Nutrition’s Role in Taming Gum Disease

man looking in mirrorIf you’ve got gum disease – and most American adults do to one degree or another – dealing with it isn’t just a matter of brushing and flossing more.

Other factors contribute to the problem, too. While smoking is the number one risk factor, others identified by science include lack of sleep, chronic stress, bruxing (clenching or grinding, often during sleep), and, of course, diet.

And diet means a lot more than just avoiding sugars and foods made with refined grains and starches. It’s also about getting the nutrients your body needs to sustain healthy tissues.

A good reminder of this is a study published earlier this year in the Australian Dental Journal.

For it, researchers analyzed three years of data from NHANES, the ongoing study of health and nutrition in US populations. Specifically, they focused on data from adults age 30 or more who had received complete periodontal exams.

The authors found that not getting enough vitamins A, B1, C, and E, along with iron, folate, and phosphorous “was significantly associated with severity of periodontal disease.”

Results of the present study suggest that the above micronutrients may be increased in the diet or taken as dietary supplements in order to reduce severity of periodontal disease.

While supplements can be helpful, we recommend getting your nutrients through real, minimally processed food to get the total nutritional package. This typically means eating more fresh produce – mostly veg, some fruit – as well as legumes (beans, lentils, etc.), nuts, and some fish.

Let these foods take the place of refined carbs and you may find that those carbs start to lose some of their appeal.

Interestingly, some research suggests that dietary changes alone may be enough to reduce the inflammation that’s the hallmark of gum disease.

One study, published last year in BMC Oral Health, compared the periodontal effects of a low carb diet that was also rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins C and D, antioxidants, and fiber. Members of the experimental group followed this diet for 4 weeks while members of a control group ate as usual. All participants were given periodontal exams before and after the intervention period.

The authors found that those who ate the low carb diet had significant decreases in all inflammatory markers they measured – about half of what they were at the beginning of the study. The authors thus concluded that

The results of this pilot study showed that an oral health optimized diet can significantly reduce gingival and periodontal inflammation in a clinically important range without any changes in oral hygiene performance.

This isn’t to say that hygiene doesn’t matter. It does mean that diet matters, too. A lot.

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KTH Flashback: Cavitations & Their Impact on Overall Health

Originally posted December 7, 2016

By Gary M. Verigin, DDS, CTN

One of the main goals of true biological dental medicine is to reestablish the patient’s overall health by eliminating long-term obstacles. These include

  • Dental implants of any kind, metal or ceramic.
  • Root canal filled teeth.
  • Untreated devitalized (dead) teeth.
  • Restored teeth displaying chronic inflammation.
  • Restored teeth with heavy metals producing elevated galvanic currents.
  • Surgical scars in the soft tissues.
  • Cavitations.

The more obstacles that are harbored in the jawbones, the more bioenergetic impulses are disturbed. This just puts more stress on the extracellular matrix – the biological terrain, which guides all health and illness – and triggers health issues long before any chronic disease can be formally diagnosed.

jawbone osteonecrosisThis is especially evident when Chronic Ischemic Bone Disease (CIBD) is involved. Its effects are pernicious and insidious. And it comes in many forms, as outlined here by the world leader in researching diseases of the jawbone, Dr. Jerry Bouquot. (How important is Bouquot to dentistry? His textbook is used in more than 80% of US dental schools today.)

Yet CIBD isn’t really a disease in and of itself. It’s the result of many local, systemic, and energetic events or disorders that ultimately lead to decreased blood supply (ischemia) to and dying, decaying bone marrow (infarct) in the jaws.

It’s also not easy to diagnose. Consequently, it remains very undiagnosed by dentists. Many don’t even know much about it, even oral surgeons. And thanks to the Internet, there’s a lot of misinformation circulating about this oral barrier to systemic health.

This article is one attempt to correct the record.

The Scientific Proof of Jawbone Osteonecrosis (CIBD)

title page of Bond's Treatise on Dental SurgeryJawbone osteonecrosis was first discussed by Dr. Thomas Bond in his 1848 textbook A Practical Treatise on Dental Medicine – the very first English textbook on maxillofacial pathology. (“Maxillofacial” means pertaining to the jaws and face; “pathology” refers to the scientific study of disease.) In it, he observed that the disease didn’t seem to require abscessed teeth or gums to cause complete death of the marrow. The necrosis, he noted, “may be caused by any means which destroys the nutrition of the bone or any part of it” – usually from “constitutional vitiations, or defects of nutrition consequent upon general pravity.”

