By Gary M. Verigin, DDS, CTN

Diseases don’t read textbooks. A good detective never makes a conclusion until everything outside of the box is examined. – Dr. Jerry Bouquot, Oral Pathologist

hands showing rock paper scissors roshamboYou probably know the game, but you might not be familiar with the name we had for it when I was a kid: Roshambo, better known as Rock/Paper/Scissors. Yet while other decision-making games rely on chance, Roshambo “can be played with a degree of skill by recognizing and exploiting non-random behavior in opponents.”

Yet at the start of this year, I began to see what seemed a lot of decision-making being done by chance, emotion, or other non-rational factors. Like other dental offices, we were getting inundated with calls from people who had seen the documentary Root Cause on Netflix or Amazon Prime and were extremely concerned about the presence of root canal teeth and cavitations in their own mouths.

Several weeks later, Netflix succumbed to pressure from the American Association of Endodontists, the American Dental Association, and other defenders of dentistry-as-usual. They took the unprecedented step of removing the film from distribution. Amazon quickly followed (removing other controversial “alternative health” titles, as well).

The size of the content platform, as well as its ability to suggest new content to users based on their previous viewing activity, can help make inaccurate things go viral, said Paul Resnick, director of the Center for Social Media Responsibility at the University of Michigan.

One way to militate against fringe, potentially harmful content is to simply stop suggesting it to viewers, Resnick said. However, media platforms also have an additional responsibility to viewers, he said, which is to preserve a “healthy marketplace of ideas” as much as possible.

“I don’t want crap to get wide distribution, but I also want there to be some vehicle for new ideas and claims to get out there, even if it challenges the current orthodoxy.”

So, who do you believe? The filmmakers or the gatekeepers of conventional dentistry? Or is it that the truth lies somewhere in the middle? As Chris Cuomo says each night on CNN, “Let’s get after it!”

How We Know What We Know

series of human head silhouettesLet’s consider the possibility that a lot of the things you and I think of as “facts” today will change over time or even be disproven. Also consider that with the wealth of information available at our fingertips today, we can no longer know all facts or truths because we’ve not studied all the available research.

We must analyze just what our perception of the truth really is. Is it a personal mental construct based on our necessarily limited knowledge, influenced by our biases, and motivated by our subconscious?

This is a common idea today – that rather than a collection of immutable facts, what we know to be so is actually a set of evolving concepts. Much of this can be traced back to the work of Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, who studied how children assimilate knowledge into “knowledge structures” that can change over time. Minor changes to those structures he called “assimilation,” and major changes – paradigm shifts, really – he called “accommodation.”

Those changes aren’t restricted to childhood, however. We each experience them through our entire lives.

The Brain, Behavior, & Health

Most of our patients come to us with very little understanding of what dentistry is about and what it can do for them. They also come with fears and biases, as well as external influencers such as spouses, parents, insurance companies, social media, and the like. They often come expecting that this dental procedure or that will be an instant and permanent solution to all their problems.

If our true goal is to “treat the whole person” and to suss out both effects AND causes, then we need to understand not only how our patients think but why they think that way. How they think drives behavior. Behavior drives their health status and their attitude towards it.

Being both a biological dentist and certified traditional naturopath, I must pay attention to what my patients know, understand how they know it, even how they got to know it and why they feel about what they know. Is what they know apt to be helpful or harmful over time?

I see it as mandatory to understand this because it’s the only way to practice truly health-centered dental medicine. That can never happen during a 5-minute chat in an operatory once a hygienist is done scaling the patient’s teeth. It takes real conversation. It takes time. It’s a journey of discovery.

One of the things I’ve had to explore much more lately is how Root Cause has influenced their decision-making.

For Many, an Anxiety-Provoking Film

Here’s how the filmmakers describe the documentary on their website:

“You’re going to need a root canal.”

Root Cause movie posterThose seven little words rolled off the Dentist’s tongue so completely naturally, but trust me; there is nothing natural about a root canal.

After years of searching for cures to my chronic fatigue, panic attacks, anxiety and insomnia, I finally tracked down the root cause of the problem causing my health issues – A ROOT CANAL

A root canal is a so-called specialty procedure developed by dentists to save infected teeth. But as you’ll discover, it is so much more. 25 million are performed each year in the USA alone – and root canals are one of the root causes of cancer, heart disease, and chronic illness.

Root Cause is my extraordinary, personal journey of self-discovery set to send ripples through the dental profession and expose perhaps one of the world’s greatest medical industry cover-ups.

Root Cause is a movie length documentary featuring expert opinions from cutting edge doctors and dentists from around the world, that exposes the true health effects of the root canal procedure.

Variations of this description can be found on all sites where the film remains available for viewing.

And this is what the American Association of Endodontists (AAE) states:

The people in this movie are spreading misinformation and confusion about root canal treatment that is misleading and harmful to the consumer public. Their premise is based on junk science and faulty testing conducted more than 100 years ago that was debunked in the 1950s, continuously since then and is even more discredited today by physicians, dentists and academics. Mainstream medical and dental communities overwhelmingly agree that root canal treatment is safe, effective and eliminates pain.

