Dr. Reid L. Winick, D.D.S., founder of Dentistry for Health New York in New York City, talks to WellBe about integrative dentistry and how our oral health gives us vital clues into the health of our entire bodies. For the past 20 years, he has practiced integrative dentistry, helping his patients with a variety of oral and non-oral health issues. Read on to learn how he discovered integrative dentistry, why eating an alkaline diet is so important, why mouthwash won’t fix chronic bad breath, and more.
Integrative medicine is the practice of treating a person as a whole human, rather than addressing individual symptoms. So integrative dentistry, it follows, is an approach to dentistry that considers the whole person, and all of their interconnected systems, to diagnose and treat issues in the mouth, gums, and teeth.
Going to the dentist doesn’t just have to be focused on your teeth, gums, and oral health — in fact, according to Dr. Winick, it shouldn’t be. “The bottom line is, your mouth is a barometer for your overall wellness,” he says. “If you start seeing a breakdown in your mouth, then you almost know that ten years later, twenty years later, you’re going to see a breakdown in your body.” A medical breakdown, he points out, is far more expensive to treat than a dental one, and much more likely to cause a major disruption and permanent changes to your life and lifestyle.
To avoid this, Dr. Winick says, we need to “teach the body to be sustainable.” That means that if you get frequent cavities or other dental problems, you should think holistically. So rather than just avoiding fluoride or mercury, think about how your body and bodily systems are doing as a whole.
Integrative dentistry also means empowering patients to make their own decisions about their dental health. “I think a big part of being a holistic dentist is giving the patient the right to know what’s going on in their mouth, letting them choose what direction they want to go in, and then supporting them,” he says.
Using Integrative Dentistry to Heal Crohn’s Disease
Dr. Winick didn’t always practice integrative dentistry. In fact, he had been practicing conventional dentistry for some time when he made the switch.
He was at a TMJ facial pain seminar, where he heard several doctors discussing chronic pain, and they mentioned Crohn’s disease. This struck a cord with him, because he’d dealt with Crohn’s disease since childhood, enduring multiple surgeries, getting sick frequently, and even going on disability at one point. The doctors at the seminar explained that Crohn’s was an allergy to gluten, and Dr. Winick was shocked. He’d been to the best doctors in New York City, and nobody ever suggested that he might be allergic to gluten.
Dr. Winick was curious, and so he cut gluten out of his diet. Within five days, all of his symptoms had disappeared. He flew out to Seattle, where the doctors from the seminar were based, and was treated by them. Once he was fully healed, he took their seminars, and it completely changed the trajectory of his career.
“They taught me how the mouth and the body are connected,” he says. From that point on, Dr. Winick left behind aesthetic dentistry and began practicing holistic, integrative dentistry. “I converted my whole practice,” he says.
Why An Alkaline Diet Matters for Your Dental (and Overall) Health
One of the things you can do to keep your mouth and body healthy is eat an alkaline diet, according to Dr. Winick.
It’s a little gruesome, but ever think about how a corpse in a coffin can deteriorate even without bugs getting into the coffin to eat it? It’s because what ate the body are the bugs already in the body’s gut. We know, ew.
But it all originates from increasing acidity in the body. As soon as you die, your body becomes acidic, and that really starts to break things down, says Dr. Winick. Likewise, when you’re alive, high acidity in your body is a sign to your body that things aren’t going too well, and can lead to other issues. As Dr. Winick put it, “if you’re walking around, and your body is too acidic, the bugs think you’re dying and they start creating disease in your body.”
Luckily, there are things you can do stay alkaline, including:
Why Diagnosing the Cause of Bad Breath Beats Mouthwash
“Bad breath is a big concern for a lot of patients,” says Dr. Winick. While many people are tempted to just treat the symptom with mouthwash or more frequent brushing, Dr. Winick says the most important thing is to diagnose the underlying cause of the issue.
Bad breath can come from a number of causes, either related to the gut (ie, food you’re eating that’s not digesting properly), or the mouth (gum disease, pocketing, or infections in the mouth). In order to treat chronic bad breath, you have to first know which cause is the culprit. “You can’t just guess,” says Dr. Winick. “You need to do a test.” He recommends seeing a qualified hygienist who understands all the factors at play.
If you’ve been tested and ascertain that the issue is in your mouth, then it’s important to know that you can’t just floss away the issue. The bugs causing the bad breath are very smart, and if you use floss, a Waterpik, or a hygiene scaler in your mouth, all the bugs scatter so that can’t be killed. In a few weeks, they return and begin wreaking havoc again. (For a full list of WellBe-approved dental hygiene products (plus 1,200+ more researched and vetted items, from food to sleep aids to beauty products and more), check out the WellBe Non-Toxic Product Lists.)
To truly kill them and stop bad breath, you need to completely sterilize or fumigate the pockets where the bugs are hiding. “I’m not talking about high-alcohol rinses,” he says. “We have essential oils, we have ozone, we use a CO2 laser.” This will kill the bugs causing the bad breath, and thus prevent it from coming back.
The information contained in this article comes from our interview with Dr. Reid Winick, D.D.S. His qualifications and training include graduating from the New York University College of Dentistry. Dr. Winick is a past co-founder and director of the Facial Pain/TMJ Clinic at NY Eye & Ear Infirmary. He has completed numerous continuing education courses with an emphasis on TMJ & cervical dysfunction, neural therapy, and biological dentistry. Dr. Winick also lectures, writes, and teaches on green dentistry, TMJ, head, neck & facial pain. You can learn more about him here.