His recommended treatment? Remove the bone.

Other dental researchers remarked on the phenomena of jawbone death, as well, but it wasn’t until G.V. Black came along that anyone seems to have considered the subject at length. Known as the father of modern dentistry, Black included a whole section on the subject in his 1915 Work on Special Dental Pathology. He described the slow bone death as occurring “cell by cell,” resulting in the formation of holes in the jawbone – “cavities” of up to 5 centimeters in size. (This is the likely source of the popular term “cavitations” to describe CIBD.) He wondered about its unique ability to destroy so much bone without pus, redness, or swelling of the overlying tissues; without raising body temperature; often without even causing pain.

His treatment suggestion was similar to Bond’s: Curette the diseased bone.

Following Black, important work was done in the field by R. Paul Ficat and Jacques Arlet of the University of Paul Saboteur in Toulouse, France, as well as Dr. Robert Gorlin from Minneapolis and Dr. Jens Pindborg from Copenhagen, Denmark. All these men Dr. Bouquot considers important mentors and giants in the field of osteonecrosis.

The concept of cavitations is supported voluminously by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons in their 1997 textbook Osteonecrosis: Etiology, Diagnosis and Treatment.

Today, many biological dentists suggest that a kind of intellectual suicide permeates the dental profession because so many cavitations develop in conjunction with teeth treated with root canal therapy. Yet this is just only one possible cause of these disorders.

What Causes Cavitations?

If you’ve done much reading about cavitations, you’ve probably run across the claim that they’re caused by a failure to remove the periodontal ligament after surgically extracting a tooth.

Dentists who say this often lay the blame on oral surgeons who weren’t taught how to remove this bit of tissue that serves to hold the teeth in place. Some have even claimed that it’s “against the law” to remove the ligament. More than once, I’ve heard this even from lecturers at meetings of the various biological and holistic dental associations

Yet there is no single cause of cavitations. Every odontogenic disturbance field has a genesis of its own. They can be the main problem or a consequence of other disturbances in the body’s self-regulating functions. Here are just some of the factors that can contribute to CIBD:

  1. Severe infection in the jawbone, impairing the Basic Regulative System or Greater Defense System.
  2. Not removing enough of the diseased bone – including the periodontal ligament – during tooth extraction.
  3. Hereditary or acquired clotting disorders, including thrombophilia and hypofibrinolysis.
  4. Poor regulation of blood viscosity and clotting ability due to an impaired biological terrain.
  5. Antibiotic and corticosteroid use before and after tooth extraction or cavitation excavation.
  6. Excessive use of NSAIDs during the past 12 months.
  7. Bone routinely exposed to vasoconstrictors via dental anesthetics.
  8. Tobacco and nicotine use, which inhibits bone healing.
  9. More infection or trauma than in all the other bones combined.
  10. Osteoporosis.
  11. Areas of scarring, previous surgery or infection, bone gaps, and areas previously treated with radiation – all of which are likely to be deficient in bone-forming cells (osteoblasts).
  12. Insufficient growth factors to stimulate bone cells to grow and mature, forming healthy bone tissue.
  13. Unsterile “sterile” bone implants.
  14. The patient’s aging process.
  15. Radiation and chemotherapy.
  16. High levels of antiphospholipid antibodies. (These cause blood vessels to narrow and grow irregular, which in turn leads to thrombosis, or clotting in the vessels themselves.)
  17. The presence of heavy metals, such as mercury, silver, copper, and iron.
  18. Thyroid deficiency or deficiency of growth hormone.
  19. Nutritional status.
  20. Trauma from dental surgery.
  21. A history of really tough experiences – spiritual, mental, emotional, or physical – that the patient has not yet healed from, whose “legs are not back under their metabolism.”
  22. High anxiety and a tendency toward catastrophizing pain.

Only by drastically minimizing or eliminating all factors that led to the formation of the disturbance field can the cavitational lesion be successfully eliminated. Then it’s a win-win for patient and surgeon alike.

Just How Common Are Cavitations?

Some of the best data we have on the prevalence of CIBD comes from research by Drs. Thomas Levy and Hal Huggins.

They randomly selected 112 charts of patients, aged 18 to 83, who were undergoing total dental restoration revisions at the Huggins’ Diagnostic Center between 1991 and 1995. The research team surgically raised full thickness flaps at all old extraction sites in each patient, then explored each area with a small drill in a slow speed hand piece. Occasionally on some third molar (wisdom tooth) sites, they injected a small amount of contrast radio opaque medium before drilling to aid detection.

