Holistic Dentistry and Your Health

In discussing Holistic Dentistry, we acknowledge that no one part of the body operates in isolation from the rest of the body. Everything everywhere in the body, has an effect, however subtle, everywhere else.
We must acknowledge also, that the person being treated has at least an equal, if not significantly greater, role in the attainment of their health than the person treating them. Healing is not something that can be done to others against their will…it is most effective when the energies of the person are directed towards his or own health in a positive way. A healer is only a medium by which someone attains the knowledge, skills, whatever, that enables them to eliminate those factors which are detrimental to their health. Often the most effective role that a healer can play is to help the person to clarify their own values, accept personal responsibility for their life and make a conscious decision about the level of wellness to which they aspire.

A holistic approach to dentistry recognises the role that dental health plays in the attainment of overall health. Recent research and continuing studies indicate that this role can be significant indeed.
I would like to mention 5 areas, arbitrarily separated from each other for ease of discussion, but nevertheless all intimately interdependent.They are:

  1. Temporomandibular joint problems (TMJ).
  2. Occlusal (bite) dysfunction.
  3. Restorative treatment (fillings).
  4. Nutrition.
  5. Phychological aspects.

T.M.J. problems. These occur when the meniscus (also called the disc…is the jaw-joint’s equivalent of the knee cartilage) is displaced and the jaw clicks in and out of place. Placing the pads of the little fingers in the ears and pressing to the front will reveal a click or bump as the person opens and closes. You will often feel a click as you open and one just before you close your teeth together. This is called Reciprocal clicking. After the first click, as you open, the jaw is actually in place … the final click, as you are closing, indicates that the jaw has slipped out. This means that when you bite together, your jaw is not in its correct place.

Sometimes this clicking deteriorates to the point where the jaw never gets back onto the disc but just stretches it more and more. This is accompanied by a restriction in opening and there may be difficulty in opening even 2 finger’s width. The usual is 3 or more.

Accompanying this situation may be pain in the ears and the jaw joint because the back of the disc is endowed with blood vessels and nerves. Often there is accelerated wear of the teeth. One of the common reasons for TMJ problems is the fact that many people have lost their back teeth and there is no longer any support to protect the joint from excess pressure. If caught in time, the problem is usually correctable or at least, capable of significant improvement.

George Goodheart, D.C. has stated that the TMJ is the most important joint in the body and that it can cause circulation problems, lymphatic blockage and could have psychological influences.
Other health care practitioners, skilled in assessing the energy meridians of the body, assert that there are 4 bioelectromagnetic circuits passing through the TMJ area. These are Small Intestine circuit, Gall Bladder circuit, Stomach circuit and Endocrine circuit. They feel that an abnormal TMJ affects all structures on these circuits resulting in clinical symptoms.

Occlusal (bite) dysfunction

Usually occurs when the teeth do not fit together in harmony with the jaws. This then forces the jaw to move away from its most relaxed position to one of increased stress.
In susceptible individuals this can result in:

  • Increased stress
  • Clenching and grinding of the teeth
  • Headaches
  • Neckaches
  • Ringing in the ears
  • TMJ problems
  • Facial pain and tension
  • Mobile teeth
  • Accelerated wear of the teeth
  • Earaches

The lack of proper fit of teeth can be caused by crowding. Missing teeth allowing teeth to drift, overerupt and tilt is probably the most common reason.
Restorative treatment. Fillings must be smooth and properly contoured within the tooth as well as fitting evenly and harmoniously against adjacent teeth otherwise difficulties will be encountered in:

  • Keeping the teeth and filling clean.
  • Maintaining the health of the gums and bone ie: preventing periodontal disease (pyorrhea).
  • Chewing comfortably.

