, our planet and our workplaces.

I’ll be posting mercury-related content on my office’s Facebook page all week, as well. So be sure to connect with me there so you can stay up to date – not only on the mercury issue but all aspects of holistic, biological dental health and wellness.

Image by foshydog, via Flickr

Updated 9/9/11

3 Comments

Filed under Biological Dentistry, Dentistry, Mercury

Supporting Healing through Ideal Eating

Over the past decade or so, writers such as Michael Pollan and media-savvy chefs such as Alice Waters have made us much more aware of the quality of our food. At the same time, scientific research has made us more aware of how diet affects our health. What used to sound a little radical outside of holistic health circles now seems more like common sense: Hippocrates’ famous statement, “Let food be your medicine.”

Good food and proper nutrition can go a long way toward starting and sustaining the healing process. Even conventional physicians know this, telling their heart patients to eat less salt, for instance, or diabetic patients to eat less sugar and fewer processed carbs. But what about someone who’s developed autoimmune symptoms, chemical sensitivity, fibromyalgia or other chronic illness, all of which may be triggered by amalgam fillings or other toxic dental materials, focal infections or cavitations? What about those who may not have a diagnosable condition yet don’t feel their health is at their best and want to do something about it?

We pinpoint specific nutritional strategies that target their unique biochemistry and health status. And of the best ways we’ve found for doing this is a method called Autonomic Response Testing (ART).

Unlike a blood test, ART is non-invasive. Instead of taking samples of blood – or saliva, urine or hair – we test your neurological reflexes. Since your nervous system controls all of your body’s processes, it can also tell us much about the overall state of the body.

How Does ART Work?

In simplest terms, ART is a form of muscle testing. The patient stands with one arm outstretched. With one hand, we touch their arm, and with the other, specific reflex areas around the body. If a reflex area is stressed, when it’s touched, the extended arm will weaken and drop. (Those familiar with natural healing methods will understand this as a form of applied kinesiology.)

After reviewing the test results, we come up with a specific nutritional plan for that patient, targeting their particular health issues. We then meet with them to discuss the results and the dietary changes they should make to promote detoxification and healing. Because these recommendations are so specific and unique to the individual, allergens are easily avoided. Patients also know the right doses of the right supplements for their needs, which saves them a lot of time and money, as well. There’s no trial-and-error or second-guessing.

Since nurturing general health is good insurance for proper healing from dental procedures, we incorporate ART and Designed Clinical Nutrition into the treatment for periodontal (gum) disease, mercury toxicity, cavitations, focal infections from root canal teeth and other problems. We use it to help each patient prepare their body to detox and heal. We also use it in cases where caries (cavities) are an issue, for children, adults, seniors – the entire family.

Quality Nutrition Matters

We know that the best source of nutrition is the most natural: whole, organic, minimally processed foods, including lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Only through whole foods can you be assured of getting all the co-factors – enzymes, phytochemicals and such – that are needed so that the body can effectively assimilate and use the nutrients it needs.

Synthetic vitamins and supplements lack these. Consequently, they aren’t very effective: What your body can’t use, it excretes unused. So when supplements are needed – as sometimes they are – we always recommend whole food sourced supplements, as they do include the co-factors you would get if taking the vitamin through a particular food.

This is one way we carry on the tradition from Hippocrates: Let your food be your medicine.

Images by taberandrew and weboldaldiszkont, via Flickr

2 Comments

Filed under Dentistry, Diet & Nutrition

What’s Ozone Therapy & How Is It Used in Dentistry?

If you’ve read much about “alternative medicine,” you may have run across discussion of something called “ozone therapy.” But what’s that?

The word “ozone” might make you think of pollution. We’ve all heard of the “hole” in the ozone layer caused by CFCs and other toxins. Maybe you’ve read that ozone is found in smog or know a little about its industrial uses, many of which tap into ozone’s disinfecting properties (including use as a pesticide, bacteriacide and fungicide).

Ozone also has a significant history in medical treatment, as well. According to Dr. K.W. Donsback,

Ozone therapy was used medically by Nikola Tesla in 1900. It has been in continual use for over 50 years in Europe and the USA, but due to our legal pressures, ozone is presently only widely used [as an orthodox treatment in Germany, Russia and Cuba]. When the proper protocols are followed, ozone has been proven effective in the treatment and possibly the elimination of over 40 common diseases.

Ozone therapies are among the safest therapies ever used. One European study of over 5.5 million treatments showed a side effect rate of .0007%, probably among the lowest of any therapy known. Side effects (like fever and weakness) are minor and temporary.

