Big League Chew, Major League Damage

Well, the Giants did it again last night and won their third World Series in 5 years!

And while the 2014 season is now all but history, baseball – maybe more than any other sport – basks in that history. As Lawrence Ritter once wrote, “The strongest thing that baseball has going for it today are its yesterdays.”

One of a recent yesterday’s greats – Curt Schilling – drew some extra attention last week courtesty of an interview in which he spoke about his having oral cancer. Like ex-Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, this 6 time All-Star and 3 time World Series champ was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, which started in one of his tonsils, then spread to a lymph node in his neck. He attributes it to chewing tobacco.

“I never ever threw a pitch with a dip in my mouth,” Schilling said. “I knew it wasn’t good for you. I didn’t want to be dehydrated.

“But if you go back and look, after every single game I pitched, the first thing I did when I got to the dugout was put one in.

“I didn’t wait. I couldn’t wait.”

Curt SchillingThough as we noted before, seldom if ever is a condition like cancer the result of a single factor, tobacco use does major league damage on many levels – which may be compounded by conventional medical treatments, as well. If ESPN’s sobering summary of the damage doesn’t at least give pause, we’re not sure what it would take to convince a person that tobacco use is a terrible idea.

What followed was a 5-month ordeal in which brutal radiation and chemotherapy treatments left Schilling sobbing like a child, demoralized by the excruciating pain. He lost more than 70 pounds, developed a staph infection that could have killed him, endured two bouts of pneumonia, a bacterial infection in his intestines and multiple excruciating flare-ups of oral thrush, and wrestled with depression that required hospitalization and therapy.

His scars are internal, imperceptible to the human eye, but his mouth is ravaged by 30 years of chewing tobacco. Even before his cancer was detected, Schilling had decimated his taste buds by dipping. The radiation and chemotherapy have since destroyed his salivary glands.

Schilling doesn’t eat in public because he can’t be certain that his windpipe will close properly. Sometimes food seeps into his lungs and leaves him prone to infection. Other times he chokes, coughs his meal back up, then starts over again. Dining requires careful, methodical chewing, reducing his food to a pasty substance, much like baby food. “I don’t swallow normally anymore,” Schilling explained.

We wish Curt and his family the best, and sincerely hope that his sharing his experience so frankly will help keep others from having to go through anything like it themselves.

And lest you think only smokeless tobacco is a problem…

Image via

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Eat Sugar & White Flour!

By Gary M. Verigin, DDS, CTN

Originally published in Biosis (Issue #7)

For Halloween 1973, I had a bumper sticker made to hand out to trick-or-treaters. It said, “Eat Sugar and White Flour – Support Your Local Dentist and Physician.” With it, we gave the kids a choice of treats: a pencil, a toothbrush or candy. What do you think was their favorite?

Predictive Medicine by Cheraskin & RingsdorfThe inspiration for the sticker was a book I had bought earlier that year, after hearing a lecture by Emanuel Cheraskin, MD, DMD, Chair of the Department of Oral Medicine at the University of Alabama – Birmingham. His book was Predictive Medicine: A Study in Strategy, and I was especially struck by this passage from the dust jacket flap:

A true health program should have as its thesis the anticipation and prevention of disease rather than mere identification and treatment. At the present time no such formal program exists anywhere in the world….

Predictive medicine may be described as the clinical discipline designed to anticipate disease in man, to foretell illness before it erupts in a classical form. In addition predictive medicine is concerned with primary prevention of disease – prevention of occurrence. The strategy of such a program is here outlined.

The book itself was prefaced by a quote from Sir William Osler: “Your only insurance against tomorrow is what you do today!” Those words had a profound impact on me.

Cheraskin’s book truly changed my life, my family’s life and the direction of our dental practice. In 1973, we were still filling teeth with mercury, though we and our patients knew the material was poison. But even back then, insurance companies were the “mothering teat” of most dental practices. Patients would only do what their insurance companies allowed. That meant mercury fillings.

Yes, we fell into that trap.

But after reading Cheraskin, I made a commitment to creating what he said didn’t exist as a formal program anywhere in the world. We would make it a way of life in our dental practice. And ever since, we have been refining our practice, bringing in the new and ever searching for a higher state of being through integrated, biological dentistry.

This is the backdrop for telling you more about a situation we see nearly every day in our office: recurrent tooth decay.