Here’s a summary of their most significant findings:

cavitations data

The researchers were adamant that unless these cavitational sites were thoroughly eradicated, renovated, and sanitized, patients suffering from neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s. ALS and Parkinson’s symptoms would not be able to feel the lessening or progression of symptoms.

Any improvement in symptoms was gladly accepted by their patients.

What Does a Cavitation Look Like?

open cavitationTo view a cavitation site, the dentist first exposes it, then uses a small, round drill in a slow speed hand piece to make a series of small test holes But before debriding the site – that is, surgically removing tissue – the dentist will collect a tissue sample, which typically includes bone speckles, blood, and any loose soft tissues, along with any oily-looking, serum-like fluid, and place it in a specimen vial for later testing.

Within the hole itself, you commonly see green, yellow-green, and sometimes dark, tarry material. You may see material that looks like thick, oily cottage cheese or blood-soaked sawdust or powdered grit or fatty globules or even chocolate ice cream.

Basically, what you’re looking at are focal pockets of gangrene – a necrosis caused by obstructions of the blood supply which may be localized or widespread. Bacterial metabolites and other waste products are generated in the decay process. Over the long haul, this interferes with the function of the autoregulatory system, which includes the organs of detoxification:

  • Immune system (thymus, lymphoid tissue).
  • Nervous system.
  • Mucosal surfaces.
  • Liver.
  • Extracellular matrix and Ground System.
  • Cellular respiration and antioxidant system.
  • Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.

We used to be able to send tissue samples to a lab at the University of Kentucky for evaluation. ALT Bioscience would produce a report on the toxicity of each sample, using a state-of-the-art photoaffinity labeling technology. It relied on a chosen combination of 6 ATP-binding enzymes that indicate the presence of toxic compounds by a decrease in their ability to interact with their respective nucleotides (the basic components of DNA). They also have one very important thing in common: Each is directly involved in the production of ATP.

The body’s ability to produce and maintain ATP levels is absolutely essential for life because every cellular process is driven either directly or indirectly by it.

When ALT Bioscience said they would no longer be offering the testing, we stopped doing cavitation surgeries. (We now refer them out.) There was no better way to verify the presence of toxicity in the tissues.

Today, DNA Connexions in Colorado Springs now provides a Full View Test that identifies bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites in tissue, removed teeth, implants, bone grafts, and other biological samples. It tests for 88 different pathogens, including tetanus, botulism, diphtheria, HPV 16 and HPV 18, Candida albicans and more.

The Challenge of Properly Diagnosing Cavitations

Osteonecrotic focal infections are very hard to diagnose properly. Where are these disturbance fields located in the jaws? Which teeth should be removed? Which extraction sites need to be renovated and sanitized? Which organs need to be treated before oral surgical intervention?

As individual work by Dr. Jerry Bouquot and Dr. Johann Lechner has highlighted, diagnosis by x-ray is impossible. MRI and CT scan are unreliable. Even a radioisotope bone scan is insufficient unless technetium-99m is used.

One diagnostic system once used by many biological dentists is the Cavitat – a computer-assisted alveolar ultrasound (TAU) instrument that identifies cavitational porosity in the jawbone. This was much better for diagnosis than any x-ray could be. However, its reliability depended on the porosity – a factor complicated by the tendency for heavy metals to deposit in areas of chronic inflammation. Those metals make porosity hard to pick up.

Perhaps because of such limitations, a good number of dentists turn to things such as Applied Kinesiology to locate odontogenic disturbance fields. However, this muscle testing has proven too coarse of an assessment for consistently reliable results.

Energetic assessments tend to be much more reliable measures of disturbance fields. The Bio-Functional Regulation Matrix Resonance Imaging developed by Fritz Kramer and Reinhold Voll is especially precise and the system I favor in my own practice.

Successfully Treating CIBD

While various homeopathic therapies in conjunction with nutritional therapies can help keep cavitational sites in check, surgery is the main intervention. An oral surgeon goes into the site to remove the diseased tissue and disinfect the bone.

Of course, if any of the factors that can contribute to CIBD are not addressed in advance, proper healing may not be successful. All impediments to healing should be removed before cavitational surgery.

It is most important to clear up all existing latent chronic inflammations, not because they might spread, but because they cause energy-consuming limitations with increased depletion of fibroblast which are the ‘mother cell’ for all cells of the matrix.

