First Do No Harm is an essential part of one of the oldest binding documents in history, The Hippocratic Oath. Attributed to Hippocrates, the father of medicine, its principles are still held sacred by doctors to this day and by the American Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics as an expression of ideal conduct for the physician. Yet some believe Western medicine and its procedures, as life saving as they are, do not always live up to this ideal standard.
Traditional medicine, in all fairness, is a continuum of experimentation. Is that not why we say doctors practice medicine? We humans learn by doing. Techniques we once thought beneficial for healing do indeed cause harm.
Just as once “heroic medicine,” where purgings, bleedings and high doses of toxic drugs, considered standard fare, is now known to be harmful, so mercury fillings and fluoride treatments once presumed to offer an inexpensive solution to common-day dental problems are recognized by some to cause harm.
Current research suggests a need for changing the face of dentistry. Santa Cruz dentist David Biles will speak on this new trend at a lecture Wednesday at Way of Life in Capitola.
In “The Dangers of Fluoride” author Michael Schachter M.D writes “according to the handbook, Clinical Toxicology of Commercial Products, fluoride is more poisonous than lead and just slightly less poisonous than arsenic. It is a cumulative poison that accumulates in bone over the years.”
Although still standard fare, more and more physicians are speaking out against the use of fluoride and mercury.
In 2003 the California Assembly voted 75 to 1 to direct Medi-Cal (Medicaid) to stop using mercury fillings in treating California’s low-income families. The California Dental Association (CDA) signed Proposition 65 warnings after settling the case filed by Shawn Khorrami, sending a clear message to every dentist in the state.
The warnings say: Amalgam causes exposure to mercury, a chemical known to the state of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm.
Consumer watchdog groups go further to warn that amalgam fillings leach mercury into our blood stream. They say that mercury fillings for youth are already banned in a host of first-world countries, including Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Austria, and that Japan and Switzerland’s dental schools have stopped teaching amalgam use as the primary source of treating dental caries.
For most of us, dentistry is an isolated event happening within our mouth. It takes a major shift to perceive our teeth and gums wholistically.
However a new form of dentistry is emerging taking just this wholistic view of the mouth as an extension of the digestive tract and located within a skull where teeth, nerves and organ functioning interweave a complex system of relationships.
AHHH… we have opened our minds as well as our mouths to a whole new paradigm. This emerging wholistic perspective is called natural dentistry.
Focusing on prevention and the use of non-toxic materials and approaches, natural dentistry has based its foundation on the same seven principles as natural medicine: First do no harm, treat the whole person, identify and treat the cause, establish health and wellness, that nature has healing powers, that the dentist is a teacher and prevention is the best cure.
However seeking a wholistic approach to dental care may not be so easy. Once exposed to this new paradigm, dentists who accept and embrace the wholistic approach are up against huge challenges. Most difficult is having to question many of the tenets taught during dental school.
No longer restoring teeth with mercury is just the tip of the tongue, so to speak. The safe removal of the mercury-laden fillings with the replacement of nontoxic materials, eliminating the routine use of fluoride and replacing it with nutritional protocols and investigating the routine surgery called root canal for infection creates a growing list of new attitudes and skills to master and incorporate into daily practice.
A dentist, who wishes to make changes faces hours of re-education of clients and staff training. Fortunately for the dentist there are professional organizations such as the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, the American Academy of Biological Dentistry, the Holistic Dental Association, the Environmental Dental Association and the Institute for Natural Dentistry where skeptical, but open-minded dentists are meeting to learn and share science, information and experiences regarding dentistry and its relationship to the whole human body.
As new information continues to unfold dentists are doing a significant amount of soul searching.
As standard now turned natural dentist David Biles explains “We need to ask ourselves: Do I remain silent and continue to practice as before, fitfully tossing every night in my sleep now knowing that I may be harming my patients, or do I press on and continue to evaluate the science, suppressed from review by mainstream dentistry? How do I tell my current patients what I have learned?”
Ultimately change may be in the hands (or the mouths) of the client not the dentist. As individuals reclaim their wellness and thus become more informed, an essential part of the wholistic paradigm, it may move all doctors towards growth, change and most of all to do no harm.