Holistic dentistry views teeth as part of our overall health
Tijn Touber | September 2005 issue
A man goes to the dentist with a terrible toothache. The doctor examines the tooth and says: “You need a bowel cleanse.” The man follows this advice and…the toothache disappears. He was lucky to be in the care of a holistic dentist, one of the fastest-growing health-care fields. This new crop of dentists looks at the mouth in the context of the entire body. That’s a groundbreaking perspective in this profession—of all the medical specialisations, dentistry is the most removed from the rest of health care. Many people, including some dentists, simply assume the health of your teeth has no impact on the rest of your body.
Recent research shows that the effects of non-holistic dentistry can be very serious. According to the British medical newsletter What Doctors Don’t Tell You (November 2004), gum problems nearly double the risk of a heart attack and a vitamin B6 deficiency and can lead to tooth decay. Research also shows that a holistic approach to your teeth can heal the most unlikely ills. A misalignment of the upper and lower jaws, for instance, can lead to back pain, arthritis, headaches, pain in the legs, neck and shoulders. This happens when chronic muscle cramping occurs in the jaw, which is then counterbalanced by other parts of the body. The first research on this subject was published in 1987 in the Journal of the American Dental Association (issue 115). These results were confirmed recently by Austrian researchers in the trade journal Acta Medica Austriaca (issue 31, 2004), among others.
Take the example of a soccer player who visits his dentist for an annual check-up. He’s having trouble walking because of a hamstring injury. The dentist tells him his maxillary joint is off balance and rectifies the problem. The hamstring injury miraculously disappears. It turns out the soccer player was compensating the imbalanced joint by constantly sticking out his jaw. As a result, his spine curved, which in turn pushed his pelvis forward. This disrupted his running form, creating undue stress on his legs. Chronic problems with his hamstrings followed.
A skewed jaw can lead not only to physical but also psychological problems. The stress of continuously compensating for the imbalance causes the brain to produce large amounts of adrenaline and serotonin. This makes the nervous system more sensitive, which renders the patient more vulnerable to other stress factors, such as a poor diet and emotional problems. So a crooked jaw can lead to depression. It is frightening to hear British holistic dentist David Hefferson’s observation that at least 95 percent of his patients suffer from an imbalanced jaw.
Holistic dentists generally spend a lot of their time correcting the botched work of their less holistically minded colleagues. In What Doctors Don’t Tell You (November 2004), the American holistic dentist Frederick Milton explains what’s wrong: “When your teeth don’t close properly because, for example, you have a filling that is too large or a crown, your body very quickly adjusts. That adjustment can become chronic, resulting in pain in other parts of the body. The patient has no idea how the pain started.”
An equally significant problem with the way dentistry is practiced is mercury vapour that emerges from amalgam fillings. This vapour is associated with the rise in cases of Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis (MS), among other afflictions. Two independent academic laboratories have already shown that a tiny amount of mercury can damage the membranes of developing cells. According to a team of Swiss and Belgian scientists, this damage is similar to “all the biochemical defects of Alzheimer’s disease.” Because of these worrisome findings, amalgam fillings have been banned in Sweden and their use in Austria and Germany has been greatly curtailed.
The link between mercury and MS has caused the greatest furor. It was already known that MS comes from the destruction of myelin, the substance that lines the nerve cells. Scientists from the Czech Republic recently discovered that mercury latches on to myelin. A trial described in the scientific newsletter Neuroendocrinol Letters (issue 25, 2004) indicates that MS patients whose amalgam fillings were removed experienced a “significant improvement in their health.”
But one problem remains to be solved: the shortage of holistic dentists. Those in practice have so much business that they rarely accept new patients.
Luckily, dentists are experts in filling things, so the hole in the market will no doubt be filled in no time.