Tag Archives: holistic dentistry

Beyond “Just” Dentistry

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:

  1. Dental public health, which focuses on dental epidemiology and public health policy
  2. 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 .)
  3. Oral and maxillofacial pathology, which is concerned with diseases of the mouth and jaw
  4. Oral and maxillofacial radiology, which is concerned with x-ray and other imaging of mouth and jaw diseases and conditions
  5. Oral and maxillofacial surgery, which treats diseases, injuries and defects of the mouth and jaw
  6. Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics, which focuses on tooth and jaw alignment
  7. Pediatric dentistry, which focuses on the dental health of children
  8. Periodontics, which is concerned with the health and treatment of the gums and related oral structures
  9. 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

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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

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Filed under Dental Health, Dentistry

The Holistic Dentist Year in Review, 2011

As we’re about to say goodbye to 2011 and hello to 2012, it seems only right to take a quick look back at the year in blogging.

It was The Holistic Dentist‘s first full year of existence. (Its two year anniversary will be at the end of this coming February.) And during that time, our audience more than tripled!

Here’s what people were reading:

Top 10 New Posts of 2011

  1. What’s Ozone Therapy & How Is It Used in Dentistry?
  2. US Calls for a “Phase-out” of Dental Amalgam in World Mercury Treaty Negotiations
  3. Do Natural Mouthwashes Work?
  4. Root Canal Myths
  5. Want Your Kids to Eat More Veg & Fruit? Try Smiling!
  6. Why Do We Have Two Sets of Natural Teeth in Our Lifetimes?
  7. Teeth Sensitive? Don’t Look Now, but Your Dentin May Be Showing
  8. Case History: “A True Healing Miracle”
  9. Detox Support: Reiki
  10. How to Get Rid of Bad Breath Naturally

Top 10 Overall Posts in 2011

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

Thanks much to all of you for reading, commenting and sharing! And if you’ve not yet connected with my office via Facebook and/or Twitter for more frequent info on holistic, biological dental health and wellness, please do!

My staff and I wish you the happiest of New Years…

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Oral Health, Physical Health

 

See the rest of the interview…

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Filed under Dental Health, Diet & Nutrition, Video

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

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Partner with the Healing Process

The healing process isn’t always a smooth transition from illness through treatment to recovery.

The removal of mercury fillings, cavitations, infected root canals and similar triggers of illness does not, alone, bring instant relief. As with all dental procedures, there are the normal biological processes of limited swelling, pain or discomfort, and inflammation. Sometimes, there can be complications such as infection or poor healing. But whatever the specific situation, the body must be actively supported in its ability to heal.

The best way to empower the body’s recovery is through the use of natural remedies. Unlike drugs that work on and against the body, natural therapies work with the body, allowing it to reach a state of normal function. Such remedies include homeopathy, herbs, acupuncture, chelation with vitamin and mineral support, an alkalinizing diet, meditation, a positive mental attitude and trust in Grace.

As Albert Schweitzer once said, “A good therapy is to stimulate the healer within.”

When natural remedies are used, there are times when you will feel worse before you feel better. Such a healing crisis can last days, or even weeks, depending on the toxins stored in the tissues and the constitution of the patient. But this is just a temporary stage on the journey to improved health. As an old Italian saying puts it: Not everything which is bad comes to hurt us. Indeed, good results manifest when we are patient. Once the process is complete, you can look back with gratitude and renewed vitality.

When toxic load, poor nutrition, dehydration, tissue acidity or negative mental attitude sap a body’s ability to heal, the body will find coping mechanisms for survival. For example, it will try to keep toxic materials, including heavy metals, out of the general circulation by depositing them in fat and connective tissues – which also happen to be nutritional stores for the body. Over time, these storage depots become larger and start to block natural organ function. This marks the beginning of chronic symptoms such as allergies, joint and muscle pain, and frequent fatigue.

The chronic disease process takes years to develop. While drug therapy can sometimes seem to provide immediate relief, all the drugs are doing is masking or suppressing symptoms. Natural remedies, on the other hand, support your body’s innate ability to heal by removing the root problem – that which gives rise to symptoms. Though working with nature in this way can take longer, in the broad view, the results are more satisfying and lasting.

Most natural remedies are nontoxic: they have primarily a tonic effect on the body. They have no side effects. When you are feeling bad during the healing process, what you are experiencing is the release of the old, stored toxins. You may not have been aware of them before, but when healing, you become very aware that they are stirred up and wanting out. Our goal is to help them leave the body graciously.