Ozone therapy also has a place in dental practice, although its use remains uncommon here in the US, owing to opposition from the dental/medical establishment. Among those dentists who do use it for oral healing and health, there are five main applications :

  1. Ozonated water may be used as a gargle or rinse to treat oral abscesses, gum problems, sore throats and ulcerations. It may also be used for irrigation.
  2. Ozone gas may be used as a preventive measure against tooth decay and periodontal disease.This is done by fitting a custom tray over the patient’s teeth and gums, and letting ozone into the tray for a short while.
  3. Teeth that might otherwise be subject to a root canal or extraction may be treated by washing an exposed nerve first with ozonated water, then with ozone gas.
  4. Ozone may be used 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.
  5. Temporomandibular joint pain may be treated with ozone, where gas injected right into the TMJ can kill harmful microbes, as well as reduce inflammation and spur the growth of new cartilage.

Learn more about dental uses of ozone:

1 Comment

Filed under Biological Dentistry, Dental Health, Dentistry, Oral Health

US Calls for a “Phase-out” of Dental Amalgam in World Mercury Treaty Negotiations

This week, we got another email from Charlie Brown, National Counsel of Consumers for Dental Choice and President of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, delivering some excellent news: the US Mercury Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee has called for the phase-out of dental amalgam.

The Committee is part of an international effort to prepare a global legally binding treaty on mercury.

Charlie explains what happened and what it means:

The United States government has announced that it supports a “phase down, with the goal of eventual phase out by all Parties, of mercury amalgam.” This statement – a radical reversal of its former position that “any change toward the use of dental amalgam is likely to result in positive public health outcomes” – is part of the U.S. government’s submission for the upcoming third round of negotiations for the world mercury treaty.

While couched in diplomatic hedging – remember it is still early in the negotiations – this new U.S. position makes three significant breakthroughs for the mercury-free dentistry movement:

  1. The U.S. calls for the phase-out of amalgam ultimately and recommends actions to “phase down” its use immediately….
  2. The U.S. speaks up for protecting children and the unborn from amalgam, recommending that the nations “educat[e] patients and parents in order to protect children and fetuses.”
  3. The U.S. stands up for the human right of every patient and parent to make educated decisions about amalgam.

What does this mean? Our position – advocating the phase-out of amalgam – is now the mainstream because the U.S. government supports it. Who is the outlier now? It’s the pro-mercury faction, represented by the World Dental Federation and the American Dental Association….

We applaud the U.S. government. But tough work lies ahead. For example, we must demonstrate to the world that the available alternatives – such as composites and the adhesive materials used in atraumatic restorative treatment (“ART”) – can cost less than amalgam and will increase access to dental care particularly in developing countries.

For now though, let’s mark this watershed in the mercury-free dentistry movement: the debate has shifted from “whether to end amalgam” to “how to end amalgam.”

You can read and download the full text of the US statement here (PDF).

The next session of negotiations is tentatively scheduled for October 31 – November 4 of this year.

1 Comment

Filed under Dentistry, Mercury

Straight Teeth: Not Just a Cosmetic Matter

When people think about orthodontics, they tend to think mostly in terms of the aesthetics – straightening teeth to get an attractive smile. Of course, aesthetics matter. A good looking smile can boost your confidence and influence how you’re perceived by others. But there are health factors, too.

Crooked, crowded teeth, for instance, can make home hygiene more difficult. When brushing, flossing and using cleaning tools such as proxy brushes and rubber tips are hard to do because of how the teeth sit in the mouth, at best, home cleanings may not be very thorough – if done at all. The consequence, of course, is a higher risk of cavities and gum disease (and with the latter, a higher risk of other inflammatory conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke).

There are functional considerations, too. A misaligned bite – one in which the teeth don’t come together harmonically, with even pressure – can eventually lead to muscle soreness, TM joint dysfunction and pain throughout the head, face, jaw, neck and upper body. The surfaces of the teeth may wear down more quickly and irregularly, leading to the need for restorative dental work that otherwise may have been unnecessary.

In short, when needed, effective orthodontic treatment can benefit a person both physically and mentally, helping to support their total health and wellness. And although ortho is most often promoted for young patients, as their developing teeth and dental structures make teeth easier to move into proper alignment, teeth straightening can be done successfully in adults of all ages (even, in some cases, seniors).

One of the things that’s made orthodontics more attractive for adults has been the development of good alternatives to the traditional metal brackets. For instance, in cases where brackets remain the best choice, white polymer ones may be used for a more natural appearance. In other cases, “invisible” appliances can be used, so it doesn’t even look like you’re having your teeth straightened at all.

I’ve recently begun using a new “invisible” alignment system in my office, which we think is the best system yet for our patients:
ClearCorrect. The appliance features superior aesthetics, not clouding up as some other appliances do. It’s easily removable and doesn’t interfere with eating or regular cleaning habits, and its custom fit ensures good comfort. It’s the least invasive teeth straightening system I’ve seen and is appropriate for a wide range of individuals, from teens to seniors.

Placing the appliance is also much simpler and quicker than placing brackets. You can read a full description of the process here.

To learn more about ClearCorrect and the other services we offer at my Glendale, CA, office, just visit drerwin.com or give us a call at 818-246-1748. I look forward to helping you – or your child – get and maintain a healthy, attractive smile that supports your total health.

1 Comment

Filed under Dentistry, Orthodontics