Issue #25, May 2009
JoAnne’s Motivational Minute: Finding Security in Yourself
By JoAnne Boettcher-Verigin
As I write, Mother’s Day has just passed and Father’s Day will soon be here. So I find myself thinking about my own parents more frequently these days.
Some of my fondest memories of them are those that include their love of nature – especially the joy they found in watching the hummingbirds find the summer feeders they always hung around our porch. Flocks of the tiny birds would zip back and forth, sipping the red nectar that Mother would put out each day. Every summer, they came back. My parents got so they could tell them apart and even named some of them!
And the birds themselves – they showed no fear. They knew they had a secure, nurturing place – just as my sister and I had, with parents to teach us, play with us, inspire and support us.
Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy and celebration. We, too, can aspire to hover like them and savor each moment as it passes. We, too, can draw strength from all that nature provides us – as well that which is provided by our families and friends who love us. And in turn, we can provide for them.
Life is opportunity. So why not embrace all that life has to offer and celebrate the joy of the everyday? This is something we can decide to do – or not to do – and a decision we make daily, from the moment we open our eyes.
The hummingbirds’ delicate grace reminds us of a simple truth: Life is rich and beauty is everywhere. Every personal connection we make in this world has meaning.
Let us focus on our abilities and draw from the richness of life. Maybe in this way we can each find that secure and nurturing place within ourselves, as well as without.
Meanwhile, it’s time for me to put out my hummingbird feeder…
One joy scatters a hundred griefs. – Chinese proverb
Dr. Verigin’s Comment:
Understanding Dental Foci and the Disease Process
By Gary M. Verigin, DDS, CTN
Part 2 – The Toxic Role Played by Root Canals and Implants
“There are tens of millions of people whose lives are severely impacted by these diseases and they are depending on us, whether they know it or not, to do the right thing.” – Martin Pall, Ph.D., Explaining “Unexplained Illnesses”
Say you have a painful tooth but don’t do anything about it. Eventually, the nerves, blood and lymph vessels and connective tissue within that tooth’s pulp will become unable to absorb nutrients and oxygen. The tooth will die. Most of us, though, would probably call a dentist before that point and be faced with just two options: get a root canal – by which the dentist aims to control the infectious process (the source of the pain) while “saving” the tooth as a whole – or have the tooth removed.
There are a lot of rivaling opinions as to which course of action is best, and far less relevant research on the disease process, diagnosis and treatment efficacy than we need. There is also great debate about what to do after tooth removal, should that seem the best option. Do you leave the gap or bridge it? If you bridge it, do you use a fixed or removable bridge? What about implants, which involve drilling a hole into the alveolar bone and placing a metal or ceramic screw onto which a restoration can be fixed?
Then, of course, there is the matter of safety. Although the ADA and AMA both tout the safety and efficacy of root canals and implants, biologically-based research has raised important questions and concerns.
We can start by asking a simple question: How do we judge whether root canal treatment has been effective?
From the patient’s point of view, the treatment has worked if their tooth stops hurting, they can chew on it and the tooth looks good. This is some dentists’ view, as well. Some even consider simple retention of the tooth as a victory.
Other claim success only if no lesions form in the bone, which can be seen in x-rays as shadows around the tip of the root. But others will accept the presence of lesions, just so long as they grow no larger – even as they are most likely caused by microorganisms still inside the tooth. For despite the claim that the tooth is completely cleaned out and disinfected during root canal therapy, this is physically impossible, owing to the miles of microscopic dentinal tubules within the tooth which remain harbors for oral microbes.
Meanwhile, dental researchers mainly follow the strict measuring criteria established by Strindberg (and supported by Goldman, Reit and Grondahl, Reit and Hollender, Moven and other notable researchers): “X-Ray observation and subjective clinical signs of root canal inflammation and infection.”
All in all, it appears that success truly is in the eye of the beholder. And in clinical practice – where patients are directly affected by their dentists’ decisions – too often, treatment choices are made out of sheer habit and a mix of personal values and conjecture. There’s also a noticeable lack of keeping current in the literature on the biology of microorganisms. After all, a round of golf at the country club or weekend outing at one’s lakeside cabin is so much more appealing than reading up on the latest science!
Yet even the “old science” gives one pause in singing the praises of root canals. Consider, for instance, the groundbreaking research of Weston Price, DDS, during the early 20th century. A one-time primary researcher for the ADA, Price found that aseptic and asymptomatic root canal teeth still harbor disease. He did this by watching what happened after he sewed a human root canal tooth under the skin of a rabbit’s abdomen. Within a few weeks, the rabbit died of a heart attack. Price repeated this process with nearly 100 rabbits, using the same tooth each time. Every single rabbit died of a heart attack.