For more articles like this one, visit the resources page at my office website.

Image by mushin_schilling, via Flickr

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Detox Support: Reiki

When a person has become sick due to mercury amalgam fillings, root canals, cavitations or other dental sources of illness and dysfunction, healing isn’t just a matter of removing the source and sending the patient on their way. As I wrote before,

The ideal treatment begins before removal, in preparing your body to heal – especially if you are already ill from mercury poisoning. Again, you got sick because your body couldn’t get rid of the mercury leaching from your fillings. That mercury then accumulated in your body tissues. Thus, we must help your body become more able to excrete it once the source is removed. Most often, this treatment involves nutritional changes, supplementation and the use of homeopathics, and it normally continues through post-removal detox. At that point, you may choose to pursue other treatments, as well – chelation therapy, body work, energy medicine, sauna and others that aid the body in releasing toxins.

One popular complementary therapy is Reiki – which is actually far less mysterious than it sometimes sounds at first. In the following guest post, Reiki Master and wellness educator Jaymie Meyer explains what it is and how it can support your health and well-being.

What Is Reiki? Universal Energy

By Jaymie Meyer, CWP, ERYT-500

I can remember as a little girl the sheer bliss of my grandmother’s polished nails gently scratching my back. Then, as now, I adore bodywork and have experienced many techniques over the years including rolfing, Thai yoga massage and myofascial release.

It was for that reason that I initially shunned Reiki (pronounced “ray-key”) – because it doesn’t involve massage. It wasn’t until I felt a strong intuitive call to learn Reiki some nine years ago that I began to search for a teacher.

I found a well regarded Reiki Master named Dina Kennedy in Westchester who is five steps from Dr. Mikao Usui, the man credited with developing Reiki in the late 1800s. I studied with her for several years and ultimately received my initiation as a Reiki Master in 2005.

What exactly is Reiki? Reiki is a Japanese word meaning “universal energy.” It is increasingly recognized in the West as a beneficial adjunct to allopathic medicine. It supports wellness for the physical, emotional and mental body, but it’s not a “magic cure” and isn’t a replacement for licensed medical treatment.

While Reiki is a gentle “hands-on” practice, there is no manipulation of muscle or tissue. It’s typically delivered to a fully clothed person on a massage table but can also be done in a chair.

The practitioner lays hands on the body including the head, heart, belly, back, knees and feet. There is no contact with the breasts, genitals or buttocks. Additionally, people who are recovering from surgery or are extremely sensitive to touch may opt to have the hands over the body. This is equally effective.

Used in hospitals before, during and after surgery, Reiki is believed to enhance the body’s ability to heal itself. In addition to reducing pain and anxiety, Reiki has much to offer in the way of increased wellbeing by reducing stress.

While anecdotal, I have seen Reiki benefit numerous conditions including healing from burns, relieving headaches and back pain, helping sinus conditions, alleviating muscle and joint fatigue and lessening emotional anxiety. It is also helpful for those experiencing insomnia. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to fall asleep during a Reiki treatment.

In January of 2010, while appearing on Oprah, Dr. Oz discussed the merits of complementary medicine. He said, “The most important alternative medicine treatment of all is Reiki energy medicine. It can manipulate your energy and help cure what ails you.”

Reiki clinics – or “circles” as they are sometimes called – are held all over the country and are a wonderful way to sample this practice. Clinics typically offer 15 to 30 minute sessions for a nominal fee. It’s a great way to check out a practitioner with whom you might want to study or receive on-going sessions.

Once you learn Reiki, you can practice it on yourself, which I do daily, but I also enjoy receiving Reiki from other practitioners. A particular treat is receiving Reiki from more than one person at a time. Having four or six hands deliver Reiki simultaneously is an amazing experience that is both energizing and deeply relaxing.

One of the most beneficial aspects of Reiki is that it goes where it’s needed and never, ever harms. Finally, it teaches us how to listen to the subtle messages our body communicates, messages that often deliver insights into lifestyle changes we can potentially make to support a happier and healthier life.

If you are interested in reading more about Reiki, two books written by accomplished Reiki Masters I know and respect are:

  • Living a Life of Reiki by Shalandra Abbey
  • Reiki: A Comprehensive Guide by Pamela Miles

Jaymie Meyer, CWP, ERYT-500, is a wellness educator with certifications in stress management, bereavement counseling, yoga therapy and Ayurveda. She is also a Reiki Master. Her company, Resilience for Life®, has been delivering wellness programs for over 9 years at work sites and educational institutions including the National Institutes for Health (NIH), Coby Electronics Corporation, Columbia University, IBM, Jewish Guild for the Blind and Martha Stewart Living. She is an on-going faculty member at Yogaville’s Integral Yoga Academy, teaching the Stress Management TT each summer. Learn more at resilienceforlife.com, or contact Jaymie via email: jaymie (at) resilienceforlife.com.

