The past few weeks have been an interesting dental adventure. I hadn’t gone to the movies in a long time and about a month ago my boyfriend and I decided to go. I was excited, not so much for the movie, but because I was really looking forward to sitting in front of the big screen and eating an entire bag of popcorn. I could almost taste it.
Later on that night, though, a piece of one of my teeth fell off, leaving a big hole behind. The following night, another piece of the same tooth fell off. It took me about 4 days to go see a dentist, a new one I hadn’t seen before. She found a small cavity and fixed it.
A week later, I was still in minor pain with a marked sensitivity to hot and cold, and unable to use that side of my mouth when eating. The dentist asked me to wait for a few more days to allow for healing.
A few days went by and I wasn’t getting any better, I knew something else was going on and the dentist agreed. Enough time had passed for it to heal by itself, and since I was still in pain, it meant that the nerve was involved and that I would need a root canal, she said.
Over the past 5 years, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about biological dentistry and now I know well enough that root canals are bad news and you want to avoid them if you possibly can. But first of all, what is biological dentistry?
Also called holistic dentistry, it is an approach that focuses on the implications oral health has on the entire body. A biological dentist appreciates that the diseases and materials used in your mouth can have lasting, negative effects on other systems in your body; these dentists keep your whole health in mind, not just the condition of your teeth.
A biological dentist never uses mercury (silver amalgam) fillings or fluoride due to their toxicity; they follow protective protocols when removing mercury fillings, they use digital x-ray technology to significantly reduce the harmful effects of radiation, and they work in conjunction with other health professionals such as naturopathic doctors or nutrition experts in order to address other areas of your health in need of attention.
I decided it was time for me to try a biological dentist for the first time. I consulted with my doctor, Dr. Mark Sivieri, MD, for a recommendation and immediately made an appointment for a second opinion, with Dr. Kimberly Baer, DDS, which took place 2 weeks ago. This dentist took an x-ray to see the tooth, nerve and surrounding areas and could clearly see the inflammation going on right where the tooth and the nerve met. She put me on a 10-day course of antibiotics to help the inflammation go down, ease the pain, and as she put it, give my teeth a vacation for about a week. She would then want to see me in order to do an ozone treatment, where they would inject ozone directly into the affected area.
Ozone? Yes. It turns out that ozone therapy is a natural and effective anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal; since bacteria exist in abundance in the mouth, a biological dentist must necessarily be an expert in infections control.
The other part of her approach for the following week would be to custom-make a dental piece that I would need to wear in my front upper teeth when I sleep, for the rest of my life. This is to prevent the grinding that takes place and that has been slowly deteriorating my teeth over the years. I will admit that every dentist I’ve been to in the last 20 years has mentioned this, but I never paid attention to them!
Right around the time I saw the holistic dentist for the first time, the pain started to progressively get worse. I was on pain killers 3 times a day, eating only pureed food, and feeling miserable. Only on day 5, after starting the antibiotics, the pain started to subside. I saw the dentist again a week later, got the ozone treatment, and started wearing my “night guard” when I sleep. My chewing is almost back to normal, with no more pain or sensitivity. I got a second ozone treatment yesterday and the doctor was amazed at how well I am doing. We will continue to monitor the inflammation, and even though I will need to get a crown for that tooth sooner rather than later, it does seem like the root canal was not necessary after all.
But what is so terrible about root canals? Each of our teeth has a maze of very tiny tubules that, if stretched out, would extend for 3 miles. Microscopic organisms regularly move in and around these tubules and when a dentist performs a root canal, the tooth is hollowed, then this hollow chamber is filled with a substance that cuts off the tooth from its blood supply, so fluid can no longer circulate through the tooth. But the maze of tiny tubules remains, and bacteria, cut off from their food supply, hide out in these tunnels where they are safe from antibiotics and your own body’s immune defenses.
In this environment, bacteria can morph into stronger and more virulent organisms that produce a variety of potent toxins that can migrate into surrounding tissues through your blood stream, and the new location can be any organ, gland, or tissue. Some research has shown a link between root canals and chronic degenerative diseases, including heart and kidney disease, arthritis, joint and rheumatic diseases, as well as neurological and autoimmune disorders.
So who is to say that the fact I have rheumatoid arthritis is not linked to the root canals I had done when I was a teenager?