Holistic Dentistry with Dr. David L. Lerner
The Center for Holistic Dentistry in Yorktown Heights, NY
Dr. David L. Lerner and his team at The Center for Holistic Dentistry
By the time medical studies linking gum disease and heart disease made national headlines a decade ago, Dr. David Lerner had been practicing holistic dentistry for 20 years. “I’m a strong proponent of an integrated, whole-body diagnosis of the patient,” he says. “I think it’s so important that practitioners begin to think in that way. We all get caught up in providing the services we’re trained to provide; the tendency is not to see the whole patient. So often practitioners have been treating the symptoms without necessarily understanding the cause.”
We recently spoke with Dr. Lerner in his Yorktown Heights office to learn about the important role he plays in his patients’ overall health.
How have you seen dentistry change over the years?
There is the beginning of an awareness about the influence of the mouth on whole-body health within the dental profession. However, there are still many facets of holistic healing not recognized by the dentist.
For example, drawing upon knowledge from traditions like Chinese Medicine and acupuncture, which go back thousands of years, we begin to see the body as an energetic field where everything with the physical form of the body has as an energetic relation and is in communication with the whole. The meridians are paths of energy movement through the body. They go through our ligaments, our bones and our organs, and they pass through the mouth and the teeth. As a consequence of that, changing conditions of the mouth will have effects throughout the body energetically—affecting muscle reflexes, energy flow and how organs function.
We’ve seen so many examples of this over the years. I had a patient who had a broken-down molar; it had been that way for a couple of years. We began work to put a cap on the tooth, made a temporary crown for her, and she came back a couple of weeks later telling me that a pain she’d had for two years in the heel of her foot went away when we restored the proper form and support for that tooth.
As I evaluated her using kinesiology to assess the meridians, I found that the problem really started with her tooth not providing support. That affected her jaw muscles because they didn’t have enough support, and in turn the neck muscles were affected. The effects went all the way along the muscles of her back into her leg and into the heel of her foot, where the symptom presented. It was really a change in her overall posture, a disruption to muscular-skeletal integration, because of the loss of the support of one tooth. Things like that go on and are widespread.
And the reverse is also true—issues in the body produce symptoms that surface in the mouth?
Yes. Periodontal disease is a good example. Now there is a lot of awareness of the role the inflammation associated with gum disease plays in diseases like heart disease, degenerative conditions of the brain, and different types of cancer in the body. From a Chinese Medical perspective, we see that a lot of this stuff arises in the gut and in the body in general, and then it can affect the mouth. We’ll see a lot of people who have gum problems where there are associated problems with the gut.
Historically in dentistry, we’ve treated a gum problem as if it were just a local condition. And so different things that we’ve done have not addressed the cause of the disease but are really dealing with the consequences. As we piece together this information from all these different fields of study and points of view, we see that there is a real need to develop a more global, whole-body perspective.
When we look at conditions in the mouth, we’re thinking, OK, so what’s going on in the health of the person overall that may be related? Sometimes it’s more difficult to figure out what’s causing what—the cause and effect. Some things get sort of obvious when we start to understand the big picture. They’re not so obvious if we are looking at our patients through a microscope—that is, seeing different parts but not seeing their relationship to the whole. We look at it from a Chinese Medicine perspective, energetically, using muscle reflex testing—kinesiology. In our office we test the acupuncture systems to see the relationship between what’s going on in the body and what’s going on with the mouth.
What do we need to do to restore health, from your perspective?
As we study the traditions of natural healing around the globe, we see there are common themes that are always present. We are prone to toxicity developing in our body, because we take in heavy metals, mercury, and more stuff than we can handle, and we can’t eliminate it. We get exposed to chemicals, which create toxicity, and this leads to inflammation.
We now know that inflammation is the leading cause of most degenerative disease in the body—chronic inflammation leading to cancer or autoimmune disorders or arthritis, things like that. Now, all these things are very commonplace. But the way medicine has evolved over the years, it’s like waiting for the research to prove this or that, when if we take a sensible, intuitive, rational approach to things, there are obvious causes and effects.
We now know that everything that is chemical is energetic in nature. We’ve got to be getting the right source of energy from food—food that comes from the earth naturally, without chemicals being introduced to it. Food in its natural state provides the energy and the nutrients our body needs, but most of us aren’t getting that.
Years ago I had a conversation with a colleague about healing, and she shared with me that in Ayurveda, healing is defined as the body remembering itself, remembering its identity. I think that’s probably one of the most profound and insightful things I’ve heard about health and healing and becoming well—people really being in touch with themselves.
We’re all so prone to look for the answers outside of ourselves. There are so many “gurus” out there. We lose a sense of connectedness to ourselves. We tend to deny what we’re feeling in our body because we’re pursuing a goal or we’re trying to get something done. Our body may be saying that it’s hungry or it’s uncomfortable, but we push through it. We have to start paying attention to what we need—whether it’s rest, whether it’s social interaction, whether it’s time by ourselves, whether it’s becoming truer to ourselves or to our own nature instead of following a path that someone else said we should follow.
I see myself as a facilitator who uses the tools of dentistry to help promote health and healing for people. I so love the work I do as a holistic dentist. I feel very fortunate that the circumstances of my life pointed me in the direction that they did.
The Center for Holistic Dentistry is located at 1 Taconic Corporate Park, 2649 Strang Blvd. Ste. 201, Yorktown Heights, NY. For more info, call the office at 914.214.9678 or visit HolisticDentist.com.