How does Chinese care compare?

March 21, 2012
Renee Knight
Issue 9

The people who come to Dr. Kevin Boehm’s practice all have one thing in common: they want their dental care done naturally. They’re not interested in what antibiotic can cure what ails them. These patients are looking for a more holistic approach to health care, and would much rather turn to something like acupuncture, homeopathy or a diet change to get their dental health back on track. Through Traditional Chinese Medicine, Dr. Boehm offers them just that. What it is

The people who come to Dr. Kevin Boehm’s practice all have one thing in common: they want their dental care done naturally.

They’re not interested in what antibiotic can cure what ails them. These patients are looking for a more holistic approach to health care, and would much rather turn to something like acupuncture, homeopathy or a diet change to get their dental health back on track. Through Traditional Chinese Medicine, Dr. Boehm offers them just that.

What it is

Before you can know if Traditional Chinese Medicine will work for your practice, you need to know what it is. It’s based on having a balanced qi, or energy flow, throughout the body. This philosophy says qi regulates a person’s physical balance and is influenced by opposing forces of yin (negative energy) and yang (positive energy). These energy channels course throughout the body and must remain in balance. If the yin-yang connection is thrown out of balance, it can set off a chain reaction that stimulates health problems. Each energy channel, or meridian, has a specific pathway it travels, zigzagging through the body to seemingly unrelated places.

The Meridian Tooth Chart

The Meridian Tooth Chart is how this all ties into dentistry, and is one element of Traditional Chinese Medicine that has become part of Dr. Boehm’s practice, which is listed on ChicagoHealers.com. The chart shows the relationship between teeth and various organs, tissues and glands in the body. Each tooth is related to an acupuncture meridian. Using this chart, dentists can evaluate a patient’s overall health and wellness by assessing their teeth’s current condition. If there is a problem with an internal organ, the associated meridian tooth may be the source of the problem.

The chart is on every office computer in Dr. Boehm’s practice, and he said it’s amazing what correlations you can find. He doesn’t show it to every patient, but there are some patients who even ask him about it and what it might show about an ulcer or some other health problem they’re dealing with.

“It goes back a few thousand years. Traditional Chinese Medicine says if you have a certain ailment, you likely have problems with a certain tooth,” Dr. Boehm said. “Whether that’s true 100 percent of the time or not I don’t know, but if you look hard enough you’ll find a lot of things that could be tied in there.”

What else he uses

The tooth chart is just one aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine that can be beneficial to your patients. Dr. Boehm also offers homeopathy, acupuncture and cranial work, which is similar to chiropractic treatment but gentler. Cranial therapy is most beneficial to his orthodontic patients, he said, because it helps sutures in the skull relax themselves so they can be moved around with great ease and flexibility. When he has time he may do a little cranial work on patients who come to him for orthodontics but he also has trained acupuncture and cranial therapists in his practice, as well as a network of 50 to 60 specialists he can refer patients to if necessary.

He also uses changes in nutrition and homeopathy rather than antibiotics to help patients get perio problems under control. Adding Vitamin C, for example, to a patient’s diet won’t hurt a patient suffering from periodontal disease, so why not try it and see if it works before going to an antibiotic?

How you can get started

If this sounds like something you’d like to add to your practice, there are plenty of places you can check out to learn more. The Holistic Dental Association, the International Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Toxicology, and the International Academy of Biological Dentistry and Medicine all offer classes and put together meetings designed to help dentists get started down a more holistic path. Going to meetings and talking with dentists who have an expertise in certain areas can help you decide which elements are right for you and your patients.

And these groups continue to grow as more and more dentists decide a more holistic approach to care is beneficial for their patients and their practice. There’s a wealth of knowledge out there about a variety of treatments and disciplines to help you get your feet wet and decide what to incorporate into your practice. It might just be a different approach to using certain things in your periodontal disease control program, Dr.  Boehm said, but there are a lot of interesting things you can pick up along the way that will do a lot of good for your patients.

“You’ll probably find certain dentists who have one or two things they like to do. Maybe it’s homeopathy and acupuncture in one office, or maybe an office only does one thing,” Dr. Boehm  said. “But that number is growing slowly. There’s an awful lot you can do for folks that doesn’t involve drugs and many patients appreciate that. Some will be eccentric about it, but it usually comes from a desire to try to do things as naturally as possible.”

What his patients think

People go to Dr.  Boehm’s practice because he is a holistic dentist and that’s how they want to be treated. This approach to care is becoming more and more attractive to patients, he said, and is probably why the number of holistic dentists seems to be growing. These patients are well read on the subject and are likely already using acupuncture or some other form of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Dr.  Boehm has offered holistic care in his practice for about seven years, and said the biggest difference between his patients when he practiced then versus now is their level of health. And most of the time, they can avoid using pharmaceuticals to get their dental health where it should be.

“There will certainly be occasions when you need antibiotics because you have an infection that is boiling out of control,” Dr.  Boehm said. “But more often than not you can beat the body at its own game. It already knows how to heal itself. Sometimes you need to jump start it.”