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My Visit To a NYC Holistic Dentist

February 21, 2012

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Dentists visits were easy, breezy for me as a child, but on into my adult years and a few bad experiences in the chair later — which I’d rather not relive — I found myself filled with anxiety about going to the dentist.

My fears were exacerbated by the media coverage paid to the harmful effects of amalgam or ‘silver’ fillings (which leach mercury into the body) that are commonly used in many practices. Mercury is the most poisonous naturally occurring, non-radioactive, substance on our planet. Mercury accumulates within the body over time and concentrates in fatty tissues, especially in the brain, which is made mostly of fat. Although the controversial ADA still considers amalgam fillings safe, many health professionals disagree, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) even considers old mercury fillings that have been removed from the body toxic waste that has to be disposed as such.

And so I avoided the dentist right up until I simply couldn’t anymore. When your tooth starts aching, no amount of brushing will come to the rescue. I resolved that I’d face my fears and go to the dentist. But this time, I wanted a very different experience. I set out to find a holistic dentist who not only didn’t use mercury, but someone who actually cared about my health.

After doing some serious research, I discovered one of the best holistic dentists out there, Doctor Reid L. Winick, D.D.S. of Dentistry for Health NY.  Not only did he surpass all of my criteria, (and hates mercury even more than I do), but his practice is deeply committed to patients’ overall wellness and to the health of the environment. Dr. Winick’s practice even has a cable show “A Better Way. A Sustainable Approach to Dentistry.” I called and made an appointment the next morning.

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In the waiting room taking in the space.

Dr. Winick’s friendly staff greeted me as I walked into their cutting-edge, green office and immediately put me at ease. As I filled out a few simple forms, I took in my surroundings: books on holistic health and nutrition sat on a reclaimed wood table that looked like a tree, a vibrantly-colored office, and charming staff who glided by me.

I was walked back into a bright and cheery examination room with a nice view.  Dr. Winick graciously greeted me and we started things off with a nice, long conversation. Although he was getting to know me, he knew that I was feeling him out too. We chatted about my overall health and history, what specific foods I was eating on a daily basis, what the basis was for my fear of the dentist, what my health goals were, and so on. One of his goals for me as he said was to “recondition you so you’re comfortable being here.” The practice takes on fewer patients during the course of the day so they can spent more individual time with each patient.

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Dr. Winick explained his practice’s holistic approach to dental care: there is a systematic connection between oral health and overall body health. The practice views the condition of one’s mouth as a barometer of bodily health and an indicator of potential disease in the future. The fact that I was suffering from tooth aches meant that something else in my body was off balance.  Dr. Winick’s practice refers to this as the Oral Systematic Link.

Dr. Winick broke down his philosophy down in layman’s terms by comparing the health of humans to the health of a tree. “A tree’s health and growth is dependent on rain. If you give a tree acid rain and then look at its branches, the tree may appear healthy from ground level but the leaves from the top branches start to turn brown. If you don’t give your body the proper minerals and nutrients, the leaves at the top of the tree is your teeth.”

We talked quite a bit about the importance of good nutrition, and what specific modifications to my diet I should make to help me get healthier. Dr. Winick even gave me the location of his favorite shop where he gets wild, mercury-free salmon shipped to his home.

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My view from the chair

The Doctor shared a life-changing experience that sent him down the holistic dentistry path. In 1980 he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and consequently went through four rounds of painful surgeries and heavy medication. “I found myself being treated like a machine; I was being treated for my symptoms and mainstream medicine didn’t look at what was causing my problems. I knew I had to find a better way, ” said Dr. Winick.  In 1994, he began seeing a holistic doctor all the way in Seattle (progressive stuff at the time); he changed his diet, stopped eating gluten, got rid of his mercury fillings, and he cured himself of the disease that plagued him for so long. The experience of self-healing through nutrition inspired him to apply those very same principles to his work. And judging by the fresh-pressed Organic Avenue juice that he’d sip on from time to time during our conversation, Dr. Winick still clearly values his own health.

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After taking and reviewing my x-rays with a digital machine that uses up to 80 to 90% less radiation than traditional x-rays, Dr. Winick took me into a private room for my microscopic examination. Using the samples he has taken earlier from my gums, he placed my slide under a microscope which projected on a screen for he and I to review together, as he assessed the level of bacteria in my mouth. Since bacteria doesn’t lie, this particular examination shows the true health of the mouth and body.  Dr. Winick pointed to the healthy white blood cells and cocci, but then showed me the critters like rods and spirochetes appearing in my slide which meant he and I had our work cut out for us to get my mouth and body healthy again. But the Doctor reassured me that we’d work together and I’d eventually have a healthy slide again.

The Doctor introduced me to Tammy Kohlschmidt who performed an assessment of my teeth called a bio-survey which identified my food and environmental sensitivities, hidden stressors in my body such as bacteria, viruses and heavy metals, and even pinpointed the specific, all-natural remedies I should take to help bring my body back into balance and speed up my healing.

The experience was far from your typical visit to most dentists.

I was then given the grand tour and saw firsthand all of the sustainable elements incorporated throughout the office such as formaldehyde-free, FSC certified wood products; bamboo flooring; recycled fabric furniture; recycled denim insulation; no-VOC paints;  linseed oil and wheat linoleum flooring in dental operatories; a sanitized and charcoal filtered water system; a feng shui designed space, and so on! The healthy office environment perfectly complimented the practice’s entire ethos.

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As the end of my visit drew near, Dr. Winick sent me on my way with several all-natural remedies and vitamins he referred to as my “Healthy Mouth Protocol” which would help ease the pain I was experiencing until my next appointment, which happens to be tomorrow. I’m pleased to report it’s been nearly two weeks since starting Dr. Winick’s natural remedy regime, sans painkillers, and I haven’t experienced any pain whatsoever.

If you’re series about your health, or simply want to have your toxic amalgam fillings safely removed,  I strongly urge you to switch to a holistic dentist who values your health and well being. You’ll feel comforted knowing your health is in the hands of a dentist who is looking out for your best interest. At least I do now.

Images in dentist’s office by Lindsay E. Brown.

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