For root canal teeth are still diseased teeth. And the microbes infecting them affect the body as a whole. When they do, the tooth sites are called dental foci, which we discussed in the last issue with special reference to cancer. But cancer is not the only disease they can cause.
The main person carrying on Price’s work today is Hal Huggins, DDS. No longer a practicing dentist, he is involved in all aspects of dental toxicity: mercury amalgam fillings and other non-biocompatible restoration materials, root canal fillings and – dentistry’s new money tree – implants
I most recently heard Dr. Huggins speak in February at the annual meeting of the Interational Academy of Biological Dentistry and Medicine (IABDM) in Tempe. During his presentation of his current research, he presented a list of “Current Symptoms of Dental Origin”:
- Unexplained irritability
- Frequent urination at night
- Chronic fatigue
- Cold hands and feet
- Bloated feeling after eating
- Difficulty remembering
- Sudden anger
- Constipation regularly
- Difficulty making simple decisions
- Tremors or shakes of the hands
- Frequent leg cramps
He noted that while these symptoms are not acknowledged by the ADA and AMA has having dental origins, the dental industry must be confronted about them. Why? Because the patients being treated in his research group find that these symptoms vanish upon detoxification (including removal of the offending dental materials).
Dr. Huggins is further exploring the fundamental causes of these symptoms via blood tests conducted at a university hospital. The samples are taken from root canal teeth and adjacent areas. Blood from dental implant sites is also checked, as is tissue collected from the depths of osteonecrotic cavitations in the jawbone. Currently, the lab tests for the presence of 87 microbial pathogens, although Huggins is certain there are many more. (For instance, the literature reports at least 150 species of clostridium, but the lab reports only on two.) They also perform periodontal and medical DNA matches via a DNA labeling technique called Polymerized Protease Chain Reaction.
Ultimately, we want to understand the disease process. And according to the textbook Brock Biology of Microorganisms, “The pathology of disease is best considered in light of its ecology.” For example, streptococcal sore throat and influenza are diseases whose etiological agents are completely different: one is a base bacterium; the other, a virus. Yet both diseases are transmitted from person to person, primarily by airborne routes. Whether a person gets sick depends on their body’s internal environment – the biological terrain or milieu in which the pathogens find themselves.
Importantly, though, microorganisms can – and do – change their environment, as well as be changed by it. And as noted by the authors of Brock Biology of Microorganisms, “The term environment refers to everything surrounding a living organism: the changes are chemical, physical and biological forces that act on a living organism.” And from work in biophysics and our practice of functional bioregulative dentistry, we know that electrical energy – via the acupuncture circuits and cell membranes – is another environmental force.
When the terrain changes due to pH factors and oxygen tension, the microbes change, as well, in response. And this happens all the way down at the level of DNA.
Consider, again, infectious microbes living within a person’s jawbone. Once a tooth’s pulpal complex becomes non-vital, as it does after a root canal, and necrosis (tissue death) sets in, the terrain’s oxygen content changes, for oxygen and other nutrients can no longer nourish the delicate tissues of the pulp. As conditions become more anaerobic (lacking oxygen), tissue proteins decompose. Of course, the microbes want to survive, so they adapt by responding pleomorphically. They find a strand of DNA, tack it on to their original selves and become plasmids. As they duplicate and replicate, each plasmid is also duplicated. As a result, the environment changes even more, becoming ever more polluted as the microbes and their metabolic byproducts circulate throughout the body. The body, in turn, responds with what the patient experiences as illness.
Further, if the patient has (or has had) mercury amalgam fillings, that mercury becomes part of the plasmid, as well. It then converts ionic mercury to methylmercury, which escapes from the microbes. Of course, the damage this potent neurotoxin can do is well known.
But let’s say the tooth is removed. If, as is common, the socket is merely scraped with a curette, the neurotoxins of those fermenting organisms are pushed deeper into the bone. This practically ensures the formation of a cavitational osteonecrosis lesion, as well as making the patient sicker over the next few days and sometimes showing up as “dry socket.” As per the research of Bob Jones, the amount of neurotoxins leaking from a cavitation is an average seven to eight times greater than that leaking from root canals. (Jones’ research on this topic is availbale on DVD from the IABDM.)