Images by anomalous4 and Nieve44/La Luz, via Flickr

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On Being a Life-Long Learner

A lot of people seem to think that once you’re done with school, you’re done learning. But in truth, as Jiddu Krishnamurti taught, “there is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.” Sometimes that learning comes from books and lectures. Sometimes it comes through community with coworkers and colleagues, family and friends. Sometimes it comes from just being.

Yes, as a practicing dentist, I’m required to do continuing coursework to keep my license valid. But even so, it seems a common sense thing to do – in dentistry or any other profession. How else could you stay up-to-date in your field?

Consequently, not a month goes by that I don’t participate in a seminar or take a class of some kind. I find it exciting and fulfilling – personally and professionally, intellectually and spiritually. Even after more than 40 years of practicing dentistry, I’m still eager to deepen my understanding of oral-systemic health dynamics. Likewise, I both want and need to stay current with the latest treatments, techniques and technologies so I can continue to provide top-notch care for my patients, helping them heal or just sustain or improve their oral and physical health.

A partial list of courses I’ve taken over the past decade-plus is available here.

Just this month, I completed an 8 month course in periodontics – the dental specialty concerned with the gums and other supporting structures of the teeth. On the one hand, what I learned will help me provide an even higher level of care for patients with gum disease – a problem which affects 3 of every 4 adult Americans. (We looked at some of the reasons for this in a previous post.) But more than that – in the words of the course syllabus – it’s just

no longer…possible to practice restorative dentistry without having an in depth knowledge of how to maintain and modify periodontal tissues. Optimal oral esthetics demands optimal periodontal form. Optimal systemic health demands optimal periodontal health.

In other words, you can’t practice good dentistry by focusing just on the teeth. And you certainly can’t provide the kind of dental care needed to support overall health. As we understand more profoundly how periodontal disease is linked with diabetes, heart disease and other inflammatory conditions, the more crucial it is that dentists take a whole-body approach to their profession.

Although far too many dentists continue to practice mechanistic “toxic dentistry” – treating the teeth in isolation from the rest of the body and relying on substances such as mercury, fluoride and formocresol, believing them harmless – change is happening. The profession – like any – continues to evolve in response to new research and technology, as well as the efforts of holistic health professionals, grassroots activists and patients. Such efforts are one of the reasons why I belong to organizations such as the HDA, IAOMT and IABDM in addition to the dominant ADA and its state and local offshoots. These organizations exist to educate dental and medical professionals, as well as the general public, about safer alternatives to toxic dentistry and the intricate relationships between oral and systemic health.

“Education,” wrote Ralph Ellison, “is all a matter of building bridges” – between ideas, facts, theories, bodies of knowledge and people.

Thus, a new organization was recently founded, of which I’m pleased to count myself a founding member: The American Academy for Oral Systemic Health.

The American Academy for Oral Systemic Health is an organization of health care leaders and health professionals dedicated to the relationship of oral health and whole body health. AAOSH membership includes and is open to health professionals from many allied health disciplines, corporate supporters and sponsors, health educators, and healthcare leaders.

Membership and Academy activities, meetings, research and communications are all supportive of helping members of the healthcare community to work closer together and helping to improve the oral and general health of our patients and our communities.

Understanding the emerging science-driven relationships between the mouth and the body, AAOSH promotes building closer ties between allied health professionals and improving interdisciplinary communication and professional referral relationships.

You can read a more detailed discussion of their mission here. While their website is new enough to not yet have extensive educational resources, no doubt it will grow right along with the organization.

Of course, there’s one other benefit to making active learning a life-long habit: it keeps you young. As said, I’ve been practicing dentistry for over 40 years now – since 1967 – and I still find it exciting and fresh, challenging and new as the day I greeted my very first patient. And the rapid advances in dental-medical tech and knowledge ensure there will always be more to learn; likewise with our expanding knowledge of the mind, spirit and energy that inform both my approach to healing and life in general.

As Henry Ford once said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”

Want to resume learning? Here are 15 tips to get you started.

Already a devoted life-long learner? Share your story in the comments – or advice for others who’d like to follow your lead.

