Longevity of the Body Begins With Longevity of the Teeth
Richard T. Hansen, DMD, FACAD
Director, Comprehensive Dental Center Associates
Patients today are increasingly taking more responsibility for their own health care. As health practitioners, we are constantly searching for the information that best answers their questions and offers solutions to their health concerns. Our task is complicated by genetics, the environment, nutrition, and emotional and personal habits that compromise and influence our patients’ health. These influences include the subtle but powerful adverse effects of dental materials, techniques, and and dental treatment on the body. Many advanced health practitioners recognize that the dental interference fields created by present day dentistry may actually be one of the leading influencers preventing patients from achieving their goals in health and living the long, disease-free life of which the body is capable. Much published research and lay press have implicated the mouth’s importance as a potentially leading causative factor of many diseases in the body.
If we look at optimum wellness and longevity as a complex picture composed of many puzzle pieces, we find a multitude of influences on our health. We begin our journey in life with certain genetic weaknesses and predispositions toward the breakdown of one biologic system or another. But researchers are coming to appreciate that diseases once attributed to the inevitability of genetics and age can actually be avoided by proper care of the body and the mind. Our bodies have the ability to overcome their inherent system weaknesses if the entire system is maintained at its peak performance level, enabling it to repair itself upon injury and resist the countless negative influences that attack it daily. The brain devotes an enormous amount of its sensory, data-gathering ability to the mouth. This is necessary for our survival. So, anything we do as dentists greatly influences the body’s functions and its overall health.
In determining the patient’s unique needs, it is becoming increasingly important for the dentist to work with other cutting-edge, integrative practitioners to fully assess the individual requirements of the patient before, during, and after dental care. We have been fortunate to have worked with many physicians and other advanced health care practitioners, not only for this purpose but for investigating and developing better methods of delivering advanced dental care -- dental care that not only focuses on disease within the mouth, but recognizes the integral role optimum health plays in the overall long-term health of the body.
In the past, dentists did not think about dental materials and treatments as they related to the whole body, and they were limited by the materials and techniques available. Today, much more is known about the subtle interactions between the teeth and the whole-body system, and the negative effects of many materials, tools and procedures dental professionals have used for years. We have learned about the effects of infection; the fact that the placement of metal and alloy fillings can weaken the tooth so that future, more invasive dentistry becomes necessary; the leaking of mercury into body tissues from dental amalgam fillings at the alarming rate of 3 to 17 micrograms a day; the relation of the tooth and jaw position to the natural balance to the natural balance of the human system; and the electric current-generated, corrosive effects of having mixed metals in the mouth. Advanced screening methods have found that even some tooth-colored composite materials containing petroleum products, metal oxides, aluminum petrochemicals or bis-phenols may be worse for long-term health than the mercury alloys and other metals they are replacing.
Traditional dentistry has treated early, small cavities in children and adults with silver/mercury alloy fillings that necessitated drilling away large amounts of good tooth structure just to wedge the filling in the tooth and make it stay. These fillings profoundly weakened the tooth thereby setting it up for additional decay, fracture, corrosion, and breakage. This invariably leads to much larger fillings, crowns, and in many cases, root canals. The new advanced style of dentistry is to preserve as much tooth structure a s possible, fill the teeth early with biocompatible materials and structurally reinforce teeth to prevent further problems. Almost all adult dentistry is working on teeth that have previously been treated by a dentist. The good teeth that escape decay and the dentist’s drill in youth rarely need treatment in adult life. If we could restore a tooth early on, with non-destructive laser treatment , then fuse the tooth together as strong as nature originally built it, we may be able to eliminate most invasive adult dentistry forever. Imagine having dentistry done once, without drills and needles and never needing dentistry on that tooth again! Dental Longevity!
Until now, most dentists have been reluctant to change their methods because the alternatives to traditional dental therapy were not adequate. But recent research and development have produced dental materials that are not only more biologically compatible than dental amalgam, but that are stronger and can actually reinforce the tooth internally thereby preventing further damage and the need for future dentistry. There are now over 100 different ceramic, glass-ceramic, and ceramicpolymers that are superior to the older restorative materials in terms of both strength and function. In addition, we can now treat small decayed areas with a pin-point laser or air-particle beam, inject a tooth replacement, and fuse the material to the tooth with a laser. These techniques not only preserve the strength and beauty of the tooth, but may keep the tooth from needing future, more destructive treatments. By using these techniques early on, we may be able to eliminate the need for most root canals and crowns; maybe even eliminate the need for most adult dentistry. After all, the best dentistry would be not to need any dentistry at all.
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