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Green Dentistry and Your Health
Curtis Brookover, DDS
The rising field of holistic dentistry supports one basic principle—healthy teeth are part of the whole body. Our practice is considered collaborative between patient and dentist, since choosing safer materials for work in your mouth is important, as well as the diet you eat. With new technologies available, the prospect of keeping your teeth for a lifetime is becoming more realistic with each year.
Sometimes called biologic or biocompatible dentistry, holistic dentistry considers the impacts that materials, procedures, diet and daily care have on oral health. More specifically, the Holistic Dental Network recommends:
Proper nutrition for the prevention or reversal of degenerative dental disease;
Avoidance and elimination of toxins from dental materials;
Prevention and treatment of dental malocclusion (bite problems); and
Prevention and treatment of gum disease at its biological basis.
The best prevention is minimally invasive dentistry, with a focus on protecting the vitality of the tooth. Sustainable, preventive approaches are the new 21st-century dental medicine.
Diet and Oral Health
What you eat affects overall health including oral health. An anti-inflammation diet assists in the prevention of infection as well as maintaining gum health. Holistic dentists recommend a diet of whole foods—away from processed foods—with a balance of protein, complex carbohydrates, fresh vegetables, nuts and fruits. The mouth is made to chew. Fiber acts as a natural toothbrush, while mitigating the effects of sugar in foods.
Avoiding sugar, simple carbohydrates (think flour) and acidic foods helps prevent inflammation in the mouth. Bacteria feed on starches and turn them into acid within 20 minutes after eating.
Certain nutrients are critical for building healthy teeth—important for adults as well as children. Foods containing calcium and vitamin B12 build teeth and strengthen gums. Milk is often fortified with vitamin D, needed by the body to absorb calcium. Folic acid and calcium in dark greens are also beneficial to teeth.
Fewer Toxic Materials
One focus of holistic dentistry is the use of materials with the least negative impact to the body. The dangers of mercury buildup from amalgams used for fillings are well known, as chemicals used in the mouth go directly into the brain and into the bloodstream. Holistic dentists strive to place materials in your mouth that will be the least reactive to your immune system. One resource is the Clifford Test, useful for assessing materials’ reactivity. We can work with you to determine the best match between your body and materials through blood compatibility testing.
Removing existing toxic materials properly is another focus. Heavy metals in your mouth—such as mercury—keep white blood cells working to keep body-wide impacts under control instead of working elsewhere in the body. Combining amalgam and gold, a practice in conventional dentistry, causes a dramatic increase in the release of mercury into the bloodstream. Holistic dentistry uses a dental dam to keep heavy metal fragments from being swallowed and masks to prevent the inhalation of heavy metal fumes.
Porcelain or zirconia crowns are used by holistic dentists to avoid the effects of metals—both in terms of toxicity and electrical conductivity. Ceramic implants avoid the negative effects of metals, and our cements are developed to reduce toxicity.
Keep in mind the decreased release of toxic materials into the environment!
Root Canal Therapy
The dangers of avascular teeth (no blood supply)—known to dentists for the past 100 years due to the work of Dr. Weston Price—are rarely heeded in conventional dentistry. Avascular teeth are considered to be necrotic or “dead teeth.” To date, sterilization of a tooth is not possible.
Here is the catch: The root is actually comprised of the main root plus many smaller branching roots. Since root canal therapy removes only the main root, the auxiliary roots remain in the tooth and decay. Conventional methods to sterilize the root cavity do not reach the remaining root branches.
Root canal teeth are susceptible to infection, bacteria and even parasites. The decomposing tissue left in the canal releases toxic gases that then leak out of the tooth and into the body—affecting the liver, nervous system, heart and brain. Over 88 species of bacteria in dead teeth are identified to date as impossible to sterilize in a tooth. Oral microbial testing of DNA allows dentists to gather data that determine the toxicity of avascular teeth in the mouth.
With over 16 million root canals a year in the U.S., health impacts are far-reaching. The spread of disease from oral infections is estimated to affect:
· Immune system diseases
· Infection of hip replacements
· Coronary atherosclerosis
· Pulmonary abscess and asthma
· Autoimmune diseases
· Candida and IBS
Not all root canals cause disease; health impacts depend on the immune health of the individual.
What is the alternative to a root canal? Holistic dentists often recommend removal of the infected tooth, then placement of either a bridge or a dental implant. Ceramic implants carry the least toxicity.
Holistic Care of Your Teeth
· Attentive daily care is part of maintaining a mind, body and spirit connection. The following regular steps are recommended:
· Brush at least twice daily and floss once daily to keep teeth clean.
· Swish the mouth with water after eating. You will be amazed.
· Remember to schedule cleanings at four-to six-month intervals.
· Keep annual checkups with your dentist to detect problems before they become severe.
· Eat a healthy diet of whole foods, free of processed foods and sugar.
· Meditate to reduce the stress that causes oral grinding and prevents the absorption of nutrients.
· Notify your physician of changes in your oral health to keep the whole body connection at the forefront of your health care.
Early-intervention dentistry is concerned with keeping a healthy blood supply to the tooth to minimize the stress of treatment. Remember, infection wears down the immune system; therefore, keeping the mouth free of infection is directly related to overall health. Cancer growth, as well as the impact of the other degenerative diseases, is encouraged by continued inflammation in the body.
With daily lifestyle choices, consider taking a whole-body approach—everything is connected! For a directory of holistic dentists, see the www.iabdm.org website of the International Academy of Biological Dentistry Medicine. Eat well, brush well, and be well.
Curtis Brookover, DDS, is a holistic biological dentist practicing in Santa Fe and Los Alamos at the Alpine Laser Dental Clinic. 505.982.6426
About the author
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