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861 Willow Drive
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Telephone: (919) 942-2154
A holistic approach to oral health and wellness.

Testing Supports Link Between
Oral and General Health

Testing and probing are vital activities for Chapel Hill holistic dentist C. Michael Willock as he seeks to guide his patients along the path to exemplary dental and oral health.

Using the Dental Meridian Chart, Dr. Willock explains the connection between teeth and the health of other organs in the body.

“You never know what you’re going to find when you do an initial dental exam,” he observes, “or where or how the symptoms are going to manifest themselves.” In his 30-plus years of practice, Dr. Willock has repeatedly observed that without good oral health, attaining optimal general health is an elusive and basically unattainable goal.

A patient’s oral health concerns are carefully ascertained in an initial appointment, he says. “I need and want to evaluate a patient’s general heath, so I ask them all sorts of questions. If there are problems, and health issues, the patient can provide invaluable information that in many instances will relate directly to their dental health.

“Next, we take a set of two-dimensional X-rays of the entire mouth. And finally, I begin looking at each tooth individually, in conjunction with the X-rays, to evaluate their dental health status, in search of possible tooth, gum, or periodontal problems.”

Infections and Health Issues

The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), Dr. Willock points out, “continues to make the case that infections in the mouth can cause major health problems in other organ systems in the body. AAP studies affirm that periodontal bacteria can enter the blood stream and travel to major organs and begin new infections. The consequences,” he says, “may include the development of heart disease; an increased risk of stroke; an increase in a woman’s risk of having a pre-term, low birth-weight baby; and a serious threat to people whose health is compromised by diabetes, respiratory diseases, or osteoporosis.

“It may seem unlikely, and even a bit far-fetched, that a little bleeding of the gums may signal the onset or possibility of major health concerns, but it’s nonetheless true,” observes Dr. Willock. “And the problem is pervasive: estimates are that about 15 percent of adults between 21 and 50 years old, and 30 percent of adults over 50 have periodontal disease—and the incidence increases significantly among pregnant women.

“A testing tool that I routinely use is the Meridian Dental Chart, which shows how certain organ systems relate to particular teeth.” The meridian system is a traditional Chinese medical practice that holds that a series of electrical channels—qi—run from the bottom of your feet to the top of your head, going through the teeth, Dr. Willock explains. “The Chinese have used this system for thousands of years; Americans have finally started to see its diagnostic value.

“If there is an issue connected with a tooth, it can affect bodily organs elsewhere in the body. Using the Meridian Dental Chart, I look for the affected tooth to see what organ it’s connected to. Everything is interconnected—you just have to do some sleuthing.”

Teeth and Other Organs

“Teeth can definitely affect other organs,” observes Dr. Willock. “If, for example, you’ve had a tooth removed because it was diseased and the dentist didn’t remove all of the periodontal ligaments surrounding it, the body might well think the tooth is still there. When the incision heals up, there could be a tiny local infection somewhere inside. Depending on which particular meridian the tooth is on, that infection could potentially cause a heart problem or some other health issue.”

Years ago, Dr. Willock notes, “UNC did a number of studies connecting dental disease to heart failure. In fact, if you have a mouth full of dental disease, your chances of heart failure are much greater than if you have a healthy mouth.

“We had a patient who was about to undergo open heart surgery who had three root canals that badly needed attention. His wife, a naturopath, was convinced that these root canals were toxic and were affecting her husband’s heart. After much coaxing, the teeth were removed. The oral surgeon called me and said that he had found an infected mess up in the bone, which he cleaned out. The end result was that the patient no longer needed heart surgery. All of his symptoms disappeared.”

Checking pH

Observes Dr. Willock, “Another way to monitor the body’s health is with a simple pH test.” The pH level is the measure of acid to alkaline present in the human body. Some studies show that higher pH levels may reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Lower pH levels may help improve memory and cognition, reduce pain, and lower risk of hypertension and stroke.

“The easiest and simplest way to monitor this acid-alkaline issue is by measuring the pH of the urine or saliva—no blood test needed—and it’s quick and easy to do,” notes Dr. Willock. “I use a simple test strip to check my saliva; my goal is to keep my pH in the 7.0 to 7.5 range.

“Our alkaline-acidic internal environment relates directly to our overall health and is directly linked to the quality of the food we consume. Some foods are toxic, acidic, and foster inflammation. Other natural foods are just the opposite.”

As Dr. Willock pursues his on-going studies he has become more deeply aware of the connections that exist in all parts of the human body. “In dental school, we’re taught how to expertly address issues that clearly affect the health of the teeth, which is certainly important and appropriate. Now there is the growing field of holistic dentistry that seeks to expand the understanding of health issues.”