If multiple surgeries are needed, they should be spaced apart, time-wise, so the body won’t be overwhelmed by a series of surgical shocks. Otherwise, there’s risk of lasting blockage of Ground System regulation and a shock to more chronic, progressive forms of systems. The damaged immune cycle can no longer respond adequately to more stress.

If the patient is undergoing – or as gone through – any harsh allopathic therapy, their adrenal glands should be assessed to help buffer the effects of additional oral surgery.

It’s impossible to over-emphasize the importance of protective therapy before cavitational (or any) surgery. You want to lay the groundwork for healthy, uneventful healing. The matrix and all immune functions of the Greater Defense System need to be addressed. The body’s self-regulating abilities must be as robust as possible.

It’s a point that bears repeating: There can be no lasting healing without addressing the needs of the biological terrain.


We’ll be taking a break from blogging next week to enjoy the Independence Day holiday. Regular posting will resume the following week.

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KTH Flashback: Crumbling Teeth & the Need for a Comprehensive Biological Approach

Updated from the original, posted March 23, 2016

If dental nightmares are your thing, the news can feed you plenty.

First came “the horror dentist,” on trial for intentional violence and fraud. “Scores of people” have filed “complaints ranging from multiple healthy teeth removed, pieces of tools left in teeth, abscesses, recurrent infections and misshapen mouths between 2009 and 2013.”

Yikes!

Then came the tragic news of a 4 year old who suffered brain injury after being strapped to a papoose board and given a cocktail of sedatives over 7 hours for “a routine dental procedure.” The girl experienced multiple seizures. She can no longer speak or get up.

crumbling teethAnd then there was the “mysterious” case of the young woman whose teeth were crumbling away in her mouth. Some thought it could be an effect of her type 1 diabetes. Others begged to differ. Had it been made available to her, BTA would surely have helped clarify the situation. This type of test opens the door to physiology, which always leads to histopathology – the study of microscopic changes in tissues caused by disease. That’s the investigatory path of German Regulative (Biological) Medicine.

But crumbling teeth was only part of the horror. There was also this:

Dentists say the only treatment available to her on the NHS is to have all of her teeth extracted.

But she will still need to pay £20,000 for implants, as they are classed as cosmetic dentistry.

It’s not the price of the implants that’s so terrifying – though it is crazy-high. No, it’s the implants themselves.

Considering the amount of diseased tissue involved and the likely disorder in the extracellular matrix, implants would only add to the burden this young woman had to deal with – with their propensity to trigger an autoimmune response and confound the energetics of the meridian system. She also seemed to have quite a few amalgam fillings, so it would be surprising if she were not extremely mercury toxic, as well.

And “dentists” wanted to add yet another burden to an already stressed out system?

As Dr. V says,

If a regulatory deficiency is already present in a patient, then any dental operation (implants, e.g.) can be contraindicated. This is especially true for incorporating new dental substances – even fillings – because the individual can no longer compensate for additional burdening stimuli. As a result, functional regulatory disruptions may develop that can become disease-producing processes.

Yet the article acts as if implants are the only option for replacing teeth. They aren’t. Yet as previously noted, dentists continue to be urged to “educate” their patients until implants become not an option but “an assumption.”

This “rush to dental implants as a solution to the dental needs of today’s trusting patients,” says Dr. Ron Carlson, “is overstated, overused, ill advised, and very often much abused.” (Read more about the selling of implants.”)

Valplast partial dentureThough no one likes the idea of dentures, when many teeth need to be replaced, they remain the better option. They’re certainly more economical, and they can be made with lightweight, flexible, biocompatible materials. Modern materials properly constructed and fitted are nothing like the “Roebuckers” image you may have when you hear the word “dentures” – big, fake-looking, ill-fitting plates. Yes, they do involve special care – but so do implants.

But, still, what about her teeth? you might be wondering. What could make them crumble like that?

One possibility: amelogenesis imperfecta nephrocalcinosis syndrome – a rare disorder which causes teeth to be small, discolored, pitted or grooved, and prone to rapid wear and breakage. You can see pictures of it here and read a case report here.

Or it could be something else. A full biological evaluation is needed to know for sure – and point the way toward better solutions. When something like this is going on, replacing the teeth does everything for aesthetics but nothing to treat the underlying cause.

