From Biosis 15/16, March/May 2007
Dr. Verigin’s Comment:
Learning from the Best of the Best: Notes on the 21st Annual IABDM Conference
by Gary M. Verigin, DDS, CTN
Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the 21st annual conference of the International Academy of Biological Dentistry and Medicine, the group I co-founded in 1985 with Ed Arana, DDS. It was held at the beautiful Mission Palms Resort and Conference Center in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The meeting room was the nicest and most comfortable that I have ever been in for a technical conference. Next to the meeting room, about two dozen vendors displayed their wares. The companies included providers of nutritional supplements and homeopathics, tooth and gum care items, and equipment for providing optimum and comprehensive integrative care. Inside the meeting room, the aisles were spacious, the air was filtered and the temperature was just right. Two students were seated at each table in very comfortable, padded chairs.
But the real luxury was the opportunity to learn from the best of the best. In fact, it’s always a privilege to attend this meeting because it always consists of the world’s most forward-thinking, progressive dentists and physicians who practice client-centered, integrative, biological dentistry and medicine.
Ron King, a Minnesota dentist and member of the Minnesota State Board of Consumer Affairs, spoke about how to practice safe dentistry. He gave a terrific review of how a thorough clinical examination, study of client records and discussion with the client facilitates informed consent. Such thoroughness lets the dentist inform each client of all available treatment options – including the option to do nothing at all – along with their advantages and disadvantages.
There was a sharp focus on tracking what is discussed with each client, along with which written materials the client is given. King stressed the importance of also providing relevant articles, handouts and links to websites to further broaden the client’s understanding of his or her current health situation and options. He also noted the importance of encouraging clients to get second and even third opinions on complicated issues, just as we do – again, to fully disclose the range of options.
One of my favorite and most informative presentations was Philip Memoli’s. This New Jersey dentist talked about what he calls “Systematic Dentistry.” His PowerPoint presentation outlined several objectives for dentists:
- Recognize gross and sub clinical failure in clinical practice
- Understand patient input into solving failures and its subsequent stress placed on the existing clinical models
- Understand patients’ values and motives in demanding and determining change
- Understand the reaction and role of dentists in change; the nature of revolution versus evolution
- What parameters merit the creation of a new clinical model of dentistry?
- How do these parameters contribute to formulate a functional clinical model?
- How do we diagnose failure and utilizing the proposed mode and convert it into a process-oriented solution? In essence, each model must function to solve problems. Once problems are discovered which the model cannot address, the model must be modified or reconfigured to remain functionable.
At bottom, Systematic Dentistry is a pragmatic and scientific counterpoint to the familiar definition of insanity: you don’t keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result. You develop and strategize and adapt.
Memoli offered several informative case studies of dental failures, several of which caused chronic medical conditions. Some cases involved conventional dentistry, while others involved alternative practices. He noted, too, how values have changed since 9/11, including a major shift in the consciousness and attitudes of individuals. More and more people refuse to consider themselves patients. Rather, they see themselves as clients in need of specific services. Such people tend to be better educated and have a greater awareness of their health. They are changing their priorities, moving from a wealth-oriented mindset to a health-oriented lifestyle.
One force driving this change is the fact that more people are competing for fewer resources. People are using their own money to pay for their care, not funds from their insurance company. They are even beginning to question the value of that which is free.
According to Memoli, such new-thinking individuals have several foundational questions:
- What is the basis for health?
- Is this medicine safe? Is there an alternative?
- What things, such as toxins, should I avoid?
- What things, in terms of nutrition, should I pay attention to?
- What nutritional approach can I take to ensure lifetime health?
Yet, Memoli added, when people ask these questions of their doctors, they are stunned by the double-talk they often get in return. Some are ignored or ridiculed. Some are told, “We just don’t know the answers.” Some are told their problems are imaginary: “It’s all in your head.”
Clearly, the traditional medical community cannot address such questions. The new-thinkers grow ever more aware that what’s being offered is not health care but disease care.
Memoli told how, several years ago, the Oxford Insurance Company asked their subscribers about their use of alternative health care. Fifty percent were already using it, even though Oxford offered no coverage. That has changed now in some states, where the company pays for well-care service due to the inability of conventional physicians to address people’s concerns and provide solutions to their problems.
He also cited Paul Zane Pilzer’s 2002 book The Wellness Revolution: How to Make a Fortune in the Next Trillion Dollar Industry. After tracing the emergence of the first two trillion dollar industries – automotive and computing – Pilzer posited the health and fitness sector as the third emerging market. When he wrote his book, that market had already reached $200 bilion per year. Yet Pilzer noted that dentistry, chiropractic, naturopathy and other alternatives garner little more than footnotes due to the arrogance and short-sightedness of the dental and medical establishments. But the greatest resistance of all comes from Big Medicine – the pharmaceutical companies, mega-hospitals and insurance companies – with input from Big Food, the commercial food industry.