The conventional approach to treating dental caries (cavities) is to remove and replace the diseased tooth tissue with a filling material (mercury, silver, gold, porcelain, ceramic or composite). No attempt is made to cure the disease. The patient subject to this Western school dentistry often returns only months later needing more fillings due to recurrence of caries.

In contrast, our integrated, biological approach involves active and aggressive caries-management and prevention. It also promotes understanding of the science behind what’s really going on. After all, you can’t win the war if you don’t know your enemy.

I think most patients would agree that when they visit us for their preventive maintenance visits – some offices call it a “recall,” a word I detest – they may think of them more as lighthearted interrogations about how they daily control the dental biofilm commonly called “plaque.” And yet, despite our best efforts at motivation and education, the average adult client in our practice has anywhere from 11 to 18 decayed, missing or permanently filled teeth.

It is universally recognized that decay and caries are multifactorial, with specific bacteria residing in intraoral plaques. With the advent of new and more sophisticated microscopy, such as the confocal scanning laser, we now understand more about the nature of dental biofilms.

dental biofilmA biofilm is a well-organized colony of differing microorganisms living in a cooperative community. If you were to place some flowers in a vase for a few days and then remove them, you would find a sticky, slimy surface adhering to the inside of the vase. This is a classic example of a biofilm. The more it’s allowed to stagnate, the more biofilm develops.

Strictly speaking, you don’t remove biofilm from your teeth. You disturb it using one or more dental cleaning tools: toothpaste, brushes, floss, Perio-Aids, oral irrigators and so on. But within just a few minutes of being disturbed, the biofilm begins to form again.

When dental scientists view biofilm through confocal scanning lasers, they see that the microbes living and reproducing in the biofilm are not distributed evenly. Rather, they are grouped in microcolonies, each surrounded by a sticky matrix. Within this matrix are channels through which fluids and waste products pass. They also allow the exchange of endotoxins, exotoxins and enzymes – byproducts produced by the microbes – along with other metabolites and oxygen.

More, these microcolonies may have differing ecological niches. The pH, redox potential, oxygen potential and resistivity can differ greatly even between neighboring colonies. The colonies, meantime, are always in communication with each other. There is a constant flurry of activity among them. “Speaking” to each other through the exchange of chemical and electrical signals, the colonies produce even more harmful enzymes – ones that will digest whatever structures they are adhering to.

Those structures include your teeth.

Whenever you eat or drink any fermentable carbohydrate – such as sugars or refined starches – the microbes in the biofilm literally eat up the acids that are created as the carbohydrate breaks down. And if the biofilm has colonized for a few days, the reactions are even more violent. Within 20 minutes of ingesting fermentable carbohydrates, acidity is increased, drastically lowering the pH and restoring the conditions that allow the biofilm to thrive.

This process repeats with every bite or sip of fermentable carbohydrate.

With healthy teeth, the process occurs on the enamel. But if one’s gums have receded, exposing some of the roots of one or more teeth, the biofilm will attach to the exposed root, as well. The root is not covered with enamel, though. It is shielded by a thin layer of cementum, which is eventually eroded by brushing. At this point, the dentin below is exposed.

dentinal tubulesDentin is somewhat porous. Within, dentinal tubules radiate from the dental pulpal complex, each tubule containing a protein process. You can think of these structures as small drinking straws, each with a length of spaghetti running through. And all told, there are miles of these tubules within each tooth. One dental scientist who measured the length of all tubules within a single incisor reported a total of about three miles!

Dentinal fluid slowly circulates through the straw-like tubules, moving from the inside towards the root surface. This movement is controlled by hormones, and it’s estimated that the fluid circulates about 10 times a day. But when biofilm is left on the teeth and you eat fermentable foods, hormones reverse the flow. The fluid moves inward, taking with it microbes of the biofilm, introducing them to the pulpal complex. The increased acidity, in turn, demineralizes both the enamel and dentin. After 3500 to 5000 circulation cycles, the structures of the teeth soften. Decay sets in, migrating to the interior depths of the teeth, pushing through much like a mushroom cap first bursting through moist earth.

The more acid-producing and acid-loving microorganisms you have in your biofilm, and the more frequent your intake of fermentable carbohydrate, the more decay. We see it time and again. And if the biofilm isn’t thoroughly stirred up a few times a day, the decay process is even more destructive.

