Featured Articles for Purebrush, the World's Best Toothbrush Cleaner

The integrative approach to total well-being is a clean, healthy mouth

Source: Molly SIPLE, M.S., R.D.H. , Natural Health, Good Medicine
July/August 2005

BRUSH. FLOSS. RINSE. is the best way to care for your teeth, which means a whiter smile, sweeter breath, and less time spent in the dentist's chair. And there's one more reason to take control of your oral care: Your life could depend on it. Numerous studies indicate that what happens in your mouth doesn't stay in your mouth. For example, scientists have found significant links between gum disease and cardiovascular disease. "Dental care must be concerned with the whole patient, because the mouth can cause problems in other parts of the body and disease or syndromes from other parts of the body can reveal themselves in the mouth," says Harold E. Ravins, D.D.S., founder of the Center for Holistic Dentistry for Adults and Children in Los Angeles.

Bacteria can travel from the mouth to the organs, increasing the risk of heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, pneumonia, vision impairment, chronic pain, and preterm births. "And most patients with prostate problems have gum disease," says Ravins. In addition, the condition of the tongue can signify a number of conditions, from vitamin deficiency to digestive problems to immune dysfunction.

To a holistic dentist, you're not just a pretty (or not-so-pretty) smile. These practitioners take the enlightened viewpoint that your teeth walk into their offices connected to a body and a mind. One of the first things they account for is the fear factor. For example, an appointment with Lorin Berland, D.D.S., founder of the Dallas Dental Spa, is likely to include a few minutes wit his full-time massage therapist. "Afterward, I can give the patient their anesthetic and the usual spike in blood pressure doesn't happen," Berland says. Having a foot massage during a procedure is also an option.

In New York City, Reid Winick, D.D.S., worked with an herbalist to develop oral rinses that target pathogens. Ingredients range from the familiar (cloves, Echinacea, pomegranate) t the esoteric (shield fern, Rangoon creeper). "Tartar can be like a big apartment building for bacteria," he says, "and patients ho follow this program return with spotless teeth and no tartar."
Winick's office has nontoxic flooring, full-spectrum lighting, ozonated and filtered water, and a negative-ion generator over each dental chair to remove metals from the air and eliminate that familiar musty office odor. A feng shui consultant helped design he office space to ensure a pleasing arrangement. (Its location is certainly celestial: at cloud level in the spire of the Chrysler Building.)

Holistic dentists often wear more than one hat (or mask). Chicago's John Rothchild, D.D.S., is trained in acupuncture, which he uses to relax. Patients and reduce pain. "Acupuncture's an effective alternative to dental anesthesia when patients are apprehensive bout injections, anesthesia causes them t gag or faint, or their system is already under stress because they're in a detox process due to removal of mercury amalgams," h says. "I've seen acupuncture work as an anesthetic even when extracting teeth." Rothchild is also a naturopathic physician and incorporates nutritional counseling, herbs, homeopathy, and cranial sacral therapy in his practice.

Holistic dentistry is still a relatively new field; contact the Holistic Dental Association at 970-259-1091, or consult the HDA's Web site at holisticdental.org, which lets you search for a holistic dentist by state. Even if you prefer not to change doctors, being proactive about holistic dental care will make your time in the chair a lot more rewarding and a lot less scary.

THE EMERGENCE of holistic dentistry has focused new attention on the debate over mercury-based amalgam fillings-which you may not even realize you have. It turns out your "silver" fillings are actually made of approximately 50 percent mercury, plus silver, tin, copper, and a trace of zinc.
Dental amalgam is the major source of mercury in humans, and "mercury is the most neurotoxin compound that people are routinely exposed to," says Boyd E. Haley, Ph.D., chairman of the department of chemistry at the University of Kentucky. "The estimated 5 to 10 micrograms of mercury vapor that a medium-size I-gram amalgam fill¬ing releases per day is large enough to be a toxic exposure."

Classic symptoms of mercury poisoning include tremor, anxiety, forgetfulness, insomnia, anorexia, fatigue, and cognitive and motor dysfunction. The possible impact of mercury vapor on the progression of degenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease is also a concern. In his own research, Haley has demonstrated that mercury toxicity produces changes to brain structure similar to that observed in Alzheimer's patients. It also accumulates in the kidneys and other organs, where it may cause permanent damage.