We also need to be aware that some materials used as fillings may not be as innocuous as we have thought, and they may in fact be allergenic and toxic in hypersensitive people. Mercury based fillings, called silver amalgams by many dentists, are an example.
There have been many articles in various journals, which have implicated mercury from amalgams as the responsible factor for various health problems. The various symptoms can include:

  • Dermatitis
  • Acne
  • Tremors in fine voluntary hand movements
  • Loss of appetiteDepression and fatigue
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Joint pains
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Swollen glands and tongue

This is not to say that silver fillings are an immediate problem for everyone, but I do suggest that each person’s immune system is stressed by the presence of silver amalgams in their mouths and that it may well become the straw that breaks the camel’s back in some susceptible people.
The official view of the Australian and United States Dental Associations is that there is no scientific evidence which justifies not using amalgams. People who make an effort to look at the evidence usually find themselves perplexed by this view. I should be noted that in recent years the NHMRC in Australia has backed off a little from its previously completely unquestioning support of mercury based amalgams and has recommended that where feasible, alternatives should be used, although they too officially say there is insufficient evidence. Something for everyone it seems
Nutrition. There is an acronym applied in the computer industry … GIGO. It stands for ‘Garbage In, Garbage Out’. This is also true for us. It is beyond question that some foods are better for us than others. Let’s cover briefly some of the more important components of proper nutrition for dental health which, surprise! Surprise! Also turns out to be important for general health as well.

  • Vitamin C has been shown to strengthen gums by reducing their permeability to bacteria. It also promotes faster healing and better quality collagen formation. Studies have also linked high levels of Vit. C with less plaque formation and also less crowding in young children’s mouths.
  • Zinc is important. Animal studies have shown that adequate Zinc levels provided quite significant protection against decay all else being equal. Zinc is also important in healing.
  • Zinc is important. Animal studies have shown that adequate Zinc levels provided quite significant protection against decay all else being equal. Zinc is also important in healing.
  • Vitamin B Complex has been shown to be helpful in keeping the tissues of the tongue health.
  • Calcium, Magnesium and Phosphorous in an optimal ratio will prevent abnormal bone loss and promote periodontal health.
  • Trace elements such as Chromium and Manganese are involved in proper sugar metabolism as is adequate dietary fibre.

Foods which are generally harmful include:

  • Sugar. Results in i) increased decay. ii) impaired phagocytic function. iii) greater tooth mobility. iv) vitamin, mineral imbalances.

Its effects on general health are greater and I am sure, known to you. What you may not know is the extent of hidden sugars in your diet. For example some popular mueslis are up to 27% sugar, Sultana Bran is 34% sugar and All Bran is 16.3% Honey Smacks takes the cake (it might as well be cake) with the grand total of 58% sugar. Please be conscientious label readers and be aware of the different names used for sugar eg: glucose, fructose, corn sugar etc.

  • Smoking and Alcohol. Interfere with the vitamin and mineral levels.
  • Carbonated soft drinks. Have very high phosphorous and sugar levels.Processed foods.
  • High phosphorous levels.
  • Caffeine. Stimulates sugar imbalances.
  • Aluminium toxicity. From too many antacids, aluminium saucepans and underarm deodorants. Can induce bone loss.
  • Food allergies. Can induce bone loss.

Let us not forget that as we get older it is even more important for us to be able to chew properly so that we may eat the range of foods we need. Many of the medical problems which plague the elderly have their roots in the loss of their tooth. This then restricts their choice of foods and often leads them to each mush. The Director of Mayo Clinic said once, ‘A set of healthy teeth can add 10 years to a person’s life!’.

Psychological aspects. There is a lot of evidence that a person’s self image can affect their health. We are starting to see profiles of people who are prone to cancers, heart attacks, other illnesses and they share common personality traits. A positive attitude to life, a feeling of self esteem, an ability to smile and laugh easily are all positive traits which encourage good health.

All dentists have had the experience of someone becoming more outgoing, and smiling and laughing more, once they have had their teeth fixed, be it replacing a missing tooth or a stained filling or just straightening a crooked tooth which everyone kept saying ‘it looks cute’ but which the person hated.
If you feel good about yourself, you look better, you feel better, you stay healthier and you affect those around you in a more positive way.

Dentistry as a profession has, for several decades been engaged in trench warfare … too much decay and not enough dentists. This is no longer the case. We know that Dentistry can contribute very significantly to every person’s quality of life and as it begins to fulfill its potential we can expect a greater and growing awareness among people and dentists both, of the exciting contribution that Dentistry has to offer!

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