At this point, most any addition to the tooth site – an implant, say, or artificial bone – will be an added insult to the terrain and trigger even more adverse changes. Antibiotics also add to the stress.
All of this is outlined beautifully in the work of Dr. Anne Summers (PDF), which I highly recommend not just to practitioners but laypeople who want to understand these issues in order to take charge of their healing and the relationships between dental/oral conditions and systemic health.
Thinking back to my basic sciences coursework – both undergrad and in dental school – I am acutely aware of how little my pathology book had to say about the many disease we so often see dental patients living with: MS, ALS, Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, multiple chemical sensitivities, autism, Parkinson’s, lupus…
Now Dr. Huggins’ preliminary research indicates there is a strong relationship between disease and dental implants. It shows that the microbes around them can promote several adverse events as the environment becomes more anaerobic, including acute, invasive infections of the inner lining of the blood vessels and alteration of their endothelial lining, promoting atherosclerosis (“hardening of the arteries”). They appear to contribute to heart disease and induce platelet clumping in heart valves, causing infective endocarditis. In addition to causing infections such as abscesses and bacteremia at wound sites, they can cause genital urinary tract infections and periodontal disease, as well as pathologies related to infection in the sinuses, bone and central nervous system.
For more on the relationship between implants and illness, I refer you to Dr. Huggins’ own work (PDF).
Certainly, all this provides plenty of motivation for taking good care of your teeth – cleaning them thoroughly and regularly, having professional cleanings and exams twice a year, as well as living a healthy and balanced lifestyle. For if you keep your natural teeth in good shape, you won’t even have to consider treatment decisions such as root canals vs. extractions or implants vs. bridges. But if you do face such decisions, I hope that this article has given you deeper knowledge of the issues so that you can make good choices for your health and claim a better life with fewer medical illnesses.
Be careful how you interpret the world: it is like that. – Erich Heller
Are You Using the Right Tools to Clean Your Teeth?
When you clean house, do you use a broom to clean everything? Of course not. It can’t do a thorough job. It misses too much, is too big for some tasks and useless on carpets, draperies and upholstery. So you use multiple tools – broom, rag, vacuum, mop – to get the job done.
Likewise, you need multiple tools to clean your teeth and gums well. Used properly and consistently, they will help you keep your mouth clean and healthy, and your smile, bright. Here’s the role each plays in supporting Dental Health Fitness.
Brushing removes food particles and disturbs the biofilm which, if left to colonize, creates caries and gum disease. A soft-bristled hand brush is ideal, used at a 45º angle to the gum line, brushing towards the top of each tooth. Clean each tooth individually, overlapping as you move through your mouth. In front, where your dental arches narrow and curve, use the tip of your brush. The whole process should take 2 minutes and be done as soon as possible after eating. Because brushing becomes habitual (e.g. something we do without thinking), start cleaning a different area of the mouth each time. This will help ensure that all areas get cleaned.
We also advise switching between manual and electric brushes. The latter can ensure more thorough cleaning because they add vibration and motions that hand brushes just can’t do.
Since biofilm microbes thrive between teeth and below the gum-line, it’s important to clean these spaces using dental floss. Wider styles, like dental tape, are preferable. We like the brand Glide, as it’s made with fiber technology that keeps the floss from shredding during use. For best results, angle the floss to go under the gum at the neck of each tooth so you’re sure to clean more than just the surface contacts of your teeth.
Even after brushing and flossing, some biofilm remains on the neck of each tooth. A Perio-Aid is the best tool for disturbing it. This plastic handle holds a balsa toothpick. The extra length lets you angle the pick under the gum in a sweeping motion (the same motion you use to clean cuticles). Clean both the cheek and tongue sides of your teeth. By adding this tool to their cleaning regimen, most people notice healthier tissues in as little as 3 weeks.
When periodontal pockets have developed, or when tissues bleed during cleaning, we suggest using an oral irrigator, as well. Irrigators stream water under the gum, into areas where bone has been lost, where other tools just can’t reach. You can further promote healing by mixing peroxide or herbal compounds with the water used for irrigating.
When gums recede or bone is lost, the spaces between teeth widen. Special brushes are needed for cleaning these areas. These brushes are sized to the amount of space between teeth. By cleaning the sides of each tooth with these small, “in-between” brushes, you will be able to remove the biofilm that neither regular brushing nor flossing can get at.
Images via Flickr: toothbrushes – AlixanaEuphoria, floss – Bret Arnett, irrigator – DennisSylvesterHurd
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