Mouth image via Help me smile again…;
partial image via Glidewell Laboratories

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Do We Really Need More Products?

oral care aisle

Last month, at a California Dental Association meeting in Anaheim, one presenting dentist lamented the fact that despite all the hygiene coaching and fluoride, too many patients were coming back with cavities.

“Give me something to treat this disease that’s better than something my patients can buy at a drugstore,” Dr. Novy told the crowd at his well-attended lecture.

But are yet more products really the answer?

Caries – tooth decay – is not a mysterious disease. A lack of essential nutrients and too much sugar and acid both impair the biological terrain and allow pathogens to thrive.

Weston Price showed decades ago that proper nutrition naturally lends itself to healthy teeth and fully formed dental arches, all without the aid of modern dentistry or high-tech oral hygiene. He also documented how the teeth suffered when traditional, nutrient-dense diets were displaced by white flour, white sugar, and other “advances” of modern Western civilization.

As one 2015 paper in the Journal of Dental Research put it,

Without sugars, the chain of causation is broken, so the disease does not occur (Sheiham 1967). So, it is clear that sugars start the process and set off a causal chain; the only crucial factor that determines the caries process in practice is sugars. The other factors [driving tooth decay] are additional factors that alter the primary effect of sugars, not alternative contributors (Sheiham 1987; Scheutz and Poulsen 1999)….

And by “sugars,” you can include all fermentable carbohydrates – foods that are broken down as sugar in the mouth, including white flour products and refined starches, as well as the sweet stuff you usually think of when you hear the word “sugar.”

Preventing decay – not to mention gum disease – by improving diet is a far better step than grasping for yet another product in hopes that it will prevent the damage that a hyper-processed diet can do.

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The Endangered Patient-Doctor Relationship

Congratulations to Marlisa Hartmann, who won the giveaway copy of Jaws: The Story of a Hidden Epidemic! And thank you to all who entered the drawing. We hope to offer others in the near future. Stay tuned for details. Meantime, on to this week’s post!


handshakeNew patients are often surprised at the time we take with them at their first visits – not just time spent focused on their specific oral-systemic health concerns but getting to know them as individuals. That communication is vital, as is the human-to-human relationship in general. Through decades of practice, we have come to understand that better outcomes happen when patients are treated and respected as individuals and partners in the healing process.

Suffice it to say, this is quite a difference at a time when more than half of all doctor visits last less than 16 minutes.

But wait! There’s more!

  • Time it takes a doctor to interrupt a patient: 15 seconds
  • Percent of the time “doctors ask patients if they’ve understood what’s just been discussed”: less than 2%

Perhaps worst of all, “the vast majority of patients sign consent forms they don’t understand,” despite their right to informed consent for any and every procedure.

The basic problem, as internist Dr. Andy Lazris notes in a recent podcast on how the doctor-patient relationship came to be so fractured, is that while the patient used to “own” their visit, now, insurance companies own it. This shift away from patient-centered care can have devastating results.

The whole podcast is worth a listen. Check it out:

Image by Aidan Jones, via Flickr

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KTH Flashback: “Holistic” and “Biological” Are NOT Interchangeable Terms

Originally posted June 21, 2017

Over the past decade or so, conventional dentistry has finally begun to appreciate the relationship between oral and systemic health. It’s a welcome change. Just the other day, we ran across an article on dentistry’s “paradigm shift.”

The dental field is experiencing a paradigm shift in which the mouth is no longer viewed as an independent entity, but intricately connected to the rest of the body. Thus, whilst poor oral health negatively impacts on appetite, nutrition, self-esteem and quality of life, it has additional consequences that can affect general health.

Of course, this shift is only partial, largely restricted to the well-documented links between gum disease and other inflammatory health conditions. Still, it raises an important question: If dentistry in general now accepts the fact that the teeth and mouth are always connected to a body, how is this so different from holistic or biological dentistry, as the two terms are commonly defined?

You may have noticed how those two terms are often used interchangeably. In fact, just minutes after we ran across the above article, we encountered this:

Holistic and biological dentists are basically interchangeable in their practice philosophies. The difference between a holistic and a traditional dentist stems mostly from a philosophical approach.

Actually, they aren’t. But more on this in a moment.

Holistic or biological dentists operate according to the belief system that teeth are an integral part of the body and the patient’s overall health, while recognizing that the oral and dental health can have a major influence on other disease processes in the body.

The good doctor does go on to acknowledge that “most, if not all, dentists believe this to be true and operate daily with the well-being of the patient in mind.” So how is holistic dentistry actually different?

