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An Oral-Systemic Perspective on the Root of All Degenerative Diseases

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By John Parks Trowbridge MD, FACAM

Recently, I watched The Theory of Everything, the biopic based on the life of modern physicist Stephen Hawking. Hawking’s enduring career inquiry has been into the beginning of time and the universe – the biggest of the big pictures.

Many physicians and dentists – not to mention their patients – would benefit greatly from taking a few steps back and looking at the big picture of health and illness; to examine the beginning of the deterioration of health.

After all, a long-accepted maxim of law is that the principal part of anything is the beginning. Perhaps we should pay attention!

The Beginning of the Beginning

A deeper understanding of how inflammation works, along with startling advances in genetics and epigenetics, have poised us on the threshold of a dream: We can finally start to appreciate direct correlations between oral health challenges and the progression of systemic diseases. For many conditions, deteriorating gum, tooth and jaw tissues foreshadow predictable organ changes throughout the body.

For years, researchers have sought THE connection between gingivitis and coronary artery disease, often drawing frustrating conclusions. Sadly, the most likely causes are never studied, just explained away before investigation ever begins. Yeast overgrowth? The culture was negative. Parasites? Not here, only in the third world. Metal toxicities? The blood tests were negative. Nutritional deficiencies? No way.

In trying to isolate any one cause, researchers almost always ignore the settings in which certain factors can become exaggerated in their effects. They overwhelmingly rely on Louis Pasteur’s “germ theory” of external invasion. They neglect the insight of Claude Bernard, a physiologist and Pasteur’s contemporary who advanced the supremacy of the milieu intérieur- the internal cellular environment – in the evolution of disease.

In coming years, those of us who strive to keep the bigger picture in mind will be excited by the emerging science of how specific bacterial, yeast and parasite infections correspond with various systemic diseases. We will more fully appreciate how metal toxicities encourage organ damage, as well as profound changes in oral and colonic flora.

For years, we have known that gastric and enteric yeast will methylate “swallowed” mercury from amalgam fillings into an organic form that is intensely more poisonous to human biochemistry. In 2000, massive overload of mercury was documented in a certain kind of unexplained dilated cardiomyopathy. Despite this, almost all physicians and dentists overlook any speculation on the harm caused by implanted mercury (as in root canals), let alone deteriorating mercury amalgams. The FDA still refuses to change its stance on dental mercury, despite severe transport, usage and disposal restrictions imposed by the EPA.

Almost 300 years ago, British Royal Navy surgeon James Lind demonstrated the relationship between what we came to know as vitamin C deficiency and scorbutic changes in the gums (scurvy). But only in the past 50 years have we identified the dramatic contributions to human health made by this antioxidant – not to mention vitamin E, B complex, physiologic minerals, essential fatty acids and other nutrients. And still, our profession’s “best efforts” to protect and preserve dental structure and health have been interventions such as fluoride.

We are barely in our infancy of understanding the relationships between the milieu and degenerative diseases or increased susceptibility to acute illnesses and infections. Yet our blossoming understanding of immunologic processes has allowed knowledgeable physicians to understand and treat so-called “unexplained” autoimmune diseases (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus) in unconventional ways that can be both safe and startlingly successful.

Then there’s our growing awareness of biofilms. Indeed, many self-professed “integrative” physicians seem intent on simply destroying them – especially in the mouth – instead of revising them to a more physiologic, health-supporting state.

What about the colonic microbiota – the idiosyncratic balance of which is dramatically altered by antibiotics (especially in food products), steroids (from food and doctors), all manner of prescription and OTC drugs, excess sugars and starches, nutritional deficiencies, organic toxins and toxic heavy metals? Physicians rarely prescribe probiotics to restore balance after a course of antibiotics. Do they even know to do so?

Some current research is looking at how patterns of unique colonic microbes seem to associate with – perhaps even “cause”? – certain degenerative diseases. Yet beyond obvious (and often poorly treated) yeast and bacteria infections, health professionals have barely any appreciation for the disease-promoting impact of undocumented by pervasive parasites, some of which have genomes approaching the size and complexity of our own!

Volumes could be written about each of the issues already mentioned, as well as their interrelated impact. This commentary touches only on high points.

In our world of “biological dentistry,” we concentrate on teaching colleagues the critical distinctions between “mercury-free” and “mercury-safe” procedures. We concentrate on informing patients of the impact that mercury fillings, root canals, cavitations and periodontitis can have on whole body health. Gradual introduction of nitrous oxide into more offices has been hailed in some quarters as welcome “progress.” Stunning alternatives to ultra-high-speed drills – such as lasers and air abrasion – offer better prospects of micro-structural preservation.
Yet we remain primitive in appreciating the deleterious myofunctional contributions of malocclusions, narrow dental arches and mandibular malpositions.

What about materials compatibility? Oral galvanic currents? Implants? Tooth-organ acumeridians? Stem cells? Coagulopathy modulation? Essential fatty acids? Anti-oxidants? Signaling molecules? Sleep pathophysiology? Prenatal nutrition?

All these matter, yes. But sometimes we get so consumed in the techniques and technology of “doing it right” that we easily overlook “the bigger picture.”

A Big Picture Approach to Dentistry

Compared with general, “whole body” orthopedic surgeons, podiatrists are super-specialized in how the motion-dynamics of walking (not just standing) can alter posture and thus comfort and ultimately health. It’s a big-picture way of working.

