Tag Archives: root canals

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

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.

For more articles like this one, visit our article library at drerwin.com.

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Filed under Biological Dentistry