KTH Flashback: Resigned to a Lifetime of Tooth Decay?

Originally posted February 17, 2016

plush tooth with cavity
Like other chronic diseases, dental caries – tooth decay – is largely preventable. With that in mind, read it and weep:

Over 40% of more than 1,000 U.S. adults surveyed believe they have little or no control over whether they get a cavity, according to a new Children’s Dental Health Project (CDHP) survey released February 4.

In fact, only 57% of respondents even believe they have “significant control” over getting a cavity.

Why so much helplessness?

Sure, lack of “education” may have something to do with it. But you have to wonder some about the role of orthodox dentistry’s emphasis on stop-gap measures such as fluoride and sealants. Such things do nothing to address the root cause of caries. They’re attempts to minimize the damage of poor diet and home hygiene. They’re distractions. As Sheiham and James put it in their 2015 paper, published in the Journal of Dental Research,

The importance of sugars as a cause of caries is underemphasized and not prominent in preventive strategies. This is despite overwhelming evidence of its unique role in causing a worldwide caries epidemic. Why this neglect? One reason is that researchers mistakenly consider caries to be a multifactorial disease; they also concentrate mainly on mitigating factors, particularly fluoride. However, this is to misunderstand that the only cause of caries is dietary sugars. These provide a substrate for cariogenic oral bacteria to flourish and to generate enamel-demineralizing acids. Modifying factors such as fluoride and dental hygiene would not be needed if we tackled the single cause — sugars.

Of course, that’s exactly what Dr. Weston Price demonstrated many decades ago. Rampant caries, crooked teeth, and other dental disorders arise with the decline of traditional diets and the introduction of refined sugar and white flour. Modern archaeological findings bear this out, as well.

And it’s not just that sugar and white flour feed the microbes that cause decay or interfere with the absorption of calcium and magnesium, two critical nutrients for dental health. They also tend to displace the kinds of nutrient-dense foods our bodies use to fight decay on their own.

Greater attention to diet, nutrition, and other lifestyle factors that affect oral health could do more for people’s teeth than fluoride could ever accomplish.

You also have to wonder if some of the resignation to decay stems from the failures of the stop-gap measures. Even with fluoridated water and toothpaste the norm, caries remains the number one infectious disease among American children. Almost every adult will experience tooth decay at some point in their lives.

They use fluoride. They rely on sealants. They still get cavities. They do what their told, and their problems persist.

In such a dynamic, it’s easy to learn to feel helpless, to think of decay as not much more than a matter of luck.

It helps, of course, that we live in a society that tends to see dentistry – like medicine – as something that’s done to us. We’re not used to taking responsibility for our own health. If something goes wrong, we expect the doctor to fix it, even if that just means fixing damage or quelling symptoms without ever really treating their cause. We accept our passivity. We buy the lie that health is something created from the outside, not something generated from within.

But we can – and, we believe, should – take responsibility. We are each the author of our own health and well-being. We owe it to ourselves to accept that role.

We’re certainly not helpless. We may need help to get going in the right direction – to get the right nutritional information, to get guidance on supplements and remedies that may help our bodies return to health, to deal with any dental situations that may be interfering with the process.

A doctor can teach, guide, provide. But your body – a self-regulating organism – does the real work of creating and sustaining real health.

You CAN do it.

Image by Mandy Jouan, via Flickr

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“A Root Canal Is a Fatally Flawed Procedure”

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When Tooth Decay Happens Despite Fluoride

sculpture of teeth with cavitiesConsidering that fluoride is in nearly all common toothpastes and most of the water we drink, you’d think tooth decay would be just a distant memory by now.

But no.

Nearly 20% of kids and over 30% of adults have untreated dental caries. And according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, nearly all adults age 64 or younger have had decay in their permanent teeth.

Of course, you could argue that this doesn’t suggest a failure of fluoride so much as the fact that we eat so many added sugars and fermentable carbs these days, even the fluoride we get isn’t enough to undo the damage (even as it raises the rate of dental fluorosis).

But then you have research like the 2016 Journal of Dental Research study on caries and sugar consumption. Although more sugar meant more cavities, even kids in the low consumption group were affected “despite the use of fluoride.”

Similarly, a study published earlier this summer in the same journal found that young children developed caries whether they got fluoride or not. At best, noted the researchers, fluoride “slowed down its progression.”

How slow? The caries rate was just 5% higher in the non-fluoride group (34 vs. 39%), and about 2 1/2 more tooth surfaces were affected (7.2 vs. 9.6).

