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What does a dentist know about sleep issues? That’s what Mary wanted to know when she came to the Julian Center for Comprehensive Dentistry seeking relief for an issue that seemed completely unrelated to her teeth and mouth.

Mary had developed hives after receiving a vaccination, and her itchy skin and overall discomfort had begun to keep her up nights. To complicate matters, inflammation from her allergic reaction had begun to narrow her airway at night, causing her to develop a snore and a bad habit of jolting awake at night gasping for breath. The sleep disruptions had left her so severely deprived of sleep that she often nodded off at inappropriate and sometimes dangerous times during the day—while working at the computer, cooking at a stove, or driving down the road.

Mary had already seen several physicians—her traditional physician prescribed corticosteroid cream, which didn’t relieve her hives, and although a naturopathic physician had no solutions, she felt that Mary’s problems stemmed from something that seemed unrelated—an overload of toxic mercury in her system coming from the amalgam (silver) fillings in her mouth.

In a warm, wet environment like the mouth, amalgam can release the toxic metal mercury into the bloodstream. Amalgam is made of a mixture of 50 percent mercury, and 50 percent copper, silver, tin, and zinc. Although Mary had lived with the fillings for many years without consequence, the vaccination she had received recently had raised the toxicity levels in her bloodstream to a point of intolerance. What’s known as her physiological adaptive range—that range between sickness and health where the body copes with stress and can fight off many illnesses—had maxed out.

Mary came to the Julian Center because we understand how the mouth is not an island and can actually be the cause of multiple problems with other areas of the body.

There’s been a longstanding disconnect between the mouth and the body when it comes to health. Dentistry has primarily addressed the teeth, gums, and jaws separately from the rest of the body. But viewing the mouth like an island that is separate from the rest of the body is like seeing the heart or brain as separate entities that don’t affect the rest of the body when they are suffering from a malady.

As the first part of the digestive tract, the mouth has an immediate connection to the vascular system, and it is very close to the brain. When the teeth, gums, or jaws are affected by a disease or condition, they tend to impact other areas of the body. Similarly, when other areas of the body are suffering from less-than-optimum health, those problems can contribute to oral health issues.

I learned about that connection early on in my career, when my best friend growing up was diagnosed with a stage IV melanoma. He was essentially given a “death sentence” of treatment options, which he refused to believe. So he sought treatment outside the mainstream through a clinic in California. There, he was told to open his mouth, and when the clinicians saw the number of metal fillings he had, they recommended he have all of them removed before undergoing any treatment. He complied and today, 30 years later, he’s alive and healthy. After that, I enlisted Hal Huggins, a Colorado Springs dentist, to be my mentor. Through him, I learned more about why mercury amalgam fillings are toxic to the body.

Like Mary, my friend’s diagnosis demonstrates how much damage can be done to the whole body by problems in the mouth, so it doesn’t make sense to place the most toxic non-radioactive material on earth in there. Just as my friend healed, it is key to mention that the removal of three fillings resulted in recovery for many of Mary’s hives and sleepless nights.