We like to help inquiring clients assess their dietary habits. Balancing the biological terrain further helps digestion and the use of the ingested food. It also helps ensure a healthy salivary flow and improve its buffering capacity. Indeed, those whose terrains are less disordered – as measured through our BTA testing – seem to be better protected from the ravages of tooth decay than people with less favorable diets. As an added overall body benefit, these patients take many fewer prescription medications and have a better quality of life and greater comfort with their mental outlooks.

The condition and functioning of the teeth and periodontum are not of self-contained important; their state of health implicates all the rest of the body. – Sperber

Biofilm image via The Marshall Protocol Knowledge Base;
dentinal tubules image via University of Oslo Institute of Dentistry

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Guest Post: Instead of Antibiotics…

Our thanks to Dr. Bill Glaros for letting us share
this recent post from his office blog on ours…

antibioticsAs if there were still some question about it, a pair of recent news items confirms the great American love affair with antibiotics.

First came a new study which found that despite all warnings and guidance, children continue to be given antibiotics, whether or not their condition warrants it.

They found that although only 27.4 percent of the infections were caused by bacteria and could therefore be treated with an antibiotic, a whopping 57 percent of them were actually treated with antibiotics.

That amounts to 11.4 million unnecessary prescriptions for antibiotics per year, researchers say. Antibiotics are no good against viral infections and have only been shown to work against bacterial infections.

Of course, as we’ve noted before, most antibiotics aren’t consumed directly by people. They’re fed to industrially-raised livestock. According to new FDA data, between 2009 and 2012, the amount of “medically important antibiotics” bought by livestock farms rose by 16%. Almost all of the drugs – 97% – “were sold over the counter without a prescription.”

Most troubling, health advocates say, was a rise in the sale of cephalosporins, a class of drug that is important in human health, despite new restrictions the F.D.A. put into place in early 2012. The report showed an 8 percent increase in the sale of those drugs in 2012, confirming advocates’ fears that the agency’s efforts may not be having the desired effect. Sales of those drugs rose by 37 percent from 2009 to 2012.

New rules passed last year may bring numbers like these down – the operative word being “may.” Only time will tell.

While conventional medicine’s main concerns are mainly with antibiotic resistance and the rise of superbugs – where antibiotics fail, there are few, if any, other weapons in the proverbial arsenal – antibiotic overuse has other troubling implications.

For instance, research published in JAMA Pediatrics found that kids who are given multiple rounds of antibiotics as infants are at higher risk of being overweight by the time they reach school age. Earlier this year, research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences even found that some antibiotics may trigger an autoimmune response.

One point that’s become less clear, though, is whether antibiotics, as long suspected, might contribute to asthma. In a recent newsletter, Dr. Frank Shallenberger shared his thoughts on yet another recent study – one which called into question whether it’s actually the antibiotics that are causing asthma. It may be that asthma-prone children have weakened immune systems already, leading them to develop conditions for which antibiotics are prescribed. This, he says, wouldn’t be any big surprise.

Obviously there are going to be some people who are born with bomb proof immune systems and who will never get asthma. And there are going to be others whose immune systems are not nearly as good. This is completely predictable. The point is this. Instead of giving kids who get infections a never-ending stream of antibiotics, why not attack the real problem and give them help for their immune systems? That’s not going to make Big Pharm happy, but it sure makes sense.

How to do this? It’s pretty much gospel to those of us who take a holistic, biological approach to our health and well-being: Eat a healthful, whole foods-based diet. Test for food allergies and eliminate problem foods. Supplement for immune system support.

We’d all do well to follow that advice as a routine. A robust immune system and healthy biological terrain are the foundation for optimal health.

That last line is worth repeating. In bold.

A robust immune system and healthy biological terrain are the foundation for optimal health.

Original post
Image by samantha celara, via Flickr

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More DIY Dentistry, Metal-Mouth Edition

Once we saw this…

…we really felt no need to watch the whole episode of Extreme Cheapskates.

Sometimes, a teaser is enough.

But it brought to mind another case of DIY dentistry we recently ran across in the British Dental Journal, though here it had nothing to do with being cheap. The individual was in jail, found a cavity in a molar and was denied dental care.

So he made his own filling. Out of “tin foil.” And toothpaste.

Writing from Athens, a dentist from the clinic that eventually treated him described the sight:

aluminum foil inlayHis restoration was still intact when he visited the clinic and the tooth appeared to be asymptomatic. The toothpaste probably acted as cement, as it hardens over time. It could have also released fluoride and caries did not progress further. The margins were generally acceptable. Moreover, the colour and the texture of the restoration resembled a new, well-polished amalgam filling.

