In 1998, having learned that amalgam fillings were highly toxic, I went to a conventional dentist and had him remove them and replace them with white porcelain fillings. He couldn’t fit a dental dam in my mouth and so he abandoned that idea. He used no specialized equipment, and drilled many metal fillings out of my mouth, potentially exposing both me and him to hazardous gases and metal fragments. I then needed two root canals in a matter of several years after that.
In 2012, I went to a biological dentist for the first time, having learned that they offer options to toxic dental practices like amalgam fillings and root canals. He told me that my two root canals had “failed,” and that I needed to extract both teeth and have zirconia implants replace them. I underwent a 5 ½ hour surgery with my mouth propped open wide. When I woke up, with TMJ pain that I’d never had before, I was handed a bill for nearly $20,000 for 17 procedures I didn’t know I had signed up for. Including re-replacing my fillings a third time that I’d had redone many years earlier.
This was the beginning of a long saga in which I learned a great deal about dental practices, and the wide disparity in the way various “biological dentists” think and practice.
I learned, from interviewing many dentists, that:
- There is no widely accepted definition of what a “biological dentist” is.
- The field is new enough that techniques are evolving and not as “time tested” as a patient might like.
I bought a bunch of books by doctors, dentists, and attorneys on the thorny subject of conventional versus “biological” dentistry. I blogged on GreenSmoothieGirl.com about my dental saga and my evolving education, but quit talking about it publicly when the problems I was experiencing became so personally devastating that I needed to deal with it privately rather than publicly.
I discovered many things I wish I had known earlier. I had simply taken my dentist’s word for it. Failed root canals, teeth drilled on too many times, questionable implants – these are just some of the ways we can (and I have) “gone wrong” due to ignorance. The frustrating thing is, I read several books and many online reports and thought I knew more than I did. I am quite certain I read more than 99 percent of my fellow patients do. And still—I was grossly under informed.
If I’ve learned one thing, it’s to study the issue to the bottom before spending thousands of dollars, risking my dental health, and undertaking procedures there may be alternatives for.
The fact is, in my miserable, 3-year saga that totaled well over $30,000 in dental bills (out of pocket, since I am a self-payer), I was paying the piper for the massive amounts of sugar I ate in my first 30+ years of life. Americans want movie-star teeth while eating more sugar than any pancreas, or any mouthful of teeth were ever meant to handle. Perhaps we cannot, as the old saying goes, eat our cake and have it, too.
However, as discouraging as that may sound, information is empowerment, and I believe you can start at a very high place of enlightenment if you are armed with a great overview of the body of knowledge in dental health.
While compromises may need to be made, and no solution is necessarily perfect, you should know the pros and cons of your choices, and preferably well before you face those choices.
I have now been the patient of several biological dentists. I have been friends with Dr. Michelle Jorgensen for several years and had watched her consume volumes of information, studying alternatives to the techniques she was taught in dental school and had practiced for many years. She had a propensity towards a holistic approach to health, as she had followed GreenSmoothieGirl.com, and my 12 Steps to Whole Foods course, for years. She has a spectacular garden and feeds her family whole plant foods in a committed way I have rarely seen.
She truly “walks the talk.” And she was voraciously studying all the controversies in dentistry, wanting to do right for her patients. Early in her career, she started to experience health problems that she now feels were related to the heavy metals and chemical exposure in her work because they are the classic symptoms of heavy metal poisoning. This, and a desire to help her patients led her to a commitment to providing her patients information and alternatives.
When I felt Dr. Jorgensen had made a significant shift, I signed my family on as her patients. I have been consistently impressed with her quality of care and her ongoing open mindedness and quest for knowledge on the many controversies in dentistry. I’m also impressed with the quality of care and outcomes we have received.
She is also willing to tell us where she doesn’t know the answer, because “the jury is still out” on some issues in biological dentistry. While it may be frustrating that some issues are still unknowns, I am skeptical of some of the “experts” writing on this topic who have ardent, committed stands on issues that the field has insufficient longitudinal data on, or conflicted data. I appreciate her humility in presenting her synthesis of the methods and data but allowing that some people will choose traditional methods. To me, this is part of being a responsible practitioner.
Our conversations about the dental stories from GreenSmoothieGirl readers, and Dr. Jorgensen’s patients led her to want to educate people as quickly and effectively as possible. Few seem to want to read the fat books on dentistry that we both have read! I hope you enjoy the information she shares, and that you are enlightened and empowered by more knowledge about your options.
Robyn Openshaw, Green Smoothie Girl