In the same way, dentists would be wise step back and embrace the big picture of how proper dental care and patient education can definitively enhance not only present comfort but also (and more importantly) future systemic health. For a sound introduction to these concepts, take a few hours to read Carol Vander Stoep’s wonderful Mouth Matters: How Your Mouth Ages Your Body and What YOU Can Do About It. I also highly recommend Dr. Dawn Ewing’s Let the TOOTH Be Known, Dr. Hal Huggins’ and Dr. Thomas Levy’s Uninformed Consent: The Hidden Dangers of Dental Care, and Dr. Levy’s and Dr. Robert Kulacz’s The Roots of Disease: Connecting Dentistry and Medicine.

The thrust in modern medicine seems ever more on enforcing simplistic cookie-cutter approaches: “You’ve got this, so we do that.” Sadly, current training of dentists and physicians (and their office assistants) appears to place blinders on new “inductees” into the professions. This constrained approach leads many to believe ignorantly and arrogantly that any alternatives – even those demonstrated clinically successful, often over decades – should be disregarded. Despite the explosive growth of basic science knowledge, disappointingly few of these concepts are readily accepted into clinical practice.

In an era where buzzwords such as “evidence-based medicine” are bandied about as the “standard of care,” I find it astonishing that clinical evidence is so easily brushed aside. Thrush and periodontitis are mistakenly dismissed to “oral doctoring,” despite extensive documentation of fungal contributions to systemic illnesses, especially through domino-effects of mycotoxins (summarized almost 30 years ago in The Yeast Syndrome!). Our burgeoning industry of cancer care is heavily reliant on “cut, burn, and poison,” even as 40 years of research has shown that most cancers are preventable by lifestyle changes, including reduced exposure to environmental toxins.

You’ve already “got” cancer? Rather than resign yourself to conventional care, why not investigate whether The Yeast Syndrome might be a critical factor? Skeptical? Watch Know the Cause: Cancer, a mind-blowing documentary by my good friend and television host Doug Kaufmann. You owe it to yourself (and your family and your patients) to heed the 100 years of research conclusions he presents so clearly and powerfully. These theories have long served as bases for my treatments to boost immune function in patients with cancer who are seeking integrative care.

Another example is found in the 53 year history of chelation therapy for toxic heavy metals. Despite hundreds of favorable reports of its ability to reverse degenerative diseases and enhance health, few physicians or dentists are aware of FDA-approved drugs used to reduce the body burden of toxic elements. Such chelation prescriptions are the only efficient methods to remove heavy metals from a biological system.

In 2012, results of the NIH Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy (the TACT study) were released, showing significant reduction in second heart attacks. Their data mining has now shown even greater benefits in symptomatic diabetics – an important observation, given our epidemic explosion of metabolic syndrome (first described in 1988 as “Syndrome X” by my friend, Stanford endocrinology professor Gerald Reaven, MD). Casting aside any such evidence of effectiveness, state medical boards routinely investigate physicians offering chelation. The FDA abruptly suspended the sale of the planet’s most impressive acute-exposure mercury chelator (OSR#1, NBMI), prepared from non-toxic cell-penetrating dietary ingredients. They claimed that it “must be a drug” because of the stunning results achieved.

Owing to perseverance of its ingenious chemistry professor inventor, Boyd Haley, PhD, Phase 2 human studies are about to start, progressing toward FDA approval as a “drug,” with application for chronic exposure to Hg2+, as well.

We Are the Vanguard

So where should we begin? A growing segment of the public is aware that industrial food production, marketing and preparation can lead to dramatic impairment in health. Documentaries such as Morgan Spurlock’s excellent 2004 film Super Size Me have helped see to that. Similar tools can make our task easier. Films such as 2011’s Mercury Undercover and the forthcoming You Put What in My Mouth? readily lend scientific validity to our effort to reduce mercury usage and safely remove problematic restorations. The archaic era of “drill, fill and bill” will finally come to an end and fade into murky memories of a bygone past.

In addition, we must embrace the responsibility to inform our colleagues and prospective patients that good health begins at the beginning. The secret to restoring, maintaining, even enhancing systemic health is literally staring us in the face. Beyond foreseeable consequences of toxic exposures, both the oral (and intestinal) microbiomes and the maladies of oral tissues will be proven to be the root of so many of the chronic illnesses that steal our comfort and then our life.

The most profound understandings are often the simplest.

As biological dentists, physicians, hygienists and colleagues, we are in an exclusive and enviable position to perceive the principal part of human maladies. We are the vanguard, poised at the beginning of the beginning of the struggle to achieve vibrant health and avoid or reverse devastating disease.

Saddle up, cowboys. We’ve got a new trail to blaze.


John Parks TrowbridgeJohn Parks Trowbridge, MD was the first physician president of the International Academy of Biological Dentistry and Medicine and now serves as Biological Medicine Advisor to the board of directors. A National Merit Scholar at Stanford, he received his medical doctorate from Case Western Reserve University in 1976. Having practiced chelation therapy since 1983, he has lectured on reducing body burden of toxic heavy metals and other medical topics across the United States, in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and Taiwan. His 1986 Bantam Books bestseller The Yeast Syndrome is still published in paperback and now as an e-book. Dr. Trowbridge began graduate-level studies in immunology in 1968 and in nutrition in 1983. He diagnoses and treats patients with perplexing and often drastic medical conditions at his Humble (Houston), Texas office. Contact 1-800-FIX-PAIN for free CDs and DVDs, or visit

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