Tag Archives: oral systemic health

Oral Health, Systemic Health: The Connection

A wonderful video by English dentist and naturopath Dr. Alison Adams on the basics of biological dental medicine:

The whole playlist this comes from – Root Canals & Infection – is excellent, giving a good overview of many important concerns in biological dentistry. Topics include mercury and other heavy metal toxicity, cavitations, fluoride, oral galvanism and more. Check it out!


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Health & Illness: More Than “If A and if B, then C”

One of this blog’s most popular posts is an article I originally wrote for my office website, “Why Doesn’t Everyone with Mercury Fillings Get Sick?”. The short answer – which I also discuss in the video “Silver Fillings, Toxic Teeth” – is that how a person fares with amalgams

tells us nothing about the fillings and everything about that individual’s constitution, immune response and ability to excrete toxins. Consider: if you have a healthy, robust immune system, you can be exposed to many pathogens without getting sick. It’s why not everyone gets the flu each year – or gets the same kind. Likewise, a person in good health and with few other risk factors may be able to bear the burden of mercury…for a time. But if they become ill or take up bad habits (e.g., eating junk food, taking drugs, smoking), their body becomes less and less able to rid itself of the mercury. That’s when you begin to see symptoms of Dental Amalgam Syndrome.

And the same can be said for most any kind of dental toxicity issue.

Several weeks ago, a reader expressed fear and concern in comments on an earlier post about root canals:

I am currently pregnant and have had to get 4 root canals during this pregnancy. I now have 6 total, at the age of 30. After doing research, I am now extremely scared and depressed. I would ideally like to have all of my root canals extracted, but am not sure that I can afford ths, after paying for the root canals themselves. Am I now destined for heart disease and/or cancer?

Strictly speaking, no one is destined for any disease. Yes, we may be genetically predisposed to certain illnesses or conditions. We may be at higher or lower risk due to factors such as lifestyle choices (e.g., diet, drug use) or environmental exposures. We may be constitutionally better or worse at eliminating the various toxins we’re exposed to.

Complex, chronic, multifactorial conditions such as heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disorders and “enigmatic” illnesses such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and multiple chemical sensitivities arise from a dynamic of forces and factors that we’re still just beginning to really grasp. But we do know that the body is a self-regulating organism whose health and healing can be supported through proper detoxification, nutrition and an active, balanced lifestyle. While living healthy is likewise no guarantee that a person will never get sick – we’ve all heard about people who lived as healthfully as possible yet still died young – it’s the best insurance policy we have.

The conventional view of medicine most of us grow up with is, to be blunt, pretty simplistic: For every illness, there’s a single cause; stopping symptoms is the same thing as curing disease. Our socialization into this model is so strong that even when we begin to understand its limitations and the benefits of a holistic, biological approach to health and well-being, we may still find our thinking stuck in its habitual ways. Here, fear becomes easy. We may assume that because we’re sick and have amalgam fillings and mercury is toxic, our illness must be due to the fillings. (Actually, only thorough, proper testing and evaluation can tell us that.) Or we may worry that the presence of root canal teeth is a one-way ticket to cancer.

Yes, there are strong, demonstrated links between health problems and dental foci – and a research record of more than 100 years – but there are no absolutes. There are too many variables.

Let’s go back to an example I used in passing in the mercury article we started with today: the flu. Why doesn’t everyone exposed to the virus get the flu – and why do some who “protect” themselves via vaccination get sick anyway? Because, as authors of a study published last year in PLoS Genetics put it, “Exposure to influenza viruses is necessary, but not sufficient, for healthy human hosts to develop symptomatic illness.” As MSNBC reported,

“Many people might conclude that if you are exposed to a virus and you don’t get sick, it’s because the virus didn’t stick or it was so weak, it just passed right through your system and your system didn’t notice. That’s not a correct notion,” says Alfred Hero, professor at the University of Michigan College of Engineering and author of the study….

He continues, “There is an active immune response which accounts for the resistance of certain people getting sick, and that response is just as active as the response we all know and hate, which is being sick with the sniffles, fever, coughing and sneezing. It’s just that the responses are different.”

And this is the case with all manner of exposures, whether to pathogenic microbes or other toxins: There’s always a response, but that response varies according to the individual. Is their immune system robust? Are they good excretors of mercury and other heavy metals? Do they practice good health habits to keep the body’s self-regulatory mechanisms in good working order?

This is why it’s so vital to look at each person’s situation and tailor treatment to their unique dynamic of factors – likewise, to always keep the big picture in mind: How does the dental situation fit in with and relate to the other health factors in a person’s life? Healing depends on a holistic, individualized approach.

Image by Lumiago, via Flickr

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Filed under Biological Dentistry, General Health

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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