And why not? Don’t they stand to lose the most? What’s the profit in actually helping people solve problems? After all, a healthy person doesn’t need to buy more drugs. But there’s a lot of money to be made from just a few gargantuan “lifestyle drugs.” One quarter of Pfizer’s annual revenue comes from just one of these drugs, Lipitor, which artificially lowers serum cholesterol levels.
Of course, you can really solve this problem by shifting focus from sick-care to well-care, showing people how to erase the problem instead of covering it up. It takes a Systematic approach – something Big Business continues to show that it just isn’t willing or able to do.
The Nature of Oral Infections and Their Effects on Systemic Diseases
The whole slate of speakers was very strong at this year’s meeting, but one stood out above all: Dr. Boyd Haley of the University of Kentucky and founder of its ALT Biosciences division. ALT researches dental biofilms, oral bacterial toxins, root canals and focal infections. They aim to raise awareness about the role of good oral health and hygiene in maintaining overall wellness.
Haley’s presentation of the latest facts of focal infection theory proved the groundbreaking work of Weston Price, DDS. Working in the early 20thcentury, Price specialized in dental research and the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of dental infections. He also served as the ADA’s section research chair from 1914 to 1923.
In 1923, Price published Dental Infections, Oral and Systemic and Dental Infections and the Degenerative Diseases. In this landmark work, he showed that root canal teeth – non-vital, infected yet clinically asymptomatic teeth – could be used to spread neurotoxin-producing microbes. He found that if you section such a tooth and surgically implant it in a rabbit or other lab animal, the animal can spread the same disease had by the person from whose mouth the tooth was extracted. He saw those teeth as harbors for bacteria and other toxin-producing microbes.
Price had to rely on logic, common sense and the best science of his day to make his theory. Today, Dr. Haley produces data using the polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, method. His microscopic slides and culture data plainly prove that periodontal bacteria from the crevicular regions – the spaces we measure with a perio probe during your exams – invade the dentin of a tooth’s root surface. They pass right through the cementum at the root and into the dental pulpal complex. This, in turn, can cause a necrosis of the vital pulp tissues and an infectious process in the surrounding bone.
Because of this, it’s key that dentists see their clients regularly to keep an eye on periodontal health.
Incidentally, of late, many dental researchers have noted a high failure rate for implants placed next to root canal teeth. They’ve also seen it with those placed in bone that once held such teeth and has since developed ischemic osteonecrotic cavitational lesions. According to Haley, “This is most likely due to the toxicity and the inflammation elicited by the anaerobic infections.”
Many of the pathogenic microbes found in infected teeth are anaerobic. This means that they thrive without oxygen, which makes them hard to culture, even under the most rigorous lab conditions. It’s thus difficult, time-consuming and expensive to identify the microbes involved. Yet ALT’s PCR techniques have led to the identification of many.
They start by using an extract from a root canal tooth against a bank of ATP-binding proteins. These proteins are essential to life, breaking down the food we eat into the high-octane fuel that supports healthy cellular function. In short, ATP is your body’s prime means of energy delivery. When those proteins most prone to bind with ATP are exposed to neurotoxins, they fast lose their binding ability.
ALT then uses a radiological procedure to test the toxic status of the root canal teeth. When comparing such teeth to less toxic ones, they found that the former contained over 100 times more total protein – protein loose and free, unable to join with ATP due to the toxic load. More, the number of different proteins present more than quadrupled – byproducts of all those toxins.
Speaking to the Academy, Haley noted that “this work could lead to an effective test on crevicular fluid that will identify ‘sites of major focal infection.’ Based on the protein profile, that leads to various systemic infections and illness. It is my hope that this information will allow dentists and physicians to collaborate in preventive protocols that will reduce the systemic illnesses of their respective patients.”
The take-home message from all of this was perhaps first and best summarized 84 years ago by Weston Price himself:
Dental diagnosis is so intricate and involved that it requires a greater knowledge of the human body, its structure and diseases, and of the various means for understanding the normality and abnormality of the same, than any specialty of the healing arts; and probably no specialty finds such great opportunity for doing injury to humanity, or for extending human life, as does the highest application of intelligence in this field. A competent diagnostician of the local and systemic expressions of dental infection must be familiar with the clinical and structural pathology required for a general medical diagnosis, and, in addition, be completely familiar with dental anatomy, dental pathology, and dental operative procedure.
More than two decades ago, these same words helped inspire Dr. Arana and me to found the Academy. We both wanted the knowledge needed to properly identify all adverse dental factors involved in the vast array of chronic illnesses we saw our clients experiencing. Like Haley, we, too, owe a lot of the great dental researcher Dr. Weston Price.