For example, the theory for which biological dentistry is best known asserts that the mercury in amalgam fillings can make you sick, leading to recurrent health problems, such as neurologic disorders, chronic fatigue, and arthritis. To remedy these ailments, proponents say, you need only have all your amalgam fillings removed and replaced with less toxic alternatives, such as non-metallic quartz-based fillings or porcelain inlays.
Many dentists and oral surgeons can and often do remove amalgam fillings at their patients' request. However, before you embark on what could become a very expensive and uncomfortable series of dental procedures, you should consider the fact that both the American Dental Association and the National Institutes of Health have specifically rejected the amalgam theory. There is no scientific evidence, they say, of any detrimental effects from amalgam.
Of course, the so-called amalgam problem is not the only reason that people seek out biological dentists. The various unconventional treatments outlined below seek to cure a broad spectrum of ailments--ranging from headache to heart disease--through operations on the teeth and mouth. Some people adopt these therapies as "natural" or "non-toxic" alternatives to mainstream treatment. However, none of them have been proven effective in scientific tests.How the Treatments Are Done Many biological dentists work in conjunction with other alternative health care providers, such as homeopathic practitioners and holistic medical doctors. The dental procedures most commonly offered in the United States include neural therapy, oral acupuncture, cold laser therapy, and mouth balancing. To enhance the effectiveness of these therapies, the practitioner may prescribe homeopathic remedies and make recommendations concerning diet and nutrition.
NEURAL THERAPY According to practitioners of neural therapy, biological energy flows throughout the human body and enters each cell at a specified frequency range. If the energy flow stays within the appropriate range, it's believed that the individual will stay healthy. However, a breakdown of this flow can theoretically cause a disruption of cell function, eventually leading to a number of chronic disorders.
According to this theory, injury, inflammation, or infection in the mouth signals a blockage in the energy flow elsewhere in the body. Hence, it's thought that a problem in a distant organ can be remedied by restoring the normal flow of energy at the site of the dental problem. To accomplish this, biological dentists inject a local anesthetic, such as procaine, around the offending tooth.
Treatment Time: 2 to 3 seconds for the injection.
Treatment Frequency: Varies according to the body's response to the injection. If it's not clear which tooth is involved, the practitioner may experiment with 4 to 5 treatments over a period of 2 to 4 weeks to identify the location of the energy blockage.
ORAL ACUPUNCTURE Acupuncture seeks to balance the flow energy along 14 channels, or meridians, throughout the body. It's thought that the flow can be adjusted through application of needles at specific "acupoints" along the meridians. Oral acupuncture uses injections of saline water, weak local anesthetics, or homeopathic solutions at acupoints within the mouth. When the energy flow has been properly balanced at these points, practitioners believe, problems elsewhere on the meridian will be rectified. Hence, this form of therapy is used for problems ranging from sinusitis and allergies to digestive problems and neuralgia.
Treatment Time: 1 to 2 seconds for the injection.
Treatment Frequency: Varies depending upon the body's response to the injection. Patients typically undergo no more than 3 treatments over a period of 2 to 3 weeks.
COLD LASER THERAPY Cold laser therapy is an alternative form of oral acupuncture available to patients who dislike needles. The low-power beam used in this procedure is incapable of causing any thermal damage to the body's tissues; hence the name "cold." The beam is typically aimed either directly at the teeth to prepare them for treatment or at an acupoint within the mouth. The therapy is usually recommended to reduce swelling and hasten healing.
Treatment Time: When used directly on the teeth, 30 seconds to 1 minute; when used on acupoints, 1 to 5 minutes.
Treatment Frequency: Depending upon the body's response, 2 to 3 applications may be recommended.
HOMEOPATHY Homeopathic remedies are extremely weak herbal solutions given to stimulate the body's healing powers. Advocates regard them as a non-toxic alternative to drugs, although they have never been proven effective in standard clinical trials. Biological dental practitioners use them to temporarily alleviate pain or discomfort during dental emergencies. They are also used to aid the body in eliminating supposed mercury toxicity after the removal of amalgam fillings. Other dentists prefer to use them to enhance "detoxification" during the actual amalgam removal process.
Treatment Frequency: May be used every 15 minutes in dental emergencies. For amalgam detoxification, treatments range from 2 to 3 months up to 2 to 3 years or longer.
MOUTH BALANCING Often recommended as a remedy for painful temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ), headaches, and eye problems, this form of therapy aims to bring the facial muscles, ligaments, and jaws into the proper relationship so that the muscles do not endure too much stress. The alignment of the teeth, jaws, and muscles undergo an initial evaluation, typically with the aid of a computer, as the practitioner looks for muscle dysfunction and jaw vibrations. If any deformities are identified, custom orthopedic braces are produced to be worn in the mouth and realign the jaw, thus eliminating associated pain. Note that although this procedure sounds similar to standard orthodontics, its claims are considerably more expansive.