Now a new study echoes these findings.

For this study, published in Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, researchers designed a triple-blind randomized control trial involving 275 caries-free children, ages 2 to 3. All came from low income areas of Chile where there was no water fluoridation. All received dental education and were given toothbrushes and toothpaste. Every 6 months for four years, participants randomly received fluoride varnish treatments or placebo.

As in the previous study, large numbers of the children developed caries: 55.6% in the placebo group, 45% in the fluoride group.

In conclusion, biannual fluoride varnish application is not effective in preschool children from rural nonfluoridated communities at a high risk of caries.

This is the best we’ve got?

We’ve said it before and we’ll keep on saying it: The best defense is a excellent home hygiene and a healthy biological terrain, the foundation of which is healthy eating – whole foods-based, low in processed carbs, and practically devoid of added sugars.

Image modified from Marty Ito, via Flickr

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The Causes of Illness & Degenerative Diseases, Part 2: Some Basic Principles of Biological Regulation

By Gary M. Verigin, DDS, CTN

The term homeostasis was first defined in 1932 by Walter Bradford Cannon. He created it by bringing together two Greek terms: homoios, which means “the same,” “like,” or “resembling,” and stasis, which means “standing,” “position,” or “posture.” Homeostasis, then, literally means “to remain in the same condition,” as close as possible to a steady state of the system.

Cannon’s book The Wisdom of the Body describes how the human body maintains steady levels of temperature and other vital conditions such as the water, salt, sugar, protein, fat, calcium, and oxygen contents of the blood. Similar processes dynamically maintain steady-state conditions in the Earth’s environment.

Homeostasis is the condition your body constantly strives to maintain.

You Are, in Fact, a Cyborg: The Human Body as a Cybernetic System

The human body is an extremely complex, unified, dynamic, homeostatic – or goal-seeking – system.

“Homeostatic ideas,” writes Kelvin Rodolfo, Emeritus Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Chicago, “are shared by the science of cybernetics (from the Greek for ‘steersman’),”

defined in 1948 by the mathematician Norbert Wiener as “the entire field of control and communication theory, whether in the machine or in the animal.” Cybernetic systems can “remember” disturbances and thus are used in computer science to store and transmit information. Negative feedback is a central homeostatic and cybernetic concept, referring to how an organism or system automatically opposes any change imposed upon it.

So although these days we tend to think of cybernetics in terms of computers and technology, the human body is itself a cybernetic system. It receives input and responds to it. The response delivers more input, which in turn brings about different responses. It’s an endless feedback loop, all with one goal: maintain homeostasis.

feedback loopLet’s consider just one aspect of homeostasis: temperature regulation. On a very hot day, your body responds to that input – heat – by dilating your blood vessels so more blood flows near the skin’s surface where it can release heat. You also sweat to cool the skin. These processes help keep your internal body temperature at a steady level.

And as it begins to cool off, your body responds accordingly to that new input.

This is cybernetics in action. And it applies to all bodily regulation – not just temperature control, but blood sugar regulation, heart action, hormone release, and so on.

All this is coordinated through the brain, which can be viewed as a complex communication center, computer, and control system – a very complex system. In fact, it’s often been said that there are as many neurons in the human brain as stars in the Milky Way.

For a long time, neuroscientists would say that there are about 100 billion neurons in the human brain. Interestingly, no one has ever published a peer-reviewed scientific paper supporting that count. Rather it’s been informally interpolated from other measurements. A recent study from 2009 published by Azevedo and colleagues took a crack at a more precise estimate. Their answer?

Approximately 86 billion neurons in the human brain. The latest estimates for the number of stars in the Milky Way is somewhere between 200 and 400 billion. So close, but the human brain certainly doesn’t quite stack up!

Still, that’s a lot of neurons, and each is consistently interacting with millions of other cells in the body. That is the potential for 100 trillion interactions, a number 1000 times greater than all the stars in the Milky Way!

neural networkWhat’s really remarkable is the fact that your brain keeps all these bodily systems working together as a synchronized unit to create a smooth running system and maintain a steady homeostatic state. Properly maintained, this steady state can last for a human lifetime.

But life is dynamic, defined by continual change. Your body is sensitive to the smallest stimuli. To live is to be in constant interaction with your surrounding environment.

As Dr. Rodolfo suggests in his article on homeostasis, this dynamic is like driving a car, where we consider the “car and its driver as a unified…, ‘goal-seeking’ system – a cyborg or ‘cybernetic organism.’” It’s goal? Drive a road from point A to point B.

