Posted to Subscribers on 14 August 2016

Dear Subscribers,

For some months, I have been describing this phase of my life as a meltdown cycle. What does this really mean? We were all herded through school and subjected to a curriculum that was sanctioned by those with the power to dictate what goes into our minds. We were so busy mastering the subject matter that we rarely found time to think. A point came when some of us ceased to trust our own powers of observation, and many people went into therapy at such critical moments so as to recover access to the inner child. Others embarked on a spiritual quest to complete the missing parts through meditation and guidance from a guru. In my particular case, the sequence was spiritual, then psychological, and now something that thus far lacks a name. I have referred to it only as a meltdown, but because so much that we carefully learned has shown itself to be suspect, we do not know how many more dominos will fall before reaching the end of the collapsing edifice. Certain subjects — like chronology and astrophysics — are very complex for me because they touch the core of my being. Dentistry is much easier because, while extremely important, it is not my profession so I am not the one who will eventually rewrite the textbooks and curriculum.

Where oral health is concerned, I am a consumer like everyone else, including the specialists, and I believe I can safely say that there is no such thing as safe dentistry. We are merely deciding between options, none of which are perfect. There may be people who are very upset by such as statement, but I will hopefully rest my case by the end of this post or the ones to follow that are still in the queue. So, where do we actually start? We can start with the obsessions grown ups had with our first baby teeth or the admonition to brush and floss or, in my case, a seminar on oral toxicology that happened to be incredibly interesting. I was a guest because the organizer believed I had saved his life, and that's what he told the dentists in the audience. I had to stand up and be seen, but then the seminar opened for real with a statement that dentists are responsible for 98% of deaths. I actually do not believe this is so but the statement was a shot over the bow so even those who were catatonic were wide awake the rest of the day.

The truth is, I have not been obsessing over the seminar for two decades. The issues raised at that time have come and gone so what do I accept at this time? Let's start with some basics. Brushing is a relatively new idea and perhaps has not been around long enough to be evaluated properly. Nylon toothbrushes were introduced in 1938. There were some natural bristle toothbrushes before that, but they were not pervasive as the more familiar brushes are today. The nylon toothbrush was invented by DuPont, but toothpaste in a tube was first introduced by Johnson & Johnson in 1886. It was then a new company and Zonweiss, the name of their product, was their first product. Before that, people used powder or sticks. I never liked the odor or taste of plastic toothbrushes and I never liked nylon bristles, but I was ignorant of the history as well as the alternatives. Being curious, I tried everything: bamboo brushes, charcoal brushes, nano silver brushes, ionic brushes, you name it. Some health advocates are now questioning the safety of nylon brushes since they might harm the gums or, if used too aggressively, erode tooth enamel. So, right out the gate, there are questions about the brush, and we haven't even come to the toothpaste or flossing parts. Depending which sources you use, fluoride is either the third most toxic substance known or it is the sixth. Okay, so you get fluoride-free toothpaste, but did you know that glycerin prevents remineralization of your teeth? So, why aren't we using powder?

There are traditional alternatives to the toothbrush. Throughout much of the world, twigs or fingers were used. Some twigs are naturally cleansing, antimicrobial, and even remineralizing. Peelu or miswak is one such twig. In Hawaii and throughout the Caribbean, hibiscus twigs were used in much the same way as miswak sticks. Native Americans used dogwood, and Ayurveda, being complex and detailed as it is, refers to the properties of the twigs alongside the medical conditions. For instance, for disinfection, neem is good, but acacia is preferred for gum disease. Licorice was also widely used as was arjuna, an herb well known for its heart-protective qualities, a quality that is much desired whenever there are infections with anaerobic organisms.

With toothpaste, there is every reason to be even more upset than with toothbrushes. I have spent years looking for a truly perfect toothpaste, but you would have to make your own to achieve this goal. With powders, you do have better choices, but they are less convenient. You have simple options like baking soda or activated charcoal, but you also have very sophisticated choices like Peelu or Dr. Christopher's powder. You actually do not even need a powder or paste if you use miswak sticks. You just need a good place to do the cleaning, like a table with an excellent mirror.

So, why do we brush when we could be using twigs. The dogwood in my front yard is so overgrown that it would take me centuries to run out of twigs. My willow is also taking over the driveway. Red willow was a Cherokee favorite for tooth cleaning. So, why do people brush with nylon? Better ask the folks on Madison Avenue because there is no medical or dental reason for doing so. This said, Fuchs does round the tips of the nylon to reduce the risk of damaging the teeth. I used these for years with zero decay, meaning the thousands of dollars I have spent in the last years on dental work have all related to efforts to reverse damage from earlier work such as removing amalgams and composites.

To encourage people to try a stick, we are including one free miswak stick in every order for the next month or so. I even posted a couple of relatively wild videos about use of the stick:

Believe it or not, flossing is almost as controversial as nylon brushes. Some floss is impregnated with fluoride. Some cuts into the gums. Most fail to clean the teeth properly where brushes will not reach, and, yes, of course, all of these ideas are contrary to the latest propaganda from the worlds of commerce and academia. Even all the periodontal probing becomes mostly irrelevant if one uses a stick for cleaning. I personally hate periodontal probing because I am sure the risks do not justify the invasiveness of the procedures. Well, if a patient is reckless about oral hygiene, that may not be straight fact, but people who have tight gums should consider whether or not they want an explorer poking around. After my misfortune with the hygienist in Ecuador, I have decided never to allow this again, but it means I have to manage the issues myself and to do so very carefully.

Chyawanprash, an Indian jam with dozens of herbs and spices, is actually an excellent natural source of vitamin C and most people who take it regularly have no gum problems at all.

This might be enough heresy for one day. I still use a brush in the morning and miswak before bed. In between, I use whatever I can fit in my schedule. Oh, and for the record, I definitely agree with the Kenyans about brushing before eating, especially if there is an ongoing infection in the teeth or gums. This is very sound advice and absolutely logical. That is not to say that brushing after eating is not also a good idea, but if there is an oral infection, brushing before eating is an excellent precaution against ingesting pathogenic bacteria.

Many blessings,


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