In planning for beautiful smiles in wedding album and in planning a family as well, holistic dental health is important for some reasons rarely considered. When entering into matrimony the focus is on the ceremony, the honeymoon and beginning a new life shortly thereafter. There are so many details to attend to that are exciting and fun that visits to the dentist for exams and cleanings may not be high on the ‘to do’ list. A bride’s first thoughts about her smile are bound to be cosmetic, like beautiful white teeth for her wedding portfolio. This is where holistic and biological dental care can make a difference.
For one thing silver (amalgam) fillings that are ten years old or more can begin to cause tiny micro-fractures in the remaining tooth surface. This is due to the abrasion of the metal against the living tissue of the tooth as well as the minute expansions and contractions of the metal caused by heat and cold. Replacement is vital for dental health, because over time the teeth can be damaged by these metal filings to the extent that they fracture and break.
According to the latest materials fact sheet released by the State Board of Dental Examiners regarding dental health, “Mercury in its elemental form is on the State of California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause reproductive toxicity. Mercury may harm the developing brain of a child or fetus.” It goes on to say that “no valid scientific evidence has shown that amalgams cause harm to patients with dental restorations, except in rare cases of allergy”. The Board continues with the statement that “A diversity of opinions exist regarding the safety of dental amalgams. Questions have been raised about its safety in pregnant women, children and diabetics”.
It is a fact that mercury, the chief ingredient in silver amalgam fillings, is both a neurotoxin and an immune suppressant. Currently there is a proposal in the California State legislature to restrict the use of amalgam fillings in pregnant women and in children under six. Following are some comments made by the bill’s proponent, Congresswoman Diane Watson of Los Angeles in November, 2001, who has a strong position about dental health. “The Mercury in fillings is volatile…The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry of the United States Public Health Service reports that those poisonous vapors go first to the brain and kidneys. For the developing brain- and by that I mean a child’s brain- a major health risk exists.”
“It is in fact children who are at greatest risk from these fillings. The government of Canada recommended back in 1996 that dentists not place fillings in the mouths of children or pregnant women. (The 1999 report on Mercury … says Mercury passes through the placenta into the developing child’s brain.) In 1997, a major manufacturer of dental amalgam, Dentsply, said that amalgam is CONTRAINDICATED… for children and pregnant women. Another manufacturer, Vivadent, added a contraindication for nursing mothers. (That 1999 government report says the Mercury goes through the mother’s breast milk into the baby.)” Watson also said that “…occupational risk is significant. Dental employees are constantly exposed to the vapors. Women in dental offices have lower fecundity (pregnancy) rates, more miscarriages and more problem births.”
Given the beauty, naturalness and durability of currently available non-metal dental materials, it is important for young couples to consider their future dental health and plan accordingly. Once a decision has been reached to proceed with metal removal, it is important to find a dentist who can remove the amalgam fillings safely, minimizing any further exposure during the process. Additional detoxification after metal removal and before pregnancy may also be a consideration, since mercury can be stored in organ tissue and fat cells.
Other dental health-related facts relevant to pregnancy and healthy living concern the gums and gum disease. Gum disease is a process that begins when the teeth draw away from the gums due to bacterial infection. Pregnant women with periodontal disease are seven times more likely to give birth to infants that are pre-term and low weight. They also have a higher likelihood of bone resorption around teeth, which is the process by which bone tissue breaks down and is absorbed by the body. The damage done to the bone support of your teeth can be greatly accelerated during pregnancy due to hormonal changes.
Women who smoke have already heard many reasons why smoking can impact health and well-being in general. What is lesser known is that smokers are three times more likely to develop periodontal disease and actually lose teeth. Nutrition also plays an important role in the health of your teeth, so enjoy yourself but don’t forget that sugar causes cavities and that alcohol is essentially sugar.
Brush your teeth well, floss daily and try to minimize stress: that contributes to an acidic environment in your mouth conducive to the bacteria causing gum disease. Make sure that whatever tooth whitening procedures you choose don’t aggravate your gums or cause sensitivity in your teeth; and smile: the future ahead is bright.
Dr. Carey O’Rielly is a holistic dentist in San Diego, California who truly understands and practices the tenets of holistic health, both as a practitioner and in his personal life. His remarkable knowledge of the field came about through years of study and experience, initiated by his own work-related health challenges.