Local holistic dentist views dental problems in broader context of patient’s overall health
You’ve probably heard the expression, “You are what you eat.” Dr. Richard Pruett, a dentist who has practiced for nearly 40 years in Chico, has an expression that’s a variation on the theme.
“You’re only as healthy as your mouth,” Pruett says.
In other words, dental conditions affect other parts of the body, and vice-versa.
That’s the central philosophy of holistic dentistry. When a patient sits in Dr. Pruett’s chair, the holistic dentist isn’t just concerned with the teeth and gums. He takes a broader view, stressing prevention of a wide range of conditions.
“If your mouth isn’t healthy, the diseases can spread through your whole body,” Pruett explained in a recent phone interview. “Everything ties in. … When people ask, ‘What’s holistic dentistry?’ I say, ‘How much time do you have and how much do you want to know?’”
Mercury in fillings can lead to a range of medical problems, as can the injudicious use of fluoride, he pointed out. Acidic saliva can damage tooth enamel but also can represent a broader condition—unhealthful habits such as eating too much sugar or smoking cigarettes can contribute to the creation of acidic saliva, as can illnesses like Sjögren’s syndrome, a disease of the autoimmune system (see www.tinyurl.com/acidsal for more information). Even something as simple as how a person bites down can have a ripple effect, impacting posture.
“Occlusion is really important,” Pruett said. “Occlusion affects cranial bones and joints. If your bite is out of balance, that sets up muscle imbalances, cranial imbalances, structural imbalances.”
As an analogy, Pruett suggested walking down a hallway with one shoe on and one shoe off. The lopsided gait puts added stress on a variety of bones and joints, not just the feet.
Same with an imbalanced bite: “If your occlusion is off,” Pruett continued, “it can affect your cervical vertebrae and also your whole structure.”
Mercury is of particular concern. Pruett says mercury contributes to a variety of problems, from “changing the bacteria in the gut, increasing the chance of antibiotic resistance. It also creates an environment for intensifying yeast infections” and compounding autoimmune diseases.
“Mercury is the second-most toxic thing you can put in your body,” Pruett said. (The most toxic? Plutonium.) “There are 13 electromagnetic signatures in mercury—13 different ways mercury can hurt you.”
Research has found the mercury in fillings can leach into the bloodstream. Though considered a “heavy metal,” mercury is not as hearty as the name implies—in fact, on his website, www.drpruett.com, Pruett posted a video showing mercury emissions from a tooth gently rubbed with a brush and with a pencil eraser.
“The American Dental Association states that mercury fillings are ‘stable’ but that’s only half true,” Pruett said. When it comes to mercury fillings, “mercury is only stable if you do not chew food or drink hot beverages. Anytime you chew, they’re emitting mercury.”
Pruett found out the hard way that mercury fillings can lead to poor health. Around 15 years ago, he said, he had a blood test that showed poor kidney function due to an excessive amount of heavy metals. Soon after, he had his mercury fillings removed—and made his office a mercury-free dental practice.
Along with not using mercury fillings, Pruett has honed a technique for removing them that is safe for the health of the patient as well as that of the dentist and dental assistant. He isolates the tooth with a rubber dental dam, has the patient breathe from an alternate air source, has his dental assistant apply cold water and heavy suction to clear the debris, and has an air purifier in the room for him and his staff.
Fluoride is another substance to which Pruett gives special attention. He takes care with both the type and amount he administers.
“America has a thyroid problem,” offered Pruett. “Fluoride, chlorine and all the halogens are a big reason.”
Pruett began practicing dentistry in Chico in 1974, the year after he graduated from the dental school at Loma Linda University in Southern California.
Loma Linda teaches a mind-body-spirit model of care, which turns out to be compatible with the holistic dentistry Pruett began adopting roughly 20 years ago.
“It just sort of evolved,” he said of his interest in holistic dentistry. “I didn’t plan it. I was always interested in nutrition and health. As I took more classes—hundreds of hours of nutrition, TMJ [temporal mandibular joint] and cranial—I started looking at the whole person, not just their teeth and gums.
“I’m very much into cause and effect, not just treating symptoms.”
To Pruett, the interconnectedness of physiological systems simply makes sense. He maintains that “germs, fungi and parasites only thrive in a toxic body and that the root cause of all disease is cellular toxemia….
“Holistic dentistry is bringing the body into balance.”