Learning is the beginning of wealth. Learning is the beginning of health. Learning is the beginning of spirituality. Searching and learning is where the miracle process all begins. – Jim Rohn

 

Image by jmtimages, via Flickr

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Natural Ways to Deal with Stress-Induced Teeth Grinding

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Ever since the economic meltdown, the news has been peppered with stories about dentists seeing more patients who clench their teeth, grind and brux. According to a Chicago Dental Society poll, “Nearly 75 percent of dentists surveyed said their patients reported increased stress in their lives. And 65 percent of dentists said they have seen an increase in jaw clenching and teeth grinding amongst their patients.” As recovery from the recession appears to be slow-going, it’s no great leap to presume that these habits may become chronic.

There are several reasons for concern, not the least of which is the pain that can result – headaches and pain throughout the jaw, face and neck, even into the shoulders and upper back. Chronic clenching and grinding also damage the teeth over time, wearing down the biting surfaces or even chipping the teeth. Occulsion – how the teeth come together in a bite – also may be thrown out of alignment, which can further contribute to pain.

Moreover, the psychological stress itself may contribute to other dental problems. Research published last year in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene demonstrated that elevated stress increases the levels of inflammatory markers in the gingival crevicular fluid and of cortisol in saliva. Study subjects also had inflamed gums and more dental biofilm (plaque) on their teeth – conditions that pave the way for increased caries (cavities) and gum disease. Compounding these problems are the fact that, as research published in the Journal of Periodontology has shown, more than half of us neglect regular brushing and flossing when stressed.

Times like now, when national and global problems can contribute so much to our stress load – problems that we can’t do much about individually – it becomes more important than ever to do what we can to manage our stress and not let it get the best of us.

Some ways of managing stress can also help you reduce grinding and the damage it can do:

  • Eat well.
    Eating a nutritionally dense diet based on whole foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, can minimize inflammation while giving your body the nutrients it needs for good health. Avoid processed foods that are high in sugars and refined carbohydrates, as well as caffeine, which just adds to muscle tension when you’re under stress.
  • Get a massage.
    Therapeutic massage or other body work can help by both soothing the pain and loosening the muscles, working the tension out of the body. You can even massage your neck and jaw yourself to do this. If you choose to use a therapist, consider finding one who’s qualified to provide craniosacral manipulation, as it can be particularly helpful for releasing tension and easing pain in the face, neck and upper body.
  • Get some acupuncture done.
    Acupuncture can be used for general relaxation or for dealing with pain. In fact, more and more studies are showing the real benefits of acupuncture for reducing pain, including that associated with clenching and grinding, as well as TM joint disorders (TMD). Though many of us flinch at the thought of needles, when performed by a well-trained and qualified acupuncturist, the procedure is not at all painful or uncomfortable.
  • Take supplements before sleep.
    Most people who grind do so at night, so taking supplements to help relax both body and mind can help reduce the amount of nighttime grinding. Magnesium and calcium supplements taken together are wonderful for relaxing the muscles. Valerian root and chamomile are excellent calming herbs. Most bedtime teas include one or the other in addition to other calming herbs such as passionflower, lemon balm, mugwort, St. John’s wort and lavender.
  • Exercise.
    Exercise is well-known to reduce stress and anxiety, thanks in part to the release of endorphins: opiate-like neurochemicals that reduce pain and give the sense commonly known as a “runner’s high.” Also, moderate exercise keeps your body – including your immune system – strong and healthy, more resilient to stress. Activities such as yoga and tai chi may be especially helpful in that they combine both mental and physical processes, releasing stress.
  • Meditate.
    Taking a mental and physical time-out to slow down, breathe deep and focus beyond immediate problems and stressors can also provide for greater calmness and mindfulness – states that make us better able to deal with stress and problems in our daily lives. Some people choose prayer, while others choose zen-style meditation, and yet others may do guided visualization or any other sort of meditative activity. The key is to find the meditative style that works best for you.

Your dentist, of course, can also help. Typically, the first step is to provide you with a molded plastic mouthguard fitted to your teeth to help cushion and absorb the pressure from grinding. Using such a “night guard” – so called because it’s worn during sleep, when most grinding tends to occur – can often reduce the strength and frequency of headaches and other pain resulting from these behaviors.

To learn more about this topic and other treatment options, see “Why Your Jaw, Face, Head and Neck Might Hurt – and What We Can Do to Help” at drerwin.com.

 

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Filed under Dental Health

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.

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