Biological dentistry is defined as a “complementary and alternative medicine for dentistry”, and the approaches and practices that revolve around it has a common denominator: a disapproval on using amalgam fillings. While biological dentistry is composed of proponents that are licensed medical practitioners, it involves pseudoscientific practices, according to Stephen Barrett, M.D., who discussed the subject matter at length in the article “My Concerns about ‘Holistic’ and ‘Biological’ Dentistry” on Quackwatch.org.
Also called holistic dentistry, biological dentistry can be traced back to the work of Weston A. Price, D.D.S from 1870 to 1948. Price believed that sugar was not only the cause of tooth decay, but also physical, moral, mental, and social decay. After conducting a study on primitive people, he postulated that exposure to contemporary foods alone could cause dental problems and increase the risk of developing certain diseases. Price failed to notice that overindulgence on sweets, contracting unfamiliar germs, switching from the hunting lifestyle to a less strenuous lifestyle, and alcohol dependency were other factors that contributed to the decline in both oral and general health of the natives. Price made another blunder by concluding that root canal therapy caused arthritis and several other diseases, as he believed that the treatment allowed bacteria or bacterial toxins to enter the body.
Melvin Page, D.D.S., who was a follower of Price, also made exaggerated claims. For one, Page maintained that tooth decay was a result of chemical imbalances within the body. He also believed that mineral deficiencies caused many diseases, with goitre, tuberculosis, heart trouble, anaemia, diabetes, neuritis, and rheumatism just to name a few. The Federal Trade Commission even hounded Page for selling a mineral supplement that gave support to his theory about mineral deficiencies.
Organisations Promoting Biological Dentistry
There are organisations that uphold the core concepts of biological dentistry, according to Barrett. The Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, as an example, has 1,200 members, and it promotes food faddism, homeopathy, megavitamin therapy, chelation therapy, among other dubious practices through its website. The website is also a source of Price’s manufacturers and photographs. The Western A. Price Foundation of Washington D.C. is also a proponent of holistic dentistry that promotes drinking unpasteurised milk and other eyebrow-raising dietary practices. Another organisation is the Holistic Dental Association which has become a source of information for therapies that are not taught in dental schools.
The International Academy of Biological Dentistry and Medicine (IABDM) is a network of physicians, dentists and allied practitioners who advocate mercury-free dentistry, cavitation surgery, detoxification, sound, light, and electromagnetics not only to treat oral diseases but also to care for the body, mind, and spirit. Finally, there is the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT) that firmly advocates the prohibition of dental amalgam to eliminate mercury exposure which is considered to pose a risk on one’s health.
Dentists who support biological dentistry may offer treatments that are dental quackery. According to Barrett, biological dentists may offer the following treatments:
- Hair analysis
- Computerised dietary analysis
- Blood chemistry screening test
Analysing the hair does nothing to determine the nutritional state of the body. While computerised dietary analysis is an effective tool for dietary counseling, dentists are not qualified to give general counseling about dietary practices. Blood chemistry screening test does tell if the body is in a balanced state, but unethical dentists would use it to make exaggerated claims so patients would get a certain treatment. Muscle-testing is derived from applied kinesiology, which in itself is a pseudoscientific way of diagnosis and treatment.
Cranial Osteopathy, Homeopathy, Auriculotherapy
In cranial osteopathy, craniosacral therapy, or cranial therapy, the practitioners support the theory that the skull bone can be manipulated for pain management and disease treatment, and that there exists a rhythm of the fluid in the brain and spinal cord and it can be observed to detect diseases. The theory is invalid because the bones of the skull are tightly attached to each other and the cerebrospinal fluid does not have a certain rhythm. Perhaps the most popular aspect of homeopathy is the belief in the flow of energy or “chi” in the body, and some dentists go so far as using an “electrodiagnostic device” that can detect imbalances in the energy flow. Although the concept of “chi” comes from traditional Chinese medicine, it has no legitimate anatomical basis. The body and organs have a link to the surface of the ear, at least according to the theory of Auriculotherapy. Practitioners who believe auriculotherapy to be true would use needles or apply small electrical shocks at certain points on the ear in the treatment of body organs. Auriculotherapy is also not supported by any scientific evidence.
Hal A. Huggins, D.D.S. of Colorado Springs, Colorado is perhaps the number one proponent of amalgam toxicity. Huggins strongly believed that amalgam restorations should be removed and that root canal therapy is a risk factor for diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and arthritis. There is no scientific evidence that a root canal therapy negatively affects the body. In fact, according to Barrett, scientific testing has proven that the level of mercury absorbed by the body from fillings is too insignificant to cause health problems. Besides dismissing the need for dental amalgam removal, Barrett also advises readers to stay away from dentists who offer dubious practices mentioned above.