Holistic dentistry, also known as environmental dentistry or biological dentistry, sees your mouth as an integrated part of your entire body and prioritises the use of materials that aren’t toxic in order to protect your health and theirs. They avoid mercury amalgam; they prefer digital X-rays and choose natural supplements rather than antibiotics. They work closely with chiropractors, physiotherapists and osteopaths, seeing how your muscles and bones work together, adjusting these where necessary, and they may recommend homœopathy, yoga, meditation, massage or reflexology as modalities to support your health.
“If you’re looking to be well then you need to reduce the harmful stressors that have the potential to make you sick,” says Bill Kellner-Read, one of the many dentists leading the much-needed reform in the dental industry. Keen to do just that, I book in for a Meridian Stress Assessment with a naturopath from New Zealand. As well as gleaning valuable information on your health, this system can detect any health imbalances years before they manifest, potentially enabling you to avoid certain stressors and diseases. Through this non-invasive computerised approach, she tests 50 acupuncture points on me to evaluate my health. I’m amazed. It’s like an electronic questionnaire for my body.
“Your health is good,” she says, “apart from your teeth.” While the rest of my test results are fine, those relating to my teeth are very poor. I’m unpleasantly surprised. I have no teeth problems I’m aware of and have had regular check-ups. I’m extra disappointed because a year earlier I spent four hours rooted to the dentist’s chair having my amalgam fillings replaced with less toxic materials. “Do you have a root canal?” she asks. “Yes, but it’s not causing me any discomfort,” I reply. She suggests I get a holistic dentist to remove it asap. Two weeks later, an X-ray reveals an infection under my root canal and the tooth is immediately removed.
Root canal therapy
The dangers of root therapy have been known for over 100 years. The aim is to “save” your tooth, which has become infected, or died, to make it functional and pain free. A traditional dentist will scrape out the inside of it and attempt to disinfect it and the canals to eliminate any source of infection. According to Dr Robert Gammal, former president of the Australian Dental Association and of the Australian Society of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, the inside of your tooth is washed with hydrogen peroxide and sodium hydrochloride (NaCIO) — bleach used for cleaning dirty nappies. However, the only way Dr Weston Price, leading dental researcher and head of the American Dental Association, could properly sterilise a tooth was by boiling it for 30 minutes. Even when he poured formaldehyde down it, bacteria still remained.
After your tooth is washed out, a toxic concoction is placed in it, commonly including menthol, camphor, phenol and formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is extremely carcinogenic; it’s a substance used to mummify tissue and known to cause cancer, breathing problems, damage to embryos, and a host of other disastrous effects. One of the most commonly used root filling materials is a material called AH26. The manufacturer of AH26 says it contains dangerous components and shouldn’t be allowed to reach ground water, water courses or sewage. Whatever toxins are placed in your tooth may be transported and spread throughout your system, mostly affecting your nervous system, heart and brain.
The canal is then filled with a combination of cement and Gutta Percha in an attempt to block the canals and prevent micro-organisms from entering or escaping from the tooth. The benefits are that you’ve eliminated pain, your tooth will function mechanically and will look like a tooth, but you’ve kept dead, infected tissue buried in the bone inches from your brain.
According to Dr Mercola, “Root canals are dead teeth. If the heart or liver or any other organ in the body dies, it will have to be removed, otherwise bacteria and necrosis set in and the patient can die, but teeth are commonly left dead in the body. Root canals are one, if not the worst, source of chronic bacterial toxicity.”
Dr Weston Price found that dead teeth can cause diabetes, asthma, skin conditions, nervous breakdown, stoke, arthritis, heart disease and cancer. Dr George Meinig DDS, one of America’s leading endodontists, says root canal treatment causes “the largest number of diseases ever traced to a single source”.
Whole body effects
What happens in your mouth has effects throughout your body. As holistic dentist Dr David Howard observes, “Dentists are the world’s biggest implanters of foreign materials into the body. A holistic dentist takes some simple steps to minimise the impact of dental treatments. A common example of this is to have dental materials allergy-tested before insertion. If you are allergic to the filling material it will impact on your health until it is removed.”
Dr Weston Price realised that your oral cavity sits on the acupuncture meridians for major organs and therefore your teeth can affect your organs through their influence on the meridian-energy pathways. A German doctor mapped how each tooth affects the rest of the body, showing that front teeth are on the bladder meridian and interference here may cause disease in the kidneys, knees and reproductive systems; upper molars and lower — being on the stomach meridian — may cause diseases in the breast; wisdom teeth affect the heart etc. If you have a dead tooth it’s worth checking this theory against your own symptoms.
