Have you seen photographs of dentists in the olden days pulling teeth? They approached their patients with tools that looked like they belonged in a car mechanic’s toolbox rather than in a dental office. As if that weren’t frightening enough, if you were the patient, you were likely to have many teeth extracted in your lifetime. Pulling teeth was a common practice to deal with infections and other health ailments, back in the 1800s.
And why? Were the dentists and doctors simply misguided? No, according to Dr. Louisa Williams, the author of “Radical Medicine.” Quite the contrary, in fact. While extraction is certainly not the answer to all of our health woes, dentists and doctors of the past had a solid understanding of the link between oral health and overall health. Benjamin Rush, for example, the doctor to George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, had studied the relationship between chronic silent infections in the body (often in the head/mouth) and mental, physical, and emotional issues. He was very well aware of the dangers of dental focal infections.
Dentists and doctors of that time were focused on the teeth because they were trying to get at the root cause of illness in the person. They understood that if someone was suffering with a problem with their knee, for example, that the issue could stem from a silent infection in the mouth. Happily, Dr. Williams is not suggesting that we need to go back to the time of numerous teeth extractions, but, rather, that there are lessons to be learned from that earlier approach to combatting infections and fighting serious health conditions. We need to rediscover the tie between our oral health and our overall health.
We have a tendency in modern medicine to adopt a reductionist approach. Hip pain? Treat the hip? Malaise? Address the stomach. Dr. Williams suggests taking a more holistic wholistic approach to wellness, which begins with examining your oral health. Hear her ideas in the interview entitled “Radical medicine” (episode #39 of the Wise Traditions podcast).
- the definition of radical medicine: how it’s about getting to the root or cause of the health condition
- what diagnosis is and what it should be (not just be about addressing a symptom but to determine why the body is susceptible to a particular sickness)
- how current-day holistic medicine may still not getting to the root cause of an illness
- how dentists and doctors approached health in the 1800s
- the understanding today of the relationship between dental and physical and mental and emotional health
- how the development of antibiotics and root canals in the twentieth centure were game-changers in terms of our medical approach to health
- the studies Dr. Weston A. Price conducted on the effects of an infected teeth
- the work of Dr. Edward Rose, related to the bacteria in damaged teeth
- how to approach root canals (when it is okay to keep teeth and when we should not)
- the dangers of simply extracting an infected tooth
- how xrays of the root of teeth can reveal focal infection damage
- the red flags to watch for with your current dentist
- the issue of mercury fillings
- troubles that can arise from root canals, dental galvanism, porcelain crowns
- how treating the symptoms can provide temporary relief but which can lead to greater problems down the line
- how “opportunistic infections” (like Lyme) can arise from undetected dental issues
- how allopathic medicine (like antibiotics or pharmaceutical drugs) can actually truncate the body’s healing process
As a member and chapter leader of the Weston A. Price Foundation, and a fan of wise traditions (both the concept and the podcast), I believe we have much to learn from those who have walked this earth before us. My conversation with Dr. Williams served to remind me of the value of the health practices of yesteryear and the need to continue learning from (and applying them) for "wholistic" health today.
*** Hilda Labrada Gore is a health coach and the host of the Wise Traditions podcast (found on iTunes, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and at westonaprice.org). She is also the DC chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation. Get to know Hilda and her approach to health by visiting her website chispainc.com.