Cutting-Edge Dentistry that Honors the Whole Body: Local holistic dentists offer more than bright smiles
Dec 26, 2013 11:28AM
By Linda Sechrist
While a growing number of dentists have only recently been attracted to the specialty of biological or holistic dentistry, there is a treasured group of veterans that are longtime practitioners of cutting-edge dentistry that takes into consideration the whole body, rather than just the teeth. Fiercely passionate and dedicated, holistic dentists are among the most thoughtful and committed individuals changing the world of dentistry and educating their patients to understand that health and wellness are about more than the sum of someone’s parts or symptoms.
Holistic dentists in the Chicago area offer their patients much more than cushy reclining chairs, relaxing music and wall-mounted televisions to watch. They empower their patients with education about the importance of a healthy mouth and mounting evidence, such as a clinical study cited in a journal published by the American Academy of Periodontology, that supports the link between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease, diabetes, pre-term births and miscarriages. Eager to play an active, rather than passive, role in their dental care, a new generation of patients is moving beyond the myopic, “Look Mom, no cavities,” model to embrace a far more holistic oral/body paradigm.
Because much of the industry’s training is still steeped in the status quo of the traditional model, dentists generally must begin their own investigation into the holistic model by doing research in scientifically sound complementary therapies, as well as biological dentistry protocols. Thanks to the efforts of dentists such as Huntley-based Dr. Phillip P. Sukel, DDS (MidwestDentistry.com) and the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT), some aspects of traditional dentistry are being updated internationally with the help of the IAOMT’s Position Paper Against Dental Mercury Amalgam.
Co-authored by Sukel and other dental and medical professionals, along with scientists that served on an IAOMT committee, the results are now part of a United Nations Environment Programme Treaty, signed by more than 140 nations.
Sukel, who has been on the leading edge of dentistry for many years, is widely recognized for developing the very first protocols for protecting patient, dentist and staff from the toxic mercury when removing and replacing mercury amalgam fillings. His original protocols are still used by concerned dentists, that along with medical professionals and patients, can turn to the IAOMT to understand the risks involved with mercury in dental mercury amalgam fillings, as well as the standards of scientific biocompatibility in dental practice.
“We were taught in dental school that the mercury was inactivated when combined with the powdered additives,” says Dr. Patricia Gilleran, DDS (ChoicesInDentistry.com), who practices integrative dentistry in her downtown Chicago office. In her mercury-free dental practice, she uses the materials that come up as most routinely compatible on the majority of biologic compatibility tests. “I define myself as integrative because I’m open to understanding what biological, holistic and traditional dentists do. I bring to my practice of 28 years whatever aspects make the most sense and benefit my patients, whether its an understanding of supplements that will help with periodontal health and systemic diseases or any new information on how dental health contributes to overall health,” she explains.
Dr. Bernice Teplitsky, DDS (WrigleyvilleDental.com), who has been in the dental field since she was a 16-year-old dental assistant in the suburbs of Chicago, compares biocompatibility testing to food allergy testing. “Bodies can react differently to the same material. And symptoms from a dental material that can harm a body may not show up until years after it was placed. That’s why it’s in the patient’s best interest to have their materials customized,” she says. Focused on preventive care and stopping future long-term problems before they develop, she uses diet and nutritional counseling to improve oral health. Teplitsky’s concept of dental health is a two-way street, which is why she uses fun ways of communicating educational information to patients with her blog, newsletter, lectures and hosted events. “I noticed that people who know how to take care of their teeth tend to be healthier overall,” notes Teplitsky.
Dr. Alla Aver, DDS (GlenviewSmiles.com) says that alternative medicine is a way of life, noting, “I have always followed a more natural lifestyle; it is something I am deeply passionate about.” Biological dentistry was a logical choice for Aver when she opened her own practice. “Do no harm,” is the principle she bases her practice on. “I am constantly educating myself to understand what the best non-toxic and less invasive options are that allow the body to heal naturally,” she says.
Ozone dentistry is an example of this option. Not many dentists offer this modality; however, Aver recognized the remarkable benefits of this treatment. Ozone promotes healing without any toxic by-products and is very successful in preventing sensitivity with deep fillings, treating early stage cavities and healing gum abscess without surgery and antibiotics.