Treatment Time: Depends upon the severity of the deformity, but can last up to 12 months, perhaps longer in severe cases.
Treatment Frequency: Appliance adjustments must be made on a regular basis. Between 5 and 20 appointments are typically required.
DIET Most biological dentists recommend that you supplement their treatments with certain vitamins and foods. For example, patients who have undergone the removal of amalgam are told to include magnesium, selenium, vitamin C, vitamin E, and folic acid in their diets to promote the excretion of mercury from their system. (These ingredients can be found in a variety of popular multivitamin supplements.) Patients are also given a long list of things to avoid, often including sugar, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, soft drinks, refined carbohydrates, milk, cheese, margarine and fish. (Note, however, that none of these products, eaten in moderation, has been shown to have any adverse effect upon health.)What Treatment Hopes to Accomplish Two schools of thought run through biological dentistry. One asserts that the materials used in mainstream dentistry are toxic and can promote serious disorders elsewhere in the body. By weakening the immune system or attacking the nervous system, these materials are said to cause ailments ranging from Alzheimer's disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, and arthritis to kidney problems and heart disease. Removing the offending materials is therefore supposed to effect a cure. Although various case studies are advanced to demonstrate the validity of this theory, there is no scientific evidence to support it.
The second school of thought holds that the teeth and surrounding tissues are linked to other organs in the body through a network of energy channels. Although these channels--such as the meridians of acupuncture--have never been verified by modern science, clinical trials have shown that acupuncture-type techniques can in fact relieve certain types of pain. Claims for oral acupuncture include relief of toothaches, tooth sensitivities, jaw pain, gingivitis, neuralgia, sinusitis, and pain in distant parts of the body. In addition, the oral acupuncture points behind the last upper and lower molars have been used to treat shoulder and elbow pain, neck pain, restricted neck movement, low back pain, and TMJ. Although the jury is still out on the true value of acupuncture, it's possible that it could provide some relief.Who Should Avoid This Therapy? Mainstream dentists regard amalgam removal and detoxification as an expensive scam, and the American Dental Association has declared it unethical.
Other forms of biological dentistry, such as oral acupuncture, are generally considered safe for anyone, although you may want to avoid the use of needles if you tend to bleed easily.What Side Effects May Occur? Proponents of biological dentistry point with pride to its lack of side effects. Occasionally a patient may experience nausea from the detoxification process during and after amalgam removal. However, biological dentists say that patients are more likely to experience tooth sensitivity and allergic reactions in traditional dentistry than in the biological variety. How to Choose a Therapist There is no certification criteria for biological dentists. In fact, the treatments can be offered by any licensed dentist or oral surgeon. To locate a practitioner in your area, you can contact one of the several holistic, biological dental organizations that provide lists of biological dentists free of charge.
Before choosing a dentist, try to schedule a consultation visit with the leading contenders. Find out which ones offer the type of procedure you desire. Ask what other services they provide. Check on the safety precautions taken in the dental chair. If you are seeking amalgam removal, ask what measures the dentist uses to eliminate mercury from the body's tissues and what materials he uses in replacement fillings. Finally, ask for some patient references and see what they say.When Should Treatment Stop? Many biological dentists promote the technique as a process, not a definitive treatment. They point out that, like any sort of treatment, holistic therapies may not necessarily cure all problems completely--indeed, some can last a lifetime and may require constant monitoring. Many biological dental patients, for example, continue to see their dentists on a weekly, monthly, or annual basis for bite adjustments.
If you agree with this philosophy, the treatments--and your payments--can last indefinitely. To make sure continued therapy remains worthwhile, try skipping a treatment once in a while. If your problem remains in check, you may be able to cut back or eliminate the therapy entirely.See a Conventional Doctor If... In many cases, people turn to biological dentistry after mainstream treatments have failed. Nevertheless, if any serious new symptoms arise, the only safe course is to return to your doctor for a professional medical diagnosis. Unfamiliar symptoms could signal new and unrelated problems that require a whole new course treatment. Resources ORGANIZATIONS American Academy of Biological Dentistry
P.O. Box 856
Carmel Valley, CA 93924
International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology
P.O. Box 608531
Orlando, FL 32860-8531
Environmental Dental Association
9974 Scripps Ranch Blvd., Suite 36
San Diego, CA 92131
Phone: 800-388-8124; 619-586-7626
FURTHER READING Are Your Dental Fillings Poisoning You? Guy S. Fasciana, DMD. Keats Publishing Inc., 1986.
The Complete Guide to Mercury Toxicity from Dental Fillings. Joyal Taylor, DDS. Scripps Publishing Co., 1988.
Dentistry Without Mercury. Sam Ziff and Michael Ziff. Bio-Probe Inc., 1993.
It's All in Your Head. Hal Huggins, DDS. Life Science Press, 1986.
Mercury Poisoning from Dental Amalgam--A Hazard to the Human Brain. Patrick Stortebecker, MD, PhD. Bio-Probe, 1986.