The driver does not steer by holding the wheel in a fixed position but keeps turning the wheel slightly to the left and right, seeking the wheel positions that will bring the naturally meandering car back on track. Disturbance, or departure from equilibrium, is every bit as important as negative feedback: Systems cannot correct themselves if they do not stray.

Oscillation is a common and necessary behavior of many systems. If the car skids, the driver automatically responds by quickly steering in the opposite direction. Such abrupt negative feedback, however, usually over-corrects, causing the car to move toward the other side of the road. A negative feedback, if it is as large as the disturbance that triggered it, may become an impressed change in the direction opposite to that of the original disturbance. The car and driver recovers from the skid by weaving from side to side, swerving a little less each time. In other words, each feedback is less than the last departure from the goal, so the oscillations ‘damp out.’ Negative feedback takes time and such a time lag is an essential feature of many natural systems. This may set the system to oscillating above and below the equilibrium level.

The human body and the environment form an extremely complex interacting unit that is always changing, influenced by any subtle stimuli in the environment. Even in nano concentrations, they have an immediate effect on the extracellular matrix (biological terrain), amplifying or inhibiting reactions through tiny dosages of cytokines and other steering mediators unleashed by the immune system.

The human body is continuously trying to correct these deviations to regain its steady and harmonious state. To do so, the bioregulatory system of the body directs, corrects, or manages most bodily processes using subtle quantities of mediators or oscillations which are directed by the extracellular matrix.

As we’ve noted before, this understanding originates in the work of Claude Bernard, who theorized that maintaining stability in the internal environment (milieu interieur) is a prerequisite for the development of a complex nervous system. His research on multiple dynamic equilibrium is the basic principle behind homeostasis.

Considered one of the fathers of physiology, Bernard was so famous into the early 20th century that be became identified in the public mind as the archetypal scientist, much like Einstein is considered today.

Challenges to the Steady State

Each of us is continuously being influenced by both the environment around us, as well as the microenvironment within. The goal is to remain in a steady state – the state of health.

chemicalsAnd these days, it faces more challenges than ever. According to the Environmental Working Group, there more more than 7 million chemicals in existence. About 80,000 of these are in common use around the world. They have brought enormous benefits – swelling harvests, beating back previously unconquerable diseases, producing a host of consumer goods we now think of as necessities – but at quite a cost.

Tests for a hundred particularly hazardous substances have revealed that – on average – we each harbour 27 of them in our blood, though the chemical cocktail varies from person to person. Children have been found to be more contaminated than their parents or grandparents, while mothers pass on the poisons to babies in the womb. Researchers have found potentially dangerous chemicals in every one of 14 basic foodstuffs they took from supermarket shelves, and in the air of every home they visited.

Findings like these spurred 200 eminent scientists from five continents some years ago to issue a joint warning that exposure to common chemicals skewed the development of critical organs in foetuses and newborns, increasing their chances of developing diabetes, cancer, attention deficit disorders, thyroid damage, diminished fertility, and other conditions in later life.

The Standing Committee of European Doctors – which brings together the continent’s top physicians’ bodies, including the BMA – has added: “Chemical pollution represents a serious threat to children, and to Man’s survival.” And the usually cautious US President’s Cancer Panel has reported that synthetic chemicals can cause “grievous harm” and that the number of cancers for which they are responsible had been “grossly underestimated”.

In yet another warning, researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and the University of Southern Denmark predicted a “silent pandemic” of brain conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy and attention deficit disorders, identifying 202 substances known to poison the brain as “the tip of a very large iceberg”.

Your body responds to every exposure – not just to chemicals but toxins of all kinds, synthetic and organic – even miniscule amounts that public officials often say pose no risk to human health. But many accumulate over time, and they interact in ways we’re only just beginning to understand, as researchers look at the cumulative effects of the chemical cocktail we’re exposed to daily.

This can – and does – have profound implications on your body’s self-regulating abilities. And that is a matter we will pick up with next time in the final installment of this series.

Neural network image by Else If Then, via Wikimedia Commons

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A Tale of Two Surveys, or Dentistry’s Role in Healthcare

physicianOnce upon a time – earlier this year, to be exact – a Pew survey suggested that for all the problems with American healthcare these days, people just lurve their physicians.

According to the survey, almost 90% of those who saw a doctor in the past year felt their provider “really cared about their health and well-being.” Nearly all thought they received all the info they needed from them.

