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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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

 

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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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