Not that that’s a look to be sporting…but we digress.

Impressed by the “quality” of the filling, the dentist noted that there is in fact a tradition of using tin to restore teeth. But that’s real tin, not the aluminum foil that’s standard today – and, as recent headlines remind, not exactly something you want to keep in a tooth over the long haul:

Telegraph screenshot

You can read more about the ongoing research here.

And also this

More on “metal-free dentistry”

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Emotions & Your Health

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Keeping Mercury Amalgam Out of the Water

creekDental mercury is an issue that affects all of us – even those of us who have never had an amalgam filling put in our mouths. For dentistry is the single largest source of the mercury that pollutes our public water supplies.

Now the EPA has finally proposed a new rule to do something about it: require every dental office in the US to install and maintain amalgam separators.

“Setting a pretreatment requirement for dental offices is a cost effective method of keeping mercury out of our environment,” said Laura Haight with NYPIRG. “New York has had a similar requirement in place for years. Amalgam separators are widely available, straightforward to install, operate without electricity or chemical addition, have low installation and maintenance costs, and facilitate easy recycling of mercury from dental fillings.”

With compliance, this “common sense rule” – the phrase belongs to the EPA Office of Water’s deputy assistant administrator, Kenneth J. Kopocis – would keep an estimated 4.4 tons of mercury out of the environment each year.

Of course, there are other paths that dental mercury can take into our environment, as shown in this excellent video by the creator of the powerful forthcoming documentary You Put What in My Mouth?:

“So what’s the best way to stop dental mercury pollution?” asks Charlie Brown of Consumers for Dental Choice, who led the way in bringing about the latest change. “Stop using mercury amalgam dental fillings.”



Image by James Wheeler, via Flickr

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Root Canals Are a Chronic Focus, Part 3: The Toxins

Read Part 1, “What Weston Price REALLY Learned About Root Canals”
Read Part 2, “How ‘Saved’ Teeth Become a Problem”

From the August 2014 issue of Biosis

cyst around root canal toothLast time, we ended by looking at the main pathways for toxins to travel from root canal treated teeth to the brain. Now we want to look at some of the specific toxins involved and their potential impact on the human body.

In a person whose immune system is in good shape, the body responds to an infected tooth by forming a cyst around the apex of the root. This is a means of protection. It keeps toxins from escaping the tooth and entering the general circulation.

If the immune system is compromised, however, cysts fail to form – or form poorly – and toxins are released into the circulation much more readily.

One of the most widely read books about the hazards of root canals is Dr. Joseph Issels’ Cancer: A Second Opinion. It was Issels who established the first European hospital for incurable cancer patients. He was also the first to integrate standard and alternative treatments into a comprehensive therapeutic concept.

According to Issels, surveys at his clinic “found that, on admission, ninety-eight percent of the adult cancer patients had between two and ten dead teeth, each one a dangerous toxin producing ‘factory.'” The clear implication is that no dentist had carefully evaluated those people for dental foci – oral sources of infection that affect other parts of the body.

Two especially dangerous kinds of toxic waste are generated by the dead material left inside the dentinal tubules after a “successful” root canal: thioethers and mercapatans. With structures closely related to the mustard gas used in World War I, these fat soluble toxins harm the mitochondria, the power plants of your cells. Critically, mitochondria are especially abundant in liver cells.

The liver is one of your body’s main detoxifying organs.

Just how powerful are these toxins? According to an article in the esteemed journal Science, if just two or three drops of mercapatans were added to the water in an Olympic sized pool, any person could smell sulfur-like fumes from it. Hence, they’re used in industry for detection purposes – for instance, added to propane so if there’s a leak, you can smell it.

The most helpful testing that was once available to dentists wanting to evaluate root canal teeth for toxicity was a chairside kit developed by Boyd Haley’s ALT Bioscience lab at the University of Kentucky. It consisted of a tightly rolled up paper point about the size of a thin pencil lead, which was carefully placed within the sulcus of the suspect tooth. (The sulcus is the space between a tooth and surrounding gums.) Once it was removed, it was dipped into a test tube of a clear solution and observed for color changes – just like you’d observe changes in litmus paper when testing for pH. The degree of color change indicated the level of toxic load, from light to extreme. Clinically, it was a very reliable test.