At the same time, about half of adults think kids today are less healthy than a generation ago, and roughly 42% think adults’ health is worse, too.

No, we’re not sure either how those two things jibe. (The latter, though, does jibe with previous findings.)

Meantime, a recent survey from a consulting firm found that people aren’t really all that fond of their dentists – at least if you measure that in terms of whether they would recommend doing business with their current dental provider.

The study found that overall, the typical dental provider earned an NPS of 1. To put this into perspective, other industry NPS averages are 36 for insurance, 39 for financial services, and 46 for retail.

That’s pretty bad.

Yet when you think about how dentistry is still often practiced today, it kind of makes sense. Despite the ever clearer relationships between oral and systemic health, dentists just aren’t seen as healthcare providers. Most of the time, they’re viewed more as mouth mechanics – someone you see when something goes wrong, hardly a player in your quest for good health.

Because of this, there can also be suspicion – sometimes with good cause – that the dentist is trying to upsell them treatments or recommending procedures they may not really need. After all, if a dentist is just there to fix problems, its profitable to find more problems to fix or more expensive ways of fixing them.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. And, happily, more dentists are beginning to see themselves as more than fixers but true partners in health. More are also beginning to really appreciate the relationships between oral and systemic health. They may not necessarily be practicing biological dental medicine, but it’s a start.

One of the things we pride ourselves on is the relationships we build with our clients. It’s important for us to get to know them as individuals – to be able to provide the customized care they need and deserve. We view them as partners in the process, as they are ultimately the authors of their own health and well-being. We give information; they learn; they choose which path to take to achieve their goals in a way that aligns with their needs, values, and beliefs.

Only then comes treatment. And just as much as we give information, we give time.

That’s why, apparently unlike the people who answered the second survey, our patients do refer friends and family to us consistently.

We’re proud to be an outlier.

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Stat!: “The Culture That We’re Steeped In”

prescription drugs

  • Percent of Americans who regularly take prescription drugs: 55
  • Average number of drugs each takes: 4
  • Fraction of age 55+ adults who take more than 5 drugs: 1/3
  • Percent of age 55+ adults taking more than 10: 9
  • Number of Americans who went to the ER for adverse drug effects: 1.3 million
  • Number of those who died: 124,000
  • Total prescriptions filled in the US in 1997: 2,416,064,220
  • Total prescriptions filled in 2016: 4,468,929,929
  • Percent increase in prescriptions over those two decades: 85
  • Percent increase in the US population during that time: 21
  • Amount spent each year on unnecessary drugs and related costs: $200 billion

Many Americans—and their physicians—have come to think that every symptom, every hint of disease requires a drug, says Vinay Prasad, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Oregon Health & Science University. “The question is, where did people get that idea? They didn’t invent it,” he says. “They were spoon-fed that notion by the culture that we’re steeped in.”

Source: Consumer Reports

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It’s the Environment, Not the “Germ”

heliobacterLong ago and far away…well, back in the mid-19th century, scientists like Claude Bernard and Antoine Bechamp first challenged Pasteur’s “germ theory” of disease. But while Pasteur may have been declared winner of that battle, science continues to vindicate Bernard, Bechamp, and the many other scientists who followed their research path.

For instance, consider the new study in Science Immunology, which looked into immune responses to Heliobacter – a familiar pathogen, strongly associated with ulcers, chronic gastritis, stomach cancer, and other gut issues. As MedicalXpress recently reported,

As part of their study, the researchers looked at what happened to mice when samples of the bacteria were introduced into their guts under differing conditions. They found that introducing it into healthy mice raised in a nearly germ-free environment resulted in an immune response generally associated with tolerance. Prior research has suggested that such a response is the body’s way of signaling the acceptance of a bacteria into the gut because it poses no threat. But when the same type of bacteria was introduced to the gut of a mouse that had colitis, it induced an immune threat response by causing already occurring gut inflammation to become worse. In the second scenario, the immune system clearly saw the bacteria as a harmful invader that needed to be stopped.

The results of these experiments, the researchers claim, suggests that at least one kind of bacteria may be seen as either harmless or harmful depending on the state of the environment it encounters. That suggests the likelihood that the same is true for other bacteria. [emphasis added]

As Bernard wrote more than a century ago: The microbe is nothing, the terrain is everything.

And for more on the history of the microbe vs. environment battle battle, see Dr. V’s article “True Healing Can ONLY Begin with Improving the State of the Terrain.”

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