Not Just Drillin and Fillin

Dentists Practice Uses Holistic Approach

The Advocate, November 1, 2005
by Camilla A. Herrera

Leonard Kundel says his Stamford dental practice considers patients equal partners in determining appropriate treatment and care. It is the defining philosophy behind his holistic approach.

We want our patients to make educated decision about their own health, says Kundel in his online mission statement. That is why part of our job is to educate you and have you understand your options.

A person with a thorough understanding of problem has more chances of arriving at conclusion with a favorable outcome.

To Kundel, finding the root of any problem means looking beyond the mouth. It is always important keep an open mind, ask about previous experiences and other health matters, look at the whole person, he says.

The idea that the mouth and the rest of the body are interconnected is not new. According to the Holistic Dental Association, established in 1978, holistic dentistry requires an awareness of dental care as it relates to the entire person in addition to the traditional degrees — either doctor of dental surgery or a doctor of medical dentistry — that conventional dentists require.

To ignore such a connection can therefore be hazardous to your health. I try to help people remove blockages. The mouth is the connection to the body. Anything in the mouth will have an effect on the whole body and anything in the body will have an effect on the mouth.

Consider a recent patient, he says, who arrived at his office complaining of pain in a tooth that exhibited no decay. Nothing was wrong with the tooth but it hurt every day, for a couple of hours, at different times of the day. So I looked at it. I see how she carries herself, her posture, and the way she breathes. I look at her bite.

I check her heart rate and discover its thirty percent higher than it should be. Her bite also presents a stressful situation. Her jaws are positioned so that it makes it difficult for her to breathe. From all the clenching and grinding, she stresses that tooth.

The solution? Make an appliance, like a retainer, that moves her jaw and makes it easier for her to breathe. Her heart rate (subsequently) normalizes.

And the tooth no longer hurts.

Kundel acknowledges that his treatment can be prohibitively expensive for some, particularly since he is classified out of network by many of the dental insurance providers with which he works, including Aetna, Delta Dental, Metropolitan Life and United Healthcare.

But its worth it since she will normalize her heart, her nervous system and her digestive system from reduced stress and improved breathing and oxygen intake. All because of a toothache.

Kundel stresses that the holistic approach requires an attentive nature. The more I know about the person and their whole health, the more I can offer. Someone comes in with a toothache and tells me nothing else is not enough information.

Holistic dentistry, the HDA, also requires understanding that good health means more than absence of disease, opening door to the practice alternative modalities are not considered typical traditional dentistry. Kundel says he refers patients to nutritionists, naturopaths, homeopathic specialists, acupuncturists, reiki masters or hypnotherapists. I don’t have to have an answer but I need to know where I can find an answer.

Common among holistic dentists is a stand against the use of mercury in fillings. Mercury is a poison, he says. By definition, it has no safe amounts.

Kundels office is also a reflection of holistic awareness. Soft music and dimmed lights greet patients in his waiting room. He says the air is purified to clean out general pollutants and the water is additionally filtered. For decreased eye strain and fatigue, Kundel uses daylight bulbs instead of fluorescent lighting.

That said, Kundel assures he is a practicing dentist who earned his dental degree from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston and works on the root canals, crowns, dentures, extractions and what he jokingly calls drill-and-fills, considered standard dental procedures.

But these are only performed when medically necessary. By way of example, Kundel says gum disease does not always require surgical intervention. This can also be connected to breathing problems. If you don’t breathe well, the immune system is not functioning at optimum. The gums will get better if the physiological stress goes down. Personal hygiene, too, has to be considered. If you brush your teeth for only a couple of minutes each time, that’s not enough.

Kundel even has an answer for the common fear of dentists. In my office, people understand and feel in control, so the fear disappears. The fear comes from the unknown and loss of control. It’s important to tell patients that they are in charge.