dentists

  1. The risks of 'dental health'

    For too many dentists, the X-ray machine is more like a cash machine.

    They don't use it when they absolutely need images to diagnose a problem in your mouth. They use it the moment your insurance company will allow them to make a new set of images.

    It's pretty easy money: Push button, cash check.

    Meanwhile, you get exposed to radiation and all the risks that come with it -- including brain tumors, as a new study finds that dental images can double your risk or more.

    Researchers from Yale, Harvard, and several other institutions interviewed 1,433 people with a type of tumor called a meningioma as well as 1,350 people without the condition matched for age, gender, income, race, and more.

    They found that people who had annual "bitewing X-rays" had double the tumor risk, while regular "panorex dental exams" starting before the age of 10 caused that risk to shoot up by 500 percent.

    The panorex exam is when a single image of all teeth is taken from outside the mouth, and even starting after the age of 10 boosted the risk. In fact, patients of any age who received annual panorex exams had triple the risk of meningioma.

    But is this really a surprise? A dental X-ray is basically a blast of radiation aimed right at your noggin -- and while meningioma is still pretty rare and often non-fatal, you certainly don't want to boost your odds of getting one.

    Besides, the risks don't end there -- because dental X-rays can also increase your chance of getting thyroid cancer. A 2010 study, for example, found that people who have 10 or more dental X-rays over the course of a lifetime have 5.4 times the risk of thyroid cancer of people who've never been X-rayed.

    Throw in the fact that many dentists still work with fluoride and mercury along with all that radiation, and your annual exam could quickly become one of the riskiest things you'll ever do in the name of "health."

    I won't say don't ever visit the dentist. Clean teeth and gums are important to your overall health, and people with bad oral hygiene and gum disease have a higher risk of heart problems.

    But when you do visit the dentist, set some ground rules: No fluoride... no mercury... and no X-rays unless they're absolutely necessary and your dentist has a good reason.

    Your best approach is to see a holistic dentist, sometimes referred to as a biological dentist, who is sensitive to these issues.

    I'm not done with dental health yet -- and if you or anyone you love wears dentures, keep reading for a warning you don't want to miss.

  2. Mercury and fluoride in the dental spotlight

    Mainstream dentists, you've got some 'splaining to do.

    Some of the most dangerous myths about modern dentistry are about to take a tumble--and it starts with mercury. An FDA panel is finally urging the agency to take another look at its use in fillings.

    Didn't know mercury was used in fillings? You're not alone: One survey found that 76 percent of Americans were unaware that the toxic metal was the main ingredient in dental amalgam.

    And while dentists and the FDA insist that amalgam fillings are safe, just think about that for a minute: It's mercury.

    In your mouth.

    Does that sound safe to you?

    But that's just a gut reaction--let's take a look at the science on this. One expert, biologist G. Mark Richardson, PhD, told the FDA panel that amalgam fillings cause 67 million Americans to exceed safe levels of mercury exposure every day.

    And that's using the EPA's numbers.

    If you use California's more stringent standards, Dr. Richardson says 122 million Americans would exceed safe exposure levels.

    Odds are, you're one of them--as mercury can escape when you grind your teeth or even just chew your food.

    Mercury exposure puts adults at risk for neurological disorders such as dementia and Parkison's disease, and kids at risk for developmental problems such as autism.

    The longer the FDA waits to act, the greater the risk to millions. But they don't have to act.

    They don't even have to take another look at this, because the panel's recommendation is just that: a recommendation.

    So don't wait for the feds on this one--there are perfectly safe and acceptable alternatives to mercury out there. If you or your child needs a filling, tell your dentist you want composite--or tell him you'll be finding a new dentist.

    And while you're there, make sure you tell him to lay off the fluoride, too.

    Despite what you've heard, fluoride isn't safe--and it doesn't even do a very good job of protecting your teeth, either.

    A new study finds that the protective coating fluoride supposedly helps form on your teeth to protect the enamel from decay is actual 100 times thinner than previously thought--or just 6 nanometers thick.

    It would take 10,000 of these layers to reach the width of a human hair--and scientists say that's way too thin to offer your chompers any real protection.

    In fact, ordinary chewing will knock that flimsy layer right off.

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