So should you have your amalgam fillings out? Not necessarily. Despite this potential for problems, many dentists still favor amalgam fillings when a strong, durable filling is required (for instance, in back teeth), siding with the American Dental Association. "The ADA’s position is that dental amalgams are very safe," states Sally Cram, D.D.S., consumer adviser and spokeswoman for the association. "That said, if you are someone who says, 'I just don't want this in my mouth,' what the ADA is in favor of is communication between the patient and dentist so they can discuss other options, such as tooth-colored resin fillings or a gold crown."

You may have to initiate this conversation. As Cram explains, "What we are opposed to is dentists advocating to patients removal of their dental amalgam to perhaps cure diseases such as multiple sclerosis or conditions such as autism, or because they tell them amalgam fillings are dangerous. That is inappropriate and unethical." Of note is that the ADA doesn't mind the removal of amalgam for cosmetic reasons. If your current dentist sees no problem with mercury in your mouth, you can always ask to have the amalgam removed simply to improve your smile.

REMOVING AMALGAM fillings takes special expertise as especially high amounts of mercury vapor are released in the process. Safety guidelines have been established by the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology. For example, your dentist should provide you with an alternative source of air during the procedure to keep you from inhaling mercury vapor. In addition, women who are pregnant or nursing should not have amalgam removed since mercury in the blood crosses the placenta and can be transferred to infants via breast milk. (You can read more about safe mercury removal at holisticmed.com/dentallamalgam/iaomt.txt.).

Whether or not you opt for removal, you can still take action to protect your body from the effects of mercury. James E. Hardy, D.M.D., author of Mercury Free, has devised a four-week detox program using high doses of vitamin C, which has an affinity for mercury and binds with it, as well as vitamins A, B complex, and E. He adds extra zinc, manganese, magnesium, and chromium, since vitamin C binds to these minerals, too. Hardy also suggests boosting your intake of sulfur, which can play an important role in detoxification; this natural substance is plentiful in eggs, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, onions, garlic, and the herbs cilantro and milk thistle. He often recommends the supplement MSM (methylsulfonyl-methane), along with chlorella (green algae), charcoal, and the homeopathic remedy Dentox (at evitamins.com and other health sites).

A faster, more powerful option is intravenous Chelation therapy administered under a doctor's supervision. But there's a downside: "Chelation can cause the release of more mercury than you're able to quickly detoxify and eliminate, poisoning the body just as if you'd been exposed to lead," says Hardy. "Taking a sauna to eliminate mercury toxins via perspiration is also not for everyone. People with health conditions should always check with their doctor."

HOLISTIC DENTISTS focus on the big picture: your total wellness. These professionals, who have the training of regular dentists-and sometimes much more-make use of a variety of complementary therapies. But if holistic dentistry has yet to appear in your neighborhood, don't gnash your teeth. You can still benefit from its at-home strategies for natural oral care.

Vitamins and Minerals. The antioxidant vitamins, folic acid, flavonoids, and zinc are all vital for oral health. Together, they help your immune system fight bacteria that infect gums; reduce inflammation; maintain healthy collagen needed for strong gum tissue (and do away with free radicals that damage it); inhibit the buildup of bacteria-friendly plaque; and preserve bone formation. To help prevent or treat periodontal disease, consider the following daily supplements: vitamin C (2 to 4 grams in divided doses), vitamin E (200 to 400 IU), beta carotene (up to 50,000 IU), selenium (200 micrograms), zinc picolinate (15 milligrams), folic acid (2 mg), and mixed bioflavonoids (1.5 g in divided doses).

Toothpaste. Keep it simple-and natural-when it comes to toothpaste. "There's a major difference between toothpaste made with natural ingredi¬ents and those that contain a long list of chemical compounds that do not favor the body," says Ravins. One controversial ingredient is fluoride, which the ADA endorses to prevent tooth decay. "We know that fluoride can interfere with thyroid function, and new research coming out of China is demonstrating that fluoride is associated with weaker bones and bone cancer," says Timothy Gallagher, D.D.S., of Sunnyvale, Calif.

You may already be getting more than enough fluoride: Most municipal water is fluoridated, and juices and drinks made with fluoridated water add to your intake. If you're concerned about fluoride, alternatives are available. Tea Tree Therapy manufactures toothpaste and other products (even toothpicks) with tea tree oil, a natural antiseptic; find them at teatreeplace.com. TheraNeem herbal toothpaste (threaneem.com) is made with Neem bark and leaf, which have long been used for dental care in ayurvedic medicine. Tom's of Maine makes a fluoride-free toothpaste with myrrh and propolis to promote a clean, healthy mouth (available at drugstore.com).
Another suggestion comes from Victor Zeines, D.D.S., author of Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body: T e Natural Dental Program for Total Wellness. To reduce tooth decay, he recommends applications of a paste ade from dandelion or licorice root powder, or consumption of tea with alfalfa, dandelion, and horsetail which will provide a natural source of fluoride.

