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Foot, head and neck massage, both before and during treatment? Doesnâ€™t sound like your typical dental practice. And itâ€™s not. Ira Kamp, D.D.S., has journeyed in search of a connection between science and spirituality. What he discovered is a wisdom that underlies all healing. And now heâ€™s sharing it with other practitioners.
The success is that the patients really feel that they get to be part of the treatment, and the uniqueness is how we deliver that.
He wasn’t exactly enamored with dentistry. His childhood experiences with visiting the dentist were “pretty traumatic.” So much so that when he was 15 and his dentist gave him a local anesthetic, he recalls saying, “Holy Moly, why didn’t you do that before?”
Even his initial experiences in dental school left him thinking, “dentistry was pretty barbaric.”
But his brother-in-law attended dental school, and even at a young age he was empathetic, and wanted to do something to help others.
“I knew I could do a better job than my dentist did,” Ira Kamp, D.D.S., recalls thinking.
Today, with more than 30 years of dental experience under his belt, Kamp, who runs Integrated Oral Health in Ithaca, New York, is doing just that, both in private practice and in teaching others.
NOT YOUR FATHER’S DENTISTRY
Kamp has been described as a practitioner who bridges scientific medicine with spiritual healing. But he’s quick to point out that he’s not a fan of the term ‘holistic.’ What he prefers, as it’s woven into the name of his practice, is ‘integrative,’ which he defines as taking what you have and bringing in other elements as a complement.
“Holistic tends to make this boundary, where it either is or isn’t,” Kamp explains. “Holistic was interesting because I was fascinated by acupuncture and became certified in it, but the holistic part never fit in.”
What did fit in was something Kamp discovered after years of searching that he says is common to all forms of healing: a connection of the souls between dentist/healer and patient. His book, “Journey to Mudryi: The Wisdom That Underlies All Healing,” is a primer for better understanding the relationship between the patient and the healer.
Mudryi, Kamp explains, is the wisdom that resides within the patient; a reservoir of guidance that the healer accesses and uses for healing the patient. He illustrates by pointing to the different results, or opinions, he received from different practitioners when being tested for various medical issues.
“I take walks in the woods, and I had this realization that there’s a communication between the healer and the patient that gives information to the healer,” Kamp says. “But what I got is that the healer can only hear what they know. So the wisdom that’s in the patient is given to the healer in the terms that the healer knows. And that was one of my explanations why people got different opinions (from different practitioners).”
Kamp says the connection between healer and patient, what he calls the co-cognition, is unconscious for most individuals. However, it’s possible for both the healer and patient to become conscious of the connection, and to make use of it.
“There are things that we cover up because we have really busy minds; a lot of worries that kind of vale the communication that could happen,” he says. “I think that as you become more peaceful in your mind, the more this possibility opens up.”
When Kamp first began discussing this connection, people thought, well, you just talk to the patient and they’ll provide the information you need. He acknowledges the importance of listening but believes there’s something else in the patient communication. The communication is unconscious, but dentists can become more conscious of it, and it shows up as an inner voice or inner feeling rather than words coming out of the patient’s mouth.
Toward that goal, Kamp offers patients massage therapy that he doesn’t charge for. The therapy comes in the form of a head and/or neck massage before or after treatment, or even a foot massage during treatment. Kamp says the benefits are two-fold.
“It definitely helps the patient tolerate the procedure better, but it also makes it less stressful for me,” he explains. “The work is a lot less stressful when somebody is being cared for on another part of their body.”
Kamp has always felt it was important to make a difference in people’s lives, so he began writing “Journey to Mudryi” with that goal in mind. He began by writing about alternative methods of healing, including acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal therapy and nutritional supplements.
“Coming to the dentist can be very stressful, and I would use herbs and remedies to help patients with that,” he says.
He wrote the book as a way to share these techniques as well as his personal experiences with other dentists. Along the way Kamp gained a better understanding that the relationship between the healer and the patient can be experienced in a way where both individuals are empowered and at peace.
“I really feel that’s important,” he says, acknowledging that, to some extent, those feelings “have come out of my childhood experience of going to the dentist.”
Kamp says he does not advertise his practice, believing that word of mouth is the best way for his practice to grow as patients help spread the word. He credits his staff and a collaborative culture for making that growth possible.
“Everyone has a unique role, and they’re all cross-trained,” he says. “We have a surgeon who handles implants, and another individual who is heavily into sleep oral appliances. That’s what makes them passionate about their work. Everyone is empowered in their own work, as well as working as a team.”
Patients are the other part of the equation. Kamp says his patients are “empowered in their own treatment.” When he first meets patients he does not recommend a lot of treatment, opting instead to have them feel as comfortable as possible with the practice. As they begin to develop trust, he says, they become more productive patients.
“The antithesis is that the corporate dental practices push a lot of treatment, which I think for the most part is over treatment,” Kamp says. “We empower the patients to be involved in their treatment and the decisions they make. That’s what makes the practice unique and successful. The success is that the patients really feel that they get to be part of the treatment, and the uniqueness is how we deliver that.”
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