Controversial American health activist Dr Joseph Mercola said, “I’m constantly amazed at how powerful a predictor of health the teeth are. When I have a chronically ill patient with a set of teeth with not many cavities, I’m encouraged that they will likely get well quickly. If, on the other hand, their mouth is full of fillings and root canals, the prognosis is not as good.”
The longer root canal-treated teeth stay in your body, the more your immune system becomes compromised, which can lead to autoimmune diseases.
Robby was getting strange and uncomfortable pains in different parts of his abdomen. After undergoing a Meridian Stress Assessment, his naturopath suggested he remove two of his eight root canals immediately. “She said with absolute certainty my health problems were coming from my teeth, that there appeared to be some infection, particularly in my top root canal. As it turned out, it had a deep cyst on it. It was very large ... like pulling out a fish! The other one had a growth under it. I was very pleased I’d had them out.” Robby’s abdominal pain significantly subsided within a few days of having them out.
Dead teeth, mercury from amalgam and poisons such as fluoride are, in Dr Robert Gammal’s opinion, the greatest causes of degenerative diseases in our society. However, according to Dr Meinig, not everyone with a root canal will be made ill by it; the strength of the person’s immune system plays a significant role. Yet over time, most people with root-filled teeth seem to develop some kinds of systemic symptoms they didn’t have before and Meinig doesn’t recommend root canals for anyone. “All dentists know that sometimes arthritis and other illnesses clear up if bad teeth are extracted,” he says.
Root canal alternatives
- A full or partial denture (least expensive, simplest to implement, but not most convenient).
- A titanium or zirconia implant (more expensive, but according to Meinig it creates electrical fields that disturb sensitive brain rhythms).
- A bridge — a portion of your adjacent teeth are removed and a fake tooth is placed in the middle (more expensive).
- Leave an open space. Dr Meinig doesn’t recommend this because the other teeth may shift, causing other problems.
The saying “mad as a hatter” came about when mercury had disastrous consequences among hat makers of old England. In 1856 a debate over the use of mercury caused a split in the American Society of Dental Surgeons. A pledge was drawn up, banning the use of mercury amalgam. Those who violated it were suspended for malpractice. However, because this material is very cheap and very easy to use, it became too difficult for some dentists to avoid. Just one minor problem: mercury is a highly toxic substance. Dental amalgams, known as silver fillings or amalgam fillings, contain 50 per cent mercury and are implanted into teeth inches from your brain.
Mercury arrives at a dental practice labelled “Poisonous” with a skull and crossbones. Once you have a mercury filling it sits in your mouth for 24 hours a day. Its vapour, which is odourless, tasteless and invisible, is released all the time, for its entire life, entering your body directly. A single amalgam exposes your body to six times more mercury than all other sources combined (including that from air, water, other food and seafood). How is it that the only place dental amalgam is not regarded as toxic waste is in the mouth?
While the Australian Dental Association believes amalgam is a valuable, viable and safe choice for dental patients and it’s still taught by most universities to be the best material to use for a filling, Sweden, Denmark and Norway have banned the use of mercury amalgam altogether.
Inhalation of mercury vapour over a long period may give you mercury poisoning, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, oral and pharyngeal pain, uremia, dehydration, diarrhoea, and shock. If it’s chronic you may get hypersalivation, diarrhoea, vertigo, depression and tremors in your hands, face, arms and legs. The effects of mercury may not be immediately noticeable but may cause slow and insidious changes years after amalgam placement.
For 13 years Dr Robert Gammal performed thousands of root canal treatments, dumped loads of mercury into his patients, family and friends and did routine fluoride treatments every six months as the profession suggested. He now believes he made everyone around him sick from mercury poisoning, including himself.
At 27, he had a peptic ulcer and rapidly worsening vision. By 37, he had acute optic neuritis in his left eye, muscle twitches all over his body and face, and a very unsteady tremor in his hand. He returned home daily with a pounding headache and worsening vision. Gammal had all his amalgam fillings and three root therapy teeth removed. Now 58, he’s healthier than when he was in his 30s. He has no tremors, muscle twitches, headaches, peptic ulcer or any other disease and has excellent vision.