Homeopathy is very successful in dentistry and is used by Aver as a first line of treatment for patients with anxiety, pain and discomfort. “Homeopathic medicine triggers the body’s natural, self-healing abilities, without the side effects or the dangers of overdose, toxicity or drug interaction, which many patients are looking for,” says Aver.
Dr. Andie Pearson, DMD, RCST (HolisticDentalChicago.com), offers an example of why the details of her patient’s lives are so important to her and other holistic dentists. “I had a patient who told me that another dentist recommended gum surgery. Several minutes of conversation about her daily life and medical history told me that she had other things going on which needed to be addressed first. I recommended that the woman should brush her teeth with a tincture of myrrh and referred her out to an acupuncturist to balance her endocrine system,” advises Pearson, who notes that she often counsels pre-diabetic individuals because she can see visible symptoms in the gums. “Symptoms are how our body tells us what is wrong,” she says.
Continuing education is a regular occurrence for holistic dentists. Chicago dentist Dr. Taf G. Paulson, DDS (ChicagoHolisticDentistry.com), who was holistically focused even before she attended Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and her team take up to 120 hours every year to keep abreast of the latest research in dentistry. She has practiced homeopathy for 20 years and combines it with the appropriate aromatherapy, such as lavender for calming and peppermint for energizing patients after an anesthetic. “For the comfort of my patients, I use the least invasive tools and modalities as possible. That includes aromatherapy, nutritional counseling and recommending vitamins and supplements, as well as microscopic exams to diagnose gum disease and VELscope exams to detect oropharyngeal cancer transmitted by human papillomavirus (HPV).” HPV can cause cancers in the back of the throat, most commonly in the base of the tongue and tonsils.
Spending time with a patient to review not only their dental history, but also their medical and personal histories, as well as the details of their lifestyle is what Paulson believes largely separates holistic dentists from their traditional counterparts. “I like to get to know and understand my patients because it makes a difference in how I approach and individualize their dental health,” says Paulson, who introduced her dental professors to the serious dental affects of bulimia nervosa, a serious eating disorder.
To achieve healthy gums, a better bite and an improved smile, holistic dentists have a well-stocked toolbox that includes more than general, restorative and cosmetic dental care. For example, they use a microscope to diagnose a proliferation of bad bacteria in the mouth and ozone therapy to fight it, as well as bone loss. Ozone therapy not only eliminates bacteria and reduces the pockets around the teeth, it also can eliminate tooth sensitivity, the need for gum surgery and occasionally the need for drilling and filling. The ability to address sleep problems and make oral devices for individuals suffering from sleep apnea is another tool.
For better overall health, we can all be part of an important grassroots movement by seeking out a veteran holistic dentist and by simply demanding that natural dentistry be made more available.
• Dr. Phillip P. Sukel, DDS, Midwest Integrative Dentistry, 11952 Oak Creek Pkwy., Huntley. 847-659-8500. MidwestDentistry.com.
• Dr. Patricia Gilleran, DDS, Choices in Dentistry, 25 E. Washington St., Ste. 1101, Chicago. 312-368-8771. ChoicesInDentistry.com.
• Dr. Bernice Teplitsky, DDS, Wrigleyville Dental, 1353 W. Cornelia, Chicago. 773-975-6666, WrigleyvilleDental.com.
• Dr. Alla Aver, DDS, A Center For Dental Healing, 1200 Waukegan Rd., Glenview. 847-998-5100. GlenviewSmiles.com.
• Dr. Andie Pearson, DMD, RCST, Gaiamed Dental, 929 Ridge Rd., Wilmette. 847-977-1655. HolisticDentalChicago.com.
• Dr. Taf G. Paulson, DDS, Chicago Holistic Dentistry, 233 E. Erie St., Chicago. 312-944-7744. ChicagoHolisticDentistry.com.
• Dr. Yvette Collins, DDS, The Absolute Smile, 122 S. Michigan Ave., Ste. 1212, Chicago. 312-335-1441. TheAbsoluteSmile.com.
• OraDental, Four offices in Chicago. OraDentalStudio.com.
• Dr. Kevin Boehm, DDS, Offices in Hoffman Estates (847-884-1220) and Lisle (630-810-1280). KBoehmDds.com.
• Marianne Schaefer, DDS, Healthful Alternatives, 4801 W. Peterson Ave., Chicago. 773-777-8300. The-ToothFairy.com.