ALT relied on the use of 6 very sensitive nucleotide-binding enzymes which are found in virtually every cell of your body and are crucial for normal functioning. (Nucleotides are basically the building blocks of DNA and RNA.) If these enzymes become less able to interact with their respective nucleotides, it’s a sign that toxic compounds are present. The decreases in enzyme activity are measured by photoaffinity labeling, which uses radioactive and photoactive analogs of ATP – the energy used by every cell in your body.

Here’s a rundown of the enzymes involved, which can then be detected and quantified by well-recognized scientific lab techniques:

  1. Phosphorous Kinase: Phos K is responsible for converting Phosphorylase B, the inactive form of the enzyme to Phosphorylase A, which is the active form of the enzyme by the transfer of a high energy phosphate group from ATP.

  2. Phosphorylase A: Phosphorylase A is the controlling enzyme in the breakdown of glycogen to glucose. Glucose is the primary fuel used by the body for the production of ATP, which is the body’s source of energy for virtually all cellular processes. This includes everything from muscle contraction to nerve impulse conduction.

  3. Pyruvate Kinase: PK is one of the glycolytic enzymes which functions in the breakdown of glucose to ultimately yield energy in the form of ATP. The three enzymatic pathways involved in this complex process are glycolysis, , the TCA [tricarboxylic acid] or Citric Acid Cycle and the electron transport chain or oxidative phosphorylation. The pyruvate produced by PK can then enter the TCA Cycle to begin the 2nd phase of the energy production cycle. Additionally, its role is one of the enzymes that is involved in the breakdown of glucose to pyruvate. PK also functions directly in the production of ATP in a process referred to as substrate level phosphorylation as opposed to oxidative phosphorylation.

  4. Phosphoglycerate Kinase: PGK is another of the enzymes which functions in the glycolytic pathway involving the conversion of one molecule of glucose to two molecules of pyruvate which can then enter the TCA Cycle. Like pyruvate Kinase, PGK also functions directly in the substrate level of ATP.

  5. Creatine Kinase: Tissues such as the brain and muscles have a very high demand for energy in the form of ATP. CK makes phosphocreatine during times of low energy demand. However, when demand for energy is high CK readily converts phosphocreatine to ATP.

  6. Adenylate Kinase: AK converts two molecules of ADP which is a low energy molecule into one molecule of ATP, which is a very high energy molecule. Thus AK serves to maintain constant levels of ATP when energy demands of the body exceed the rate at which ATP can be produced from the breakdown of carbohydrates such as glucose or fats.

While each of these enzymes is sensitive to a wide variety of toxic compounds, the degree of sensitivity to a given toxin often differs among the enzymes. For instance, the level of one toxin might completely inhibit one enzyme yet have little effect on the others. This is why multiple enzymes are used: You can detect varying levels of many different toxins in a single sample.

That said, just because a particular sample doesn’t interfere with any of those 6 enzymes doesn’t rule out the possibility that other enzymes may be affected.

Obviously, because these enzymes are so common – again, they’re in virtually every cell of your body – any interference would certainly prove detrimental to cellular function. The particular symptoms a person has depends on the type and amount of toxic load, as well as the state of their basic regulation system.

A person’s ability to detox depends on factors such as genetic predisposition, epigenetic status (both endogenous and exogenous – i.e., influences within and outside of the individual, internal and environmental), age, clinical history (both dental and medical), gender and nutritional status.

Toxins in the body are processed the immune system: the thymus and lymphoid tissues, the nervous system, the mucosal system, liver, extracellular matrix, cellular respiration and antioxidant system and the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. Those that are not excreted build up in the body. If the toxic residue mainly collected in the brain’s neurons, the nervous system would be impaired. Toxins that tend to accumulate in the cardiac muscle would impair heart function.

So while the ALT test is useful for detecting the presence and magnitude of toxic burden, it cannot be used to diagnose or predict the clinical outcome of any particular disease. But these measures do suggest conditions that may be triggering or exacerbating a person’s current disease process.

In the final installment of this series, we’ll look at the impact of microbial and other toxins on the power plants of each cell in your body, the mitochondria, and how this contributes to conditions such as chronic fatigue and cancer. We’ll also return to the basic issue we started with: what to do about root canal treated teeth.

NOTE: There will be no post this Thursday, as Dr. Verigin and staff will be attending the annual meeting of the International Academy of Biological Dentistry and Medicine.

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