The holistic or biologic dentist takes this treatment idea further and tries to resolve dental issues while working in harmony with the rest of the body.

Oh. Okay.

But that’s still not biological dentistry.

We’ve blogged before about what biological dentistry is and why it’s called that. We won’t rehash it. Rather, we’ll distill it to a single point: Biological dentistry is rooted in regulative medicine that is focused on dental barriers to optimal health.

Dental situations are viewed in the context of a person’s total toxic burden. The state of the patient’s biological terrain must be addressed. After all, the terrain – the extracellular matrix – is what guides the body’s self-regulating abilities.

This is a fundamental concept. A dental practice that neglects this cannot, in the strict sense, be considered biological. It may be holistic, concerned with body, mind, and spirit alike. It may be integrative, combining the best modern clinical practice with traditional healing wisdom.

But biological dentistry, by definition, rests on supporting the body’s self-regulating abilities so treatment of problem dental situations – mercury, root canals, cavitations – can be most effective.

One of the reasons focal infection theory fell out of favor was that, in the wake of Weston Price’s landmark research, dentists began taking out root canal teeth left and right, claiming it would cure systemic illnesses. After so many people experienced no improvement, the theory was blamed.

But what subsequent science has suggested is that just extracting the root canal teeth wasn’t enough; deeper physiological disturbances need to be addressed, as well.

There are many good dentists out there who describe their practice as “holistic” or “biological” who do very good work. They safely remove mercury fillings. They remove infected root canal teeth or clean out cavitations. They support detox. They have patients who sing their praises, who feel their lives have been restored thanks to them.

worried manBut we’ve lost count of the number of patients who have come to us after seeing other integrative dentists. They’ve had their mercury or root canals removed, yet remained burdened by difficult symptoms. No one had connected all the dots. Their underlying regulative issues remained unaddressed.

To just take out the mercury or root canals or treat cavitations while neglecting the terrain is not much better than treating the symptom rather than the cause.

To put it another way: If the terrain is healthy and the immune system robust, a person can generally handle those dental issues for a long time without seeing chronic, systemic illness develop. It’s when the terrain is disordered and polluted that dental burdens can do their greatest damage to a person’s health.

So first, you’ve got to address the terrain.

To learn more about regulative biological dentistry, explore Dr. V’s Biodental Library – particularly his articles in our quarterly newsletter Biosis, as well as those on our biological dentistry resource pages. There, he goes in depth on the concepts he wants his patients to understand so they can take charge of their health in a real, profound way, with lots of case histories to illustrate.

And if you have questions about how biological dentistry may help in your own health journey, please don’t hesitate to give us a call: 209-838-3522. We’d be pleased to talk with you.

Image by B Rosen, via Flickr

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Oh, the Humanity!

robot dentistWould you like to get your dental care from a robot?

If you said “no, thanks,” you’re in a narrow majority. According to a recent survey, 51% said they “were moderately or strongly opposed to robotic dentistry.”

Of course, it makes a difference what type of procedure is asked about. While most expressed little opposition to having a robot do a cleaning or teeth whitening – especially if the service was offered at a reduced rate – a majority also said “no” to invasive robotic procedures such as extractions or gum surgery.

Sure, some of this is fueled by anxiety about the way technology impacts our lives, for better and worse. But it also calls to mind the need and desire for human connection, particularly in healthcare. We want to be seen and heard and respected as people.

“It’s the relationship that heals”, says Dr. Irvin D. Yalom, Psychiatry professor at Stanford University…. A good relationship is based on care and the will to relieve patients’ suffering.

Where there is care, empathy, honesty, and clear communication, better patient outcomes tend to follow.

You have to wonder about the potential impact of robotics on that relationship. Even where the dental team is involved, technology can create a kind of psychic distance between them and the patient.

But the prospect of robotic dentistry also rests on the outdated notion that dentistry is more a matter of mechanics than supporting good overall health. In that view, the dentist is little more than a glorified mouth mechanic; a fixer, not a partner in health and healing. The mouth is overwhelmingly treated in isolation from the rest of the body, as though what is done in the mouth could not possibly affect any other part of body, mind, or spirit.

From the perspective of biological dentistry, nothing could be farther from the truth. The mouth is one part of a dynamic system, all guided by the health of the biological terrain or extracellular matrix/milieu.

Robots may be fine for any number of tasks, even within dentistry and medicine. But in our view, it shouldn’t be at the expense of the human. Our relationships and connections with each other matter.

Image via Day of the Robot

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