Dentistry needs to open wide

By Alvin Danenberg, DDS, contributing writer

August 23, 2016 -- "Open wide!"

That's what we tell our patients when they are in the dental chair. For good reason. We need to see into their mouth.

It's not just our patients, however, who need to "open wide!" But, I don't mean our mouths -- I mean our minds!

What dentistry requires of me

Alvin Danenberg, DDS
Alvin Danenberg, DDS.

As a dentist, I need to take a specific number of continuing education hours to maintain my dental license in good standing. I take far more hours a year than I need for this requirement.

Recently, I attended a three-day professional program that reviewed new therapies in dentistry and current controversies. I learned some great information on the cutting edge of knowledge going forward. It was very exciting.

However, I expected some old myths of dentistry and questionable concepts would have been explored and debunked. Unfortunately, this did not happen.

While four prestigious gurus in the medical and dental teaching world presided over this three-day informative meeting, some existing notions were not disputed. For example, fluoride was presented as critical and required for dental health; prescription medications were described as the ultimate method to treat many oral diseases; and genetic predisposition was explained as the most important determinant of disease.

What I believe

“I am constantly reminded that dentistry has a long way to go before its enlightenment.”

Needless to say, any acute manifestation of disease needs to be treated first to make the patient comfortable and prevent severe outcomes -- just as you would need to remove a deep splinter from your finger before moving on. Thereafter, in my opinion, the emphasis should move to addressing the underlying causes -- those affecting individual cells that lead to various chronic diseases. This essential concept was not part of the conference.

I guess my immersion into functional medicine, primal nutrition, and primal lifestyle has preoccupied my mind. I need to remember there is a huge world of professionals out there who don't share my knowledge firsthand, who don't understand how environment is related to the development of disease, and who don't know what they don't know. I am constantly reminded that dentistry has a long way to go before its enlightenment.

Let's move forward

So much dental research is being published regarding new technologies with exciting potential. All dentists need to keep current with these exciting developments.

But, the basics of human function are foundational. Whatever happens on the cellular level affects the entire body. Dentists need to learn about evolutionary nutrition and lifestyle, as well as how both relate to dental disease. Dentistry needs to open its mind.

A version of this column first ran on Dr. Danenberg's blog. appreciates the opportunity to reprint it. Future columns will address how dentists can serve their patients and their profession.

Alvin Danenberg, DDS, practices at the Bluffton Center for Dentistry in Bluffton, SC. He is also on the faculty of the College of Integrative Medicine and created its integrative periodontal teaching module. He also spent two years as chief of periodontics at Charleston Air Force Base earlier in his career. His website is

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

Copyright © 2016

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