Aside from toxicity issues, metals in your mouth can cause interference fields. These are small electrical disturbances in the body. According to Dr David Howard, “A commonsense example of an interference field is the galvanic cell created by having different metals in the mouth. In high school chemistry, we learned that two different metals in a salt solution create a battery. Saliva is salty! In conventional dentistry many metals, from mercury to stainless steel to gold, are used and the current created can be up to 3500 times the normal current nerves run on.”
Howard continues, “If you put 3500 times the normal current through your toaster it works differently — so does the body. People worry about radiation from electrical wires and digital clocks but ignore the huge charges within. A holistic dentist would minimise the use of metals in the mouth to prevent the generation of these huge currents.”
Alternatives to mercury fillings include tooth-coloured composite resins, porcelain fillings, glass ionomer cements (which leach out fluoride) or gold fillings (not made from pure gold but can be good for people with arthritis). While white fillings don’t last as long as amalgams, they’re not as toxic.
Amalgam removal is effective in reducing mercury levels to those in people without amalgam fillings but cutting them produces very high levels of mercury vapour that can be inhaled back into the lungs, entering the bloodstream. When amalgam fillings are removed, specific protocols need to be followed to minimise the patient’s, dentist’s and assistant’s exposure to mercury.
Before replacing amalgams, speak to your dentist about taking the following: glutathione, cysteine, vitamin C, zinc, selenium, vitamin B1, magnesium and acidophilus.
If we all took good care of our health and teeth in the first place we would not need as much dental work. Dr Weston Price studied the diets of primitive people who ate no refined foods and had no access to tooth brushes, floss and fluoridated water or toothpaste. They were almost 100 per cent free of tooth decay and almost completely free of all the degenerative diseases that plague us. We’ve paid a high price for denaturing our food so that it won’t rot on the shop shelves.
Dental physician Aelred Fonder says, “Presently we are a nation of sugarholics eating hollow, overcooked, government-inspected, canned and packaged foods with 20–80 per cent of the nutrition destroyed in processing.” Food is the most potent drug we put into our bodies and by far the most abused. If you want to find the root causes for all major diseases we’re suffering today, look at what percentage of the food in your supermarket trolley is whole, unprocessed, uncontaminated and unadulterated. To protect your teeth, choose organic, avoid sugar, white flour, refined foods, soft drinks and foodless “foods” and drink two litres of water a day.
Basic dental health guidelines
- Don’t live downwind from a crematorium. They add at least 11kg of mercury to the environment per chimney per year.
- Avoid surgeries where amalgam is used — mercury levels may be high.
- Avoid toothpaste and mouthwash with sodium fluoride.
- Use toothpaste free from sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS). There is a link between SLS and cancer.
- Avoid mouthwash with alcohol or chlorhexidine. Choose one with anthium dioxide, a powerful disinfectant for mouth bacteria.
- Avoid using heavy metals in your body — they challenge your immune system and have been found to have a cancer-causing effect when used elsewhere in the body.
- Choose porcelain, non-metal crowns over metal-based crowns.
Braces might improve your smile but could lead to a lifetime of pain. Social worker Natalia Dowse, 35, had migraines for 12 years. She could be vomiting and in bed for three days at a time with constant tightness in her neck. She had blurry vision, tight shoulders and an aching back. She was practising yoga and jogging but nothing helped, so she resorted to lots of painkillers and muscle relaxants.
Dowse had almost given up hope by the time she saw a holistic dentist. The dentist said her teeth had been pushed too far back when she had braces at 15, causing her jaw to compress. She was given a mouth plate to move her teeth into a more natural position. “From the first night I wore that plate the headaches were gone, stiffness under my neck started to disappear ... the relief was so instant.” Dowse no longer takes painkillers. Her anxiety and chronic pain have completely gone.
About 40 per cent of all healthy individuals suffer from chronic headaches. Often, these are related to a common cause of chronic pain: TMJ (temporomandibular joint) Syndrome, a malpositioning of the jaw and associated muscles, resulting in muscle contractions that are factors in about 80 per cent of all tension-related headaches. If you have headaches, backache, neckache, sinus pain, clicking of your jaw, earache or any other chronic discomfort, you may benefit from getting the position of your TMJ checked.
For many years, conventional dental practices have helped a huge number of people enjoy good dental function but, though you may leave the dental chair chewing much better than before, a significant negative impact on your body may result from what’s been done to your teeth. Next time you visit your dentist, remember that whatever you agree to can either positively or negatively affect your overall health.
Meggan Brummer teaches yoga and meditation, runs corporate workshops on stress management, work/life balance and nutrition, presents cooking workshops and lectures at the NSW Writers Centre. www.megganbrummer.com