“Why is it that different patients respond and react so differently to essentially the same dental experience, even a simple procedure such as filling a cavity?”
Throughout my 20 years of practice, while constantly seeking to provide the most skilled treatment and to incorporate the most appropriate state-of-the-art technology, I’ve always been intrigued by this larger question.
With the goal of making dentistry safe and positive for every single patient, I have sought not simply a successful technical procedure or better appearance for my patients. Physical comfort and technical success is really all that some patients come looking for, and that’s perfectly fine. But I’ve also sought, through study, experience, and observation, to uncover clues to the special subtle energy that I have sensed has its home in the human teeth and mouth, an energy that governs much of overall human functioning and also gets expressed differently in each person. I’m especially curious how this energy expresses itself in patients who find dentistry challenging.
For this latter category of patients I’ve wanted to delve deeper, to see what, specifically, lies behind their differences in attitude and behavior from those wishing and able to “keep it simple”. Frankly I’ve often been frustrated listening to typical discussions among fellow dental professionals about these patients, hearing them labeled as “dental phobics”, or as having ”dental anxiety”, or “dental panic”, I have not been satisfied to dismiss this issue and label patients’ fearful behavior as some type of predictable and inevitable response over which neither the dentist nor the patient has no significant control. I have always wanted to look at all the possible variables in the equation, including the patient’s past dental experiences, the role of the human brain and nervous system, the subtle properties of teeth, the physical environment of the dental office, and the way my staff and I act and react to what the patient brings to the office. Only in that way have I felt I could really do my job and fulfill a larger vision of dentistry on behalf of my clientele.
To that end, over the years, I’ve explored emerging published neuroscience research, much of which reaches well beyond what I learned (or was even known) when I was in dental school. I’ve found many scientific clues to identify and pinpoint the subtle activity I have sensed, clues that can lead to a unifying theory of teeth, so to speak. But despite all the advances since dental school, there is no such theory at this point.
Yes, much more is known about teeth as a critical part of the whole anatomical and neurological functioning of the brain and nervous system. More is also known about their function as filters and modulators of the quality of our response to threats and perceived danger. It’s fascinating to discover how much teeth have to do with the way we interpret experience and the quality of our social interactions, mostly at an unconscious level. Exploring the hard science involved has been and continues to be a big part of my quest.
But I have also been curious about the psychology and sociology involved, about the external influences on the way teeth perform their function; that is, how each person’s past life experiences, including their experience in the dentist’s chair and their relationship with me and my staff, has become recorded in their teeth and the rest of the brain and nervous system, and then how all this sensory experience produces specific if unconscious responses unique to each person.
Also, though, while honoring the validity of empirical inquiry, as found in both the physical and social sciences, I have also kept myself open to other modalities whose premises and methodologies are less subject to rational analysis, those based on traditional and intuitive wisdom, with well documented track records. These include acupuncture, applied kinesiology, and medical intuition. This is only a partial list.
So some time ago, in seeking the right way to identify the phenomenon I’ve been describing, I found myself coining the term “tooth sense”. It seems suited to characterize the complex process by which we take in, assimilate, and respond to our daily life experience, and here’s why I have chosen the term.
Consider this analogy. Think of the concept of “mind”. It’s a term descriptive of what the brain does, its activity. “Mind” may be considered as not by itself having any actual physical properties. It cannot be dissected, weighed, or measured. Its effective service to us depends on many factors, some amenable to influence through conscious effort, some hard wired into the brain’s circuitry. When we refer to mental health, we’re actually referring to the accurate and elegant functioning of a whole symphony of both hardwired and flexible processes. A well-functioning “mind” makes possible much of what defines us as human, especially a healthy sense of connection with ourselves, our environment, and with others. But ultimately, it is only partially and indirectly subject to empirical inquiry. Still it is an internal activity that shapes our relationship with others and with the environment.
Now think of “tooth sense” as analogous to “mind”. Look at the term as identifying the incessant and complex activity of the teeth and oral cavity as mediators of experience on an unconscious neurological level. The teeth and oral cavity may be thought of as working like another brain in sensing and responding to experience. And like the mind, “tooth sense” is the product of both the workings of hardwired nervous system, and yet also, most intriguing of all, amenable to being modified and optimized with focused intention. Like mind, it is only partially and indirectly subject to purely scientific inquiry. And like mind, tooth sense has much to do with the health of our connection with ourselves and the quality of the relationships we are able to form in life.
So I invite you to think of “tooth sense” as a major, if unacknowledged, guide in daily life. The actions each of us takes based upon this involuntary reactive process, including especially reactions to the behavior of others, make up our signature response to life. And so indirectly our capacity to read the world appropriately and interact with others depends on its healthy function.
Further, as I noted above, because tooth sense has yet to be fully explained by science alone, there remains a deep potential role for other treatment modalities such as those mentioned earlier (acupuncture, applied kinesiology, medical intuition, among others). These modalities whether incorporated directly into my practice or referred to outside professionals can deepen the comfort and quality of care.
About the Author: Founder of the Progressive-Dentistry, LLC Dr. Jeffrey Oras integrates natural integrative healing practices, to help patients not only receive the optimum dental health, but supportive care with the 5 level approach of Multiple Kinetic Systems. Through this integrative healing, patients report less postoperative problems.
“Our patients are seeking a comprehensive and integrative holistic approach. Treatment is unique and customized to each patients’ ultimate needs and goals. The level of commitment and time requirements are customized to suit each patient’s availability and budget.”
If you would like to learn more about Dr. Jeff’s unique “holistic approach,” call (908) 534-5140, or firstname.lastname@example.org