Evolution of a Practice, or How I Became a Biological Dentist
by Gary M. Verigin, DDS, CTN
My family, friends and clients know that I love inspiring, motivational quotations. In fact, the area around my desk is papered with them. One that I was consistently reminded of while in the University of Washington Dental School in the early 1960s is from G.V. Black, the Father of Operative and Restorative Dentistry. Black insisted that if you want to provide your clients with valuable service, you must study one or two hours each and every day of your practice life.
I’ve been a conscientious student ever since.
As soon as I established my practice in Escalon, California, in 1965, I began taking as many courses as I could and still “balance my crosses” of family, work, play and faith. I also accepted an internship in oral surgery. One morning each week at a local hospital, I practiced under the tutelage of an outstanding oral surgeon, Bob Calderone of Stockton.
Around this same time, I became aware of the teachings of L.D. Panky of Coral Gables, Florida. I soon enrolled in a three-day seminar which introduced me to Panky’s idea of basing one’s practice on a philosophy of dentistry. It is not enough to just be a mechanic of teeth. To truly care for your clients, you must create and maintain a practice that authentically reflects your values.
In the late 1960s, the American Society for Preventive Dentistry was in its infancy, and there was a very active chapter in this part of the state. Understanding that prevention is always more effective and efficient than treatment after the fact, I soon involved myself with this group. Once again the student surrounded by masters, I was fortunate to be engulfed in the tidal wave of excitement that only grew larger and more powerful through these years.
Now, an effective preventative approach is necessarily a holistic one, and this was a radical idea in dentistry. Back in my dental school days, we were taught “one tooth dentistry.” The teeth were largely considered in isolation from each other (not to mention the rest of the body). We were trained to work on them mechanically. It was assumed that every individual could be worked on in the same way, so people thought nothing of going from dentist to dentist. Yet mouths that had undergone extensive dental work often looked like abstract art – art created by several different painters, none of whom knew what the others were doing.
By the early 1970s, I had grasped fully the limitations of this approach. To properly care for my clients, I needed to know more about the proper restoration and reconstruction of damaged dentitions. How do the teeth work together? What’s their relationship to the bones and muscles of the jaw, face and neck? Over the course of several years, I attended numerous classes on oral rehabilitation and occlusion (bite). I also helped establish a monthly study club in gnathology (i.e. the study of the jaw). Harvey Stallard, B.B. McCollum, Charlie Stuart and Peter K. Thomas were my world-renowned mentors. I was especially inspired by Thomas, a famous gnathologist and respected teacher throughout the world. He insisted that dentists should know the tops of the teeth just as well as renowned pianist Arthur Rubenstein knew the tops of the piano keys. Only with familiarity and understanding can a dentist help fit teeth together in a harmonic way.
And so I soon realized that I also needed to learn how to move teeth properly to “tame” disgruntled TM joints and open the occlusion to the client’s true genetic vertical dimension. In this pursuit, my significant mentors were Drs. Harold Gelb, Bert Wiebrecht, Don McAnlis and John Witzig.
The next turning point came around 1973. At the annual meeting of the California Dental Association, I attended a lecture by Emanuel Cheraskin, MD, DMD, Professor and Chair of Oral Medicine at the University of Alabama Medical Center in Birmingham. It was there that I learned of his research in predictive medicine. Immediately after his seminar, I read Predictive Medicine: A Study in Strategy, which he had written with his associate, W.M. Ringsdorf, DMD, MS.
Cheraskin and Ringsdorf defined predictive medicine as a clinical discipline designed to anticipate disease – to foretell illness before it erupts in its classical form. Predictive medicine stresses “that environmental influences play a more significant role in the genesis of disease than heretofore told.” Reading their work, I understood and agreed that “far more can be done to prevent disease than most people realize.”
Around this same time, the insightful and noted preventive dentist Bob Barkley – who many still consider the greatest preventive dental evangelist of that era – stressed that dentists should think of themselves as more than mere providers of repair service. Instead, they should acknowledge themselves as healthcare professionals. Shortly before his untimely death, he commented that the decade “from 1965 to 1975 witnessed the greatest wave of hopefulness ever to sweep through the dental profession. Prevention of dental disease was conceptually ‘born again’ with a fervor unequaled in dental history.”
In 1980, a dear client and researcher, Inky Kelly, gave me a copy of Marilyn Ferguson’s The Aquarian Conspiracy, which focused on the great personal and social transformations underway at that time. I read this book almost straight through and understood that a massive shift was taking over the nation. It was a new mindset: a turnabout in consciousness in critical numbers of individuals, a network powerful enough to bring about a radical cultural change. It was a time to conspire, a time to breathe together. In the words of the popular song “The Age of Aquarius,” it was a time of “the mind’s true liberation.”
Shortly after this, I regained contact with Ed Arana, DDS, a brilliant researcher and colleague from my early days in gnathology. We began to meet at various holistic, homeopathic, acupuncture and dental seminars on the West Coast and Pacific Rim. Although we were learning a lot about biological dentistry, we wanted to know more – especially why our European cohorts were doing for their clients. As a result, in 1985, we founded the American Academy of Biological Dentistry (since renamed the International Academy of Biological Dentistry and Medicine). Soon, we were hosting small meetings in Carmel, California, to import cutting-edge European knowledge and technology. The outstanding dentists and physicians we learned from included Fritz Kramer, Ralf Turk, Jochen Gleditsch and Reinhold Voll. I was also inspired by Walter Strum, a Canadian naturopath and founder of Occidental Research. Strum had the creative vision to found and lead an entire North American movement: Vibrational Medicine in Theory and Practice.
From these colleagues, we also learned of the work of Weston Price, DDS, an American dentist and dental research specialist of the early 20th century. In 1923, he published Dental Infections, Oral and Systemic and Dental Infections and the Degenerative Diseases. These two interrelated and inseparable volumes – 1174 pages of insight – verified that the body is an entire, interconnected system, the oral system included. For publishing this work, Price was silenced.
Our European and Canadian colleagues likewise directed us to the research of Patrick Störtebecker, MD, PhD, noted Professor of Neurology from the Karolinska Institute of Stockholm. His two books, Mercury Poisoning from Dental Amalgam: A Hazard to Human Brain and Dental Caries as a Cause of Nervous Disorders, brought a new consciousness to those who read them and eventually heard him lecture here.
All of these experiences and individuals helped me to evolved into the integrative, biological dentist I am today. And I continue to study, research and evolve. There is always more knowledge and wisdom to be gained through the pursuit of excellence and mastery.
In Successful Preventive Dental Practices, Bob Barkley wrote, “A man’s philosophy is the sum total of all the meaningful experiences of his childhood, school days and working life. Although it usually becomes more stable as he matures, one’s philosophy is always subject to modification by one more truly meaningful experience.”
This statement has been etched in my brain ever since I first read it.
I likewise bear in mind the wise words of the American social philosopher Eric Hoffer: “In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”