Endodontists are root canal specialists, so naturally, they have a vested interest in believing that the treatment is both safe and effective. So they say things like,

Information you may find on the Internet or elsewhere, claiming that if you receive a root canal treatment you’re more likely to become ill or contract a disease in the future simply isn’t true. This false claim was based on long-debunked and poorly designed research conducted nearly a century ago, long before modern medicine understood the causes of many diseases. There is no valid, scientific evidence linking root canal treatment to disease elsewhere in the body.

They also direct users to their own video, touting root canal safety and again reiterating that “claims about root canal treatment causing disease are based on outdated theories.”

Individuals who have called our office after viewing Root Cause have usually been experiencing various degrees of anxiety and depression. Those are certainly consistent traits among people who have been suffering a variety of symptoms and diagnoses for years, often autoimmune disorders.

Research in neurobiology and neuroeconomics strongly suggest that anxiety and depression, along with fear, have stable neural substrates and may be an important factor driving decision-making, among other behaviors. I believe we need a more nuanced understanding of that relationship, though – between anxiety and decision-making.

The patients we see have often already consulted more than a dozen physicians, usually starting with an allopathic GP who treated them largely with drugs. If the symptoms persist, the doctor may tell them that it’s all in their head and offer yet another prescription – this time, for SSRIs, benzos, or other medication intended to quell negative emotions – or hand them off to a specialist.

After seeing a few more allopathic doctors, they start searching online for alternatives, just as Frazer Bailey did himself and documented in Root Cause, seeking the source of his fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Anxiety suffuses the experience. Experience drives the decision.

Note that this is different from fear.

Fear and anxiety share many common cognitive and physiological properties, however they may also be distinguished. Fear responses are elicited by specific stimuli, and tend to be short-lived, decreasing once a threat has dissipated. Anxiety may be experienced in the absence of a direct physical threat, and typically persists over a longer period of time. However, anxiety is commonly conceptualized as a state of sustained fear.

Your Limbic System’s Impact on Decision-Making

Now, when you’re stressed – whether suddenly or coping with it for a long time – at least 11 hormones are activated. One of these is cortisol, a glucocorticoid hormone which is produced by your adrenal glands and involved in many critical body functions. Like all glucocorticoids, it can raise blood sugar levels. It shuts off the parasympathetic nervous system and turns on the sympathetic, the “fight or flight” response.

stressed out womanNote that not all stress is bad. There’s an optimal level that motivates us to peak performance without totally stressing us out. It’s different for each of us. We have different appetites for stress – different levels of sensitivity based on our glucocorticoid receptors that affect how we react. It’s why people have different responses to their own insulin and the carbs they eat.

Why should our receptors be different? It goes back to when we’re in the womb. The fetus picks up the mother’s stress and fear hormones, which go into circulation and then into the placenta for the child and into the child’s brain and limbic system. All kinds of epigenetic factors can be at play here: financial insecurity, an unstable home, an abusive partner, and more. They don’t change the child’s DNA, but they do have the effect of turning on some glucocorticoid receptors and turning off others.

This, in turn, causes changes in the amygdala, an area of the brain involved with both fear and pleasure, as well as addictions. It’s what one psychologist calls “our brain’s emotional fireworks center.” It will be bigger and more excitable, so even some neutral-seeming situations may be perceived as threatening. The end result is an anxiety disorder, which can be passed on to the next generation and the next, up to 6 times.

Why is this problematic?

A person’s response to stress determines the effect of that stress on their health. If you’re stressed 24/7, then you are getting less oxygen to the hippocampus. This area of the brain creates emotional context and memory of new information, such as recent events. With less oxygen, you become more excitable because it blocks the neural synapses. Your capacity for memory is lessened. The brain gets older faster.

Unsurprisingly, the hippocampus is the major anatomical structure that’s damaged in Alzheimer’s disease. It’s the most sensitive structure to excess cortisol because it has so many receptors and feedback loops. Cortisol crosses the blood-brain barrier. Norepinephrine and epinephrine have to work harder to reduce cortisol levels.

Other key players in your limbic system include the hypothalamus (a message receiver and transmitter relay station for short term memory), the prefrontal cortex (the center of thought and reason, open to change throughout your lifespan), and the orbital frontal cortex (the area of higher mental functions, dealing with perception, movement, and behavioral responses).

Latent chronic infections – “cavitations” – in the wisdom tooth sites have a negative effect on the subtle energy that flows through the body (Prana, Ch’i, Orgone) along the acupuncture meridians of the autonomic nervous system, as well as the heart and small intestine meridians.

The effects on the limbic system affect decision-making, as well.

How Oral Foci Can Affect Decision-Making

Dentists need to understand why their chronically ill patients are rashly deciding that having their root canal teeth removed is the solution to what ails them. How are anxieties and fear driving those decisions?

The true biological dentist, invested in their patient’s well-being, needs to help pump the brakes and take the patient’s foot off the accelerator. Removing the teeth before really understanding all the factors at play is like trying to remove a tire on a moving vehicle.

There are bodies of knowledge such a dentist should have at their command in order to properly diagnose the patient and help them understand that diagnosis so the patient can make an informed decision – one based on reason, not just emotion. An important one is the work of Dr. Jerry Bouquot, whose textbook Oral Pathology is standard reading in most dental schools here in the US. He has taught that both root canal teeth and cavitations are always infected and most often toxic, as well.

stack of booksOther textbooks are crucial, too, such as those on acupuncture in neurological conditions, which combine evidence-based clinical reasoning with aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). These provide clinical reasoning from both TCM and Western medical perspectives, illustrated by real cases from clinical practice, forming a sound platform for true integrated medicine.

Any well-trained biological dentist or physician should also be deeply familiar with the work of 19th and 20th century researchers such as Enderlein, Reckeweg, Pischinger, Vincent, Kramer, and Voll. These microbiologists, histopathologists, acupuncturists, neural therapists, and quantum theorists together clarify the physiological basis for biological medicine.

With this extensive background, a biological dentist should know that at the third molar (wisdom tooth) sites, there’s a crossing of four acupuncture meridians: heart, small intestines, the two branches of the autonomic nervous system, sympathetic and parasympathetic.

When there’s a focus on a third molar extraction site – a cavitation, for instance – the individual’s dopamine reward system is considerably affected. A disease-free third molar site would encourage the brain to generate dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter. This happens in a couple regions of the midbrain: the substantia nigra and the ventral tegmental area. The substantia nigra is also one of the main brain structures that affects movement. When that area becomes degraded, you get symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, such as tremors and rigidity.

When that area is infected, however, that dopamine flow is disrupted. Mood/emotional problems can result – and affect the decision-making process. Decisions can come from a purely emotional place rather than one of combined emotion and reason.

It’s thus imperative to know if there are cavitational lesions remaining in the third molar extraction sites – or any other oral pathologies that may be interfering with the patient’s ability to make wise choices.

Helping Patients in the Decision-Making Process

One of the biggest problems I have with Root Cause is how it seems to encourage the jumping to inappropriate conclusions. A dozen dental and medical experts are interviewed, seeming to suggest that removing root canal teeth will surely alleviate long-standing symptoms. The film states that 75 to 80% of illnesses can be traced to root canal and jawbone infections, implying that simply addressing those “root causes” is enough to restore health.

It is not.

While Dr. Voll indeed taught that up to 90% of all illness may be linked to conditions in the mouth (not just root canals and cavitations), that doesn’t mean that oral conditions are the sole (or even the main) cause of the systemic illness. You have to look at the big picture.

This is why the film’s oversimplification concerns us. For one, you never want to plunge into dental or medical procedures of any kind without proper evaluation. In this case, are the root canal teeth the primary trouble? What other toxic burdens – dental and otherwise – is the individual carrying? How do the dental procedures fit into the patient’s whole health history?

Most importantly: What is the condition of the individual’s basic regulative system? What is the state of their biological terrain?

Above all, that will determine whether or how root canal teeth become a health burden.

If you simply extract root canal teeth (or address other oral foci) without first addressing the terrain, the procedure may not be all that helpful in the long run. First, you need to create an internal environment that supports detoxification and healing.

Vitruvian manThis is ultimately what I strive to teach new patients when they come in, worried about root canals, cavitations, or other oral foci such as mercury amalgam fillings. At the same time, I want to understand where they’re coming from – and why – so I can help them see that big picture and how a terrain-based approach to healing is the only way they can achieve the positive and lasting goals they have in mind.

Success of any oral surgery depends on first creating the proper conditions for a healthy, uneventful healing response. It is critical that the extracellular matrix (biological terrain), ground system regulation, and all immune functions have been optimized before surgery is pursued.

Ultimately, however, it’s each patient’s decision to make – whether to embrace a truly comprehensive approach to their health and well-being or find a dentist who will do what they want, no questions asked.

“Simply put,” writes dentist Paul Henny, “when patients need to make decisions regarding deeply personal and complex problems, they also need proper leadership to make those better choices.”

I try to develop patients toward better decision-making based on goal-oriented, collaboratively created, and desired outcomes. And due to the deeply personal and high-stakes nature of these decisions, a non-manipulative developmental leadership style is required, otherwise it will too often render out buyer’s-remorse and other negative sequela, such as denial, lack of problem ownership, and blame-shifting. Consequently, this type of leadership must be values-driven…and not driven by our values but theirs.

2 responses to “When It Comes to Your Health, Are You Deciding – or Letting a Movie Decide for You?: Some Thoughts on Health Choices After Seeing Root Cause

  1. Laura Henze Russell says:

    Excellent, thoughtful and balanced post on a challenging subject. It provides reassurance, support and guidance for patients navigating dental risks to health with care.

  2. Gene says:

    You are correct however the dental associations have worked tirelessly to cover up so much critical information that this film acts simply as a lever to unhinge the box of secrets.
    It’s controversial of course. It needs to be and it will lead to airing of the issues where all the niceties fall flat.

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