I picked up a free issue of “Yoga Living” the other day, hoping to find out what new kinds of pseudoscience and woo lived inside the minds of the yogis. I found of course, many ads for stress healers, reiki therapists, and yoga studios.
But I also found a surprising number of ads for holistic dentistry. If you’re familiar with alternative medicine, you might be able to guess that it’s just an amalgam of various other altmed beliefs: homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, heavy metal toxicity, dietary counseling, and even chiropractic. Stephen Barrett gives a thorough walkthrough of various holistic dentistry practices at his excellent site, Quackwatch.
First and foremost, it’s difficult to imagine someone who truly believes in holistic dentistry. We’re not talking about using acupuncture to relieve headaches or chiropractic to eliminate joint pain. We’re talking about late nineteenth-century physicians who believed that the mouth and the teeth inside of it are intimately affected by the other parts of your body and mind. Bad energy gives you gum disease. And vice versa. Tooth decay is moral decay.
Your body is a temple. And the mouth is where everything enters your sacred being.
Holistic dentistry has been updated to include claims of mercury toxicity due to dental fillings and amalgams. But more mercury enters your body by way of food than by way of dentistry. And as with any poison, it’s the dosage that counts.
But perhaps more people have come to believe in holistic dentistry because the Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) movement has slowly infiltrated the ranks of real science and medicine. No doubt that some of this may be due to their PR, which is especially remarkable when it comes to the abuse of scientific-sounding words. “The American Academy of Biological Dentistry,” for example, recently changed their name to “International Academy of Biological Dentistry and Medicine.”
The coinage of the term “biological dentistry” seems to imply that regular dentists don’t take biology into consideration, while holistic dentists do. This is just false. Their website claims, “a biological approach is holistic, a blend of clinical practice, sound scientific knowledge and the traditions of natural healing.” The biology part of that sentence is ‘clinical practice’ and ‘sound scientific knowledge.’ Regular dentists already use this to treat their patients!
But when they add the word “medicine” to the end of their name, they are also implying that diseases of the mouth and gums cannot be cured without curing everything else that is wrong with the body. They write:
A dental physician subscribes to the goals of relieving the body of burdens such as infections, toxic chemicals and metals, electromagnetic disturbances and radiation, food allergens and nutritional deficiencies, biomechanical imbalances, and psycho-emotional distress and dysfunction, in order to restore natural biological function, mind-body vitality, and the ability to self-regulate and maintain homeostasis.
Emphasis mine. They are claiming that dentists will also become infectious disease doctors, physical therapists, and psychiatrists for their patients. They will likely employ other alternative medicine practices on their patients–becoming homeopaths and chiropractics instead–or refer them to other altmed practitioners. An amalgam of poisonous materials indeed.
What bothers me most, though, is that holistic dentistry is targeting the gullible hippies in my area. I know hippies bother most hardcore skeptics, but I am instinctively protective of them. Too many of my friends and family have bought organic, thinking it was better, eschewed genetically modified foods, thinking it was harmful, and turned to acupuncture and chiropractic, thinking they knew something secret that regular doctors did not. Someone needs to tell them that most of the ads in Yoga Living are no good. And, additionally, that yoga is just exercise. Not a way of life.