The most cost-effective way to clean your teeth is offered by Susan Lark, M.D., author of The Chemistry of Success. Dip your brush in a 3 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide and then in sodium bicarbonate. "Baking soda prevents decay b neutralizing acids in the mouth, and its slightly abrasive texture helps to remove plaque," explains Lark. 'The hydrogen peroxide adds effervescence that helps float away food articles as well as kill bacteria:'

Floss. A vital part of daily dental care, flossing became significantly easier with the introduction of waxed filaments. Added benefits are found in products like Jason Natural Cosmetics Vege Wax Soft Dental Foss with CoQl0 & Organic Tea Tree Oil, Nature's Gate Tea Tree with Green Tea Dental Floss, and Radius Cranberry loss. Still hate the fuss of flossing? Use a proxy brush to clean between your teeth: Curaprox makes a model that fit in even the smallest crevices; it's available at curaproxusa.com. If you're floss less after a meal, reach for an apple or chew a stick of gum that contains zylitol, a sweet antibacterial compound found in trees. "Zylitol prevents plaque from sticking and kills three forms of bacteria," says Gallagher. "Its ability to significantly prevent tooth decay has been known for decades, and new research conducted at the University of Southern California is providing proof of its effectiveness."

Mouthwash. Standard rinses can contain over 25 percent alcohol plus artificial sweeteners and preservatives. Instead, use a teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide to swish away bacteria. (Just don't swallow; it can cause stomach upset.) Herbal rinses offer a variety of active ingredients. In addition to tea tree oil or Neem, choices include white oak bark (an astringent), horsetail (to decrease bleeding), or aloe Vera (to heal mouth tissue); in a recent study published in General Dentistry, patients who drank 2 ounces of Aloe Vera juice daily and used Aloe Vera lip balm had oral lesions clear up in four weeks.

To treat gingivitis, a common surface infection of the gums, anti¬microbials such as myrrh, eucalyptus, and Echinacea are very effective; use a tincture of these herbs as a mouth¬wash. Or try this recipe from Zeines to fight bacteria and strengthen immune function: Add 30 drops each of tinctures of goldenseal, myrrh, and calendula to a brown bottle. (Shake before using.) After brushing your teeth, rinse with one capful at least twice a day; swish the solution in your mouth for 20 to 30 seconds, then spit out. (You can also place a small amount of these extracts in the reservoir of your Water Pik, fill with water, turn the machine to "low/, and rinse the pockets between tooth and gum, spending about five seconds between each pair of teeth. Do this twice daily.)

Visiting the Dentist
No matter how scrupulous you are at oral care, you still need to have a professional cleaning and check up every six months (or three months if you have periodontal disease). Most dentists now use digital X-ray equipment that delivers a small fraction of the radiation emitted by older machines. Still, a healthy adult shouldn't need a full set of X-rays more than once every three years, and a lead shield (including a thyroid' shield) should be used, says Zeines. If you're due for X-rays, he suggests taking beta carotene (5,000 IU), pycnogenol (100 mg), coenzyme QlO (100 mg), vitamin E (400 IU), selenium (150 mcg), and vitamin C (2 g in divided doses) for a few days before and after your appointment.

Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple, can lessen inflammation and ease pain caused by dental work. Take one capsule between meals the day before a procedure, the morning of your appointment, and afterward as needed. You can also hold your own hand to reduce your discomfort: On either hand, locate a point about 1 inch in from the edge of the web of skin that stretches between the thumb and index finger; rub this point or simply apply constant pressure.

There are several homeopathic remedies Ravins recommends to his patients. To relieve anxiety on the day of dental work, take aconite 30C tablets a maximum of every 15 min¬utes. Use arnica 30C for muscle pain three times a day for three days, starting the day before your appointment. After a procedure, take hypericum 30C as needed for pain, but not more than one tablet per hour; for throbbing pain caused by" dry sockets" that can occur after extractions, take belladonna 30C every half-hour as needed.

Finally, for toothache relief, apply a cotton swab dipped in oil of clove, which is sold in pharmacies. This first-aid treatment will quickly ease your pain